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Cut the cost of car insurance

Q. I'd like to lower my car insurance premiums. What are some of the most common discounts?

A. You'll generally get a discount if your auto and homeowners or renters insurance are with the same company, and you may get an additional discount on all of your policies for adding umbrella coverage. Most insurers give you a break if you are insuring more than one car, or for remaining accident-free for a given number of years.

Most also give a discount for anti-theft devices (such as car alarms, ignition cutoff switches and VIN etchings), anti-lock brakes and special safety features, such as extra airbags. A few insurers, including Farmers and Travelers, offer discounts for hybrids or alternative-fuel vehicles. You usually get a discount for low mileage and might get an even bigger one for installing a tool that tracks the time of day you drive, your mileage, and acceleration and braking rates.

You may get a break for taking a defensive-driver course (although some insurers offer these discounts only to senior drivers or teenagers). If your child is a full-time student and maintains at least a B average in high school or college, a discount of about 15 percent is typical. Most insurers give you a discount if your child moves more than 100 miles away from home for college and doesn't take a car, but the insurer will still provide coverage while your child is home for vacations.

Several insurers offer discounts for members of the military, and some have special breaks for some professionals (such as teachers) or members of certain groups (such as alumni associations). Most also give you a discount for paying your premium in a lump sum rather than monthly, and for using paperless billing and automatic payments. For Bankrate's recent survey of the 10 largest auto insurance companies, go to http://tinyurl.com/oxlrj67.

Kimberly Lankford is a contributing editor to Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine and the author of Ask Kim for Money Smart Solutions (Kaplan, $18.95).

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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