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Save on Auto Insurance
by Jayne O'Donnell

Tips to Save Money on Car Insurance

Auto insurance bears little resemblance to the financial services with which we're all familiar. The amount we pay for coverage and what we get when we file a claim is based upon a confusing myriad of factors.

But there are new trends that present some promising ways for smart women to save money on premiums. First, though, a primer:

Before you even choose your insurance, there are several lifestyle and automotive decisions that will greatly influence your insurance experience. Generally speaking, as a woman, you're already ahead of the game. But buy a small, high-performance car, and you'll be paying dearly, whether you're a fast-driving female or a go-slow girl. Corvettes, Camaros and Firebirds are three of the most expensive cars to insure.

What you equip your car with, from anti-theft devices to anti-lock brakes, also can make a big difference.

There are many things that are difficult — if not impossible — to change. For instance, a 16-year-old woman will pay more than a 21-year-old, who will pay more than a 27-year-old. Along with age and sex, insurers take marital status, where the driver lives, and what the car's primary use will be — whether it's used for work transportation or a general family car — into consideration.

Before you run off and get hitched to a car or a mate you don't like, spend some time comparing insurance companies and their rates. Although many insurers have dropped or are reducing their discounts for ABS and airbags now since most new vehicles offer them, there are still ways to get a deal on premiums.

For example, BMW recently managed to convince Allstate to lower its rates on its 5- and 7-Series models by one rating classification, which will save BMW owners money on premiums. The company also is negotiating with another insurer to offer owners below-market rates because of BMW's good safety and security record.

Subaru tried unsuccessfully to convince several insurance companies to offer a discount for cars with all-wheel drive, as at least one insurer now does in Japan. Despite this failure, Subaru and other automakers will continue to try to negotiate breaks for their owners.

Your insurer may not be advertising all of its discounts. So it pays to ask. Consider some of the following ways to save on premiums.

  • Raising the deductible can save anywhere from 15-40 percent on premiums. Of course, if paying $500 or more for an accident would be a financial burden to you, it would be wise to stay with the higher rates.

  • While anti-theft devices often will lower insurance costs, make sure your carrier considers the device you install worthy of a discount before your buy it, or a car equipped with it.

  • If your car is 10 years old or more and worth less than $1000, drop the collision and/or comprehensive coverage and just carry liability. The car isn't worth the cost of the premiums.

  • Where you live and drive can influence prices. That's because urban areas have higher theft and collision statistics than rural or suburban neighborhoods. While insurers say they don't judge any particular region, chances are good if you live in Montana, your auto insurance costs will be lower than if you lived in New York.

  • The biggest cause of increased premiums is uninsured motorist coverage, say insurance company officials. Uninsured motorist coverage is included in the package of insurance and individual buys. If you don't want it — or any other "package" items — you have to write the company to have it removed from the policy. A few states have laws requiring a motorist to have insurance when registering a vehicle. But often the insurance is purchased for only long enough to register the car and isn't renewed. Too many motorists are uninsured, so, unfortunately, the ones who do carry uninsured motorist coverage have to absorb the costs of those who don't.

  • Driving a car or light truck that's not highly coveted in the stolen car market also will save you cash. Insurance reports for the most-stolen cars in 1995 show the top five among thieves were the Honda Accord, Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, Chevrolet's half-ton pickup, the Toyota Camry, and the Chevy Blazer.

  • Discounts also can be obtained for good driving records, mature drivers (50 and older), non-smokers, multiple car households and cars with automatic seatbelts. Some companies also offer discounts if you carry more than one policy with them, so you might want to consider your homeowner or heath insurance provider for your auto coverage, as well.*

For more information and a pamphlet on the Nine Ways to Lower Insurance Costs, call (800) 942-4242.