This story is part of Recession Help Desk, CNET’s coverage of how to make smart money moves in an uncertain economy.
Car insurance is getting more expensive. The cost of car insurance has continued to climb throughout 2022, and increased another 1.3% in July, according to the Consumer Price Index, a key indicator of inflation.
Inflation aside, car insurance was already rising as of last year. Many major car insurers started receiving approval for substantial rate increases at the close of 2021, raising premiums anywhere from 3% to 12%, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. To top it off, gas prices have also hit record highs this year, making driving more expensive overall.
If you’re tired of paying high car insurance premiums, we have a few tips you can try to reduce your auto insurance costs and add some extra breathing room to your budget.
1. Raise your deductible
Increasing your deductible — your out-of-pocket cost before your insurance will pick up the bill on a claim — can lower your premium. This move might make sense if you aren’t driving much right now, do not have a history of accidents on the road or if you need to reduce your monthly costs to stay insured. Doing this could cost you later if you’re in an accident, though, as you’ll have to dish out more money before your carrier covers damages. You should make sure you have enough money to pay the higher deductible if you do end up in an accident.
2. Consider lower coverage for older vehicles
Older cars may not deserve the same insurance attention as your shiny new Tesla or all of the bells and whistles of a Mercedes-type policy. If your car is on its last go-round, you may want to cut out collision coverage or comprehensive coverage for that vehicle, both of which cover damages to your car.
Whether you should drop either coverage depends on the value of your car and the relative cost to insure it. Experts suggest that if your car is worth less than 10 times the annual premium, buying coverage for that vehicle may not be a cost-effective option. One of the quickest ways to check the value is by scrolling through Kelley Blue Book online. For example, say your annual premium is $1,600; 10 times that would be $16,000. If your car is worth less than $16,000, then it might make sense to lower insurance coverage for that car.
3. Use public transit or carpool when you can
Carriers may offer discounts if you have a low mileage count, meaning you drive less than the average number of miles per year compared to other Americans. Typically, you’d be considered a low-mileage driver if you drive less than 7,500 miles per year, but this isn’t a bright-line rule. What actually determines if you’re a low-mileage driver depends on what state you live in, your age and gender.
How much you can save depends on individual factors, in addition to the car insurance company you sign a policy with. State Farm offers one of the cheapest monthly premiums at $128 for low-mileage drivers, according to one analysis.
If there is mass transit in your area, taking a bus a few days per week (or carpooling with others), could make you eligible for low-mileage discounts. If you don’t live in an area with mass transit, you might also consider carpooling to work or school to bring your mileage down.
And if you transitioned to working or studying from home since the start of the pandemic and still haven’t shifted back to an in-person workplace, contact your carrier to let them know — and take advantage of any savings.
4. Bundle your insurance policies
One of the most straightforward ways to save money on insurance is by bundling your home and auto insurance, meaning you buy multiple insurance policies from the same company.
Allstate, Liberty Mutual and GEICO each offer premium discounts for bundling — depending on which policies and coverages you buy together. You can get discounts on your premium anywhere from 5% to 25%, depending on the provider.
5. Shop around for car insurance rates
Maybe you’re working from home permanently and need less coverage. Or perhaps you’re returning to the office and need more coverage now. Whatever your situation may be, it’s always a good idea to shop around to ensure you’re getting the best rates, as other carriers might offer bigger discounts or lower premiums in general.
If you aren’t sure where to start, check out CNET’s car insurance roundups, where you can see our picks for best overall car insurance, the cheapest car insurance, the best policies for teens and young drivers and the best options for military and veterans.
In addition to getting quotes online, you can reach out directly to some of the top insurance companies to ask about potential discounts.
6. Explore safe driving discounts
If you pride yourself on being a safe traveler, you’re in luck. Carriers offer discounts for safe driving and modest claims history, and there are a number of discounts to take advantage of here. Call your carrier to ask how you can enroll in these types of programs. Once successfully enrolled, you should see your premium go down on your next bill.
State Farm, for example, offers both accident-free discounts, where you’ll get a discount if you’ve gone at least three continuous years without an accident, and good driving discounts, which lowers your premium when you go three or more years without moving violations or at-fault accidents.
Telematics insurance programs are also a great way to obtain safe drivers discounts, and it’ll factor in low-mileage discounts, too. These programs monitor your mileage and driving behavior through a phone app or a car plug-in device. Call your carrier to enroll in the plan, and while discounts vary by carrier and state, you could be looking at savings as large as 30% off your premium. You’ll start at a base rate that will be adjusted depending on the telematics report, which will include factors like your average speed and braking habits. For example, State Farm will review your telematics data every six months to determine how safe your driving has been, and based on those measurements, it’ll apply a discount to your policy ranging anywhere from 5% to 50%, according to Bankrate.
7. Find a less expensive car
If you’re looking to buy a new or used car, consider comparing the insurance costs among different vehicles. Auto insurance premiums are calculated through a variety of factors, and some of those factors are based on the car itself, including the car’s price, repair costs and general safety record.
“This is the thing that people forget about: You can buy a Honda or a Kia, and it’s less expensive, or you could buy a Mercedes or a Tesla — it’s going to be more expensive,” said Janet Ruiz, a chartered property casualty underwriter and director of strategic communications at the Insurance Information Institute.
And the difference in the cost of insurance for a Mercedes compared to a Honda is stark: The average cost to insure a Mercedes-Benz is about $4,505 annually, compared to an average of $2,151 annually for a Honda. That means you’ll pay an average of $179 on a monthly basis for the Honda compared to $375 for the Mercedes.
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