Everybody loves to save a buck. Some people clip coupons, while others wait for clearance sales or shop dollar stores.
Car insurance can drain the savings from the most frugal of household budgets. Fortunately, you can dramatically cut your costs by making a few key changes in as little as five or 10 minutes.
The key is to know which discounts are available and to ask for them, says Pete Moraga, a spokesman for the Insurance Information Network of California.
"Read your policy, know what coverage you have, and know that you as a consumer have the most power over what you will pay," he says.
Some discounts vary by state, so it’s important to ask your insurer what’s available in your location.
Here are five suggestions for instantly cutting your insurance bill.
1. Raise your deductible.
One of the quickest ways to save is to call your insurance company – or simply log into your account on the insurer's website – and request a raise in the deductible on all your policies.
For example, hiking your car insurance deductible from $200 to $500 could drop your collision and comprehensive premium by 15 percent to 30 percent, according to the nonprofit Insurance Information Institute.
However, raising your deductible leaves you on the hook for paying out of pocket for small repairs and other losses. For that reason, you may balk at this move.
But a history of filing too many claims can result in a premium increase, says Carole Walker, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association. "Filing small, maintenance-type insurance claims is something that can cost you much more in the long run,"
By raising your deductible, you'll likely lower your premiums so significantly you'll quickly save enough to make up the cost of a minor repair. Just remember that if you choose a higher deductible, you'll need to have enough cash on hand to cover the cost of any loss up to the deductible amount, Walker says.
2. Agree to pay your premium in full.
Many policyholders struggle to pay their annual premium in full on the due date. Insurers know this, so many companies let customers make smaller, periodic payments.
However, if you're able to pay your premium in full, you may save money.
For example, paying your premium in full can save you 5 percent at Travelers Insurance. Meanwhile, Auto-Owners Insurance offers 5 percent to 11 percent off the premium when it's paid in full.
"There's a costs savings when they get the whole payment and don't have to worry about sending out reminder notices,"
3. Sign up for e-delivery.
Visit your insurer's website and with a few clicks of the mouse, you can save money simply by agreeing to receive policy-related documents via email and to pay your bill electronically (or have your payment automatically deducted by electronic funds transfer).
Allstate offers up to 10 percent off to those who agree to an e-policy, which allows you to view all your documents online.
Nationwide will give you a one-time discount of $30 for signing up for paperless billing and paying your premium via electronic funds transfer.
If you make periodic payments -- rather than paying in full -- Nationwide typically charges a fee of $5 per installment. But the fee is waived for customers who choose electronic billing and pay their bill electronically rather than mailing in a check.
The costs for administering electronic billing are lower than for paper billing, allowing Nationwide to pass on the savings to its customers, says Larry Thursby, vice president of auto product and pricing at Nationwide.
"It also aligns with our desire to be more environmentally conscious," he says.
4. Bundle your coverage.
Thinking of buying a new type of insurance? Call your current insurer first and see if you can get a discount by "bundling" -- agreeing to purchase more than one policy from the same insurer.
For example, Travelers says purchasing auto, homeowners and boat insurance can result in a discount of 20 percent on each policy. Insuring more than one car with Geico can slash your bill by 25 percent, while bundling various policies can net you up to 25 percent at Nationwide.
Moraga says the amount you can save varies -- it may range between 10 percent and 20 percent, depending on the insurer.
He says insurers offer bundling discounts because it encourages you to give more of your business to the company.
In addition, bundling helps cut down on administrative costs. Each time an insurer sells a new policy, it has to check the customer's driving record, credit score and other information so it can assess the risk of the person it's insuring.
However, bundling means the insurer only has to perform a single check for the multiple policies you purchase.
5. Tell your insurer about safety features.
Various safety features can reduce the cost of both your car insurance and your home insurance. So pick up the phone, or write a letter or email, to report such features to your insurer.
For example, factory-installed air bags and motorized seat belts (which automatically slide into place when the door is locked or the engine is started) can get you a 30 percent discount at Allstate, while anti-lock brakes can save you 10 percent.
Meanwhile, Geico will give you a 3 percent discount if you have daytime running lights that were installed by the manufacturer as standard equipment.
To find out what features may qualify for discounts, check with your agent, Walker says.