Car insurance companies thrive on consumer complacency. Most people are happy to stick with the same carrier year-after-year, even as their rates remain stagnant. According to JD Power, only about one-third of policyholders shop around each year.
The one-third who do shop around, however, end up saving an average of $356 per year. They realize that like cable companies, car insurance companies are totally open to renegotiation, even willing to reassess your premiums mid-term. Plus, if you leave your carrier entirely, competitors will slip you generous discounts to win over your loyalty.
As a result, being non-complacent consumer of car insurance can save you thousands over the course of your car’s life. Here are 6 reasons you should shop around for new car insurance every six months:
1. Your Car Depreciates
Car insurance rates are heavily based upon the car’s value, so ask yourself: Has your carrier adjusted your premiums based on your car’s annual depreciation?
Unless you own the extremely rare appreciating car (like a Ferrari Enzo or a Honda S2000, for example), your car’s natural depreciation is the most powerful bargaining chip to convince your carrier to reassess and reduce your rate.
If you own a non-luxury car, your insurance carrier should be accounting for depreciation by reducing your rate around 2.5 percent annually. If you own a luxury whip like a Mercedes, Lexus, or BMW, that discount rate should double, as fancy wheels depreciate more quickly.
So if your rates haven’t budged in a few years, remember to ask your carrier how much they account for depreciation on your rate. Try to get an exact percentage. You can then use it as a bargaining chip when negotiating rates with other carriers.
2. Your Rate Fluctuates, and it has Nothing to do with You
Your rate isn’t just calculated by car-related factors. Just like with most products you buy, a portion of your purchase price helps cover the company’s marketing, employee compensation, and other expenses. These expenses fluctuate, so to compensate, the price of the consumer-facing insurance product does as well.
This further drives home (pun intended) why car insurance rates vary so wildly between carriers—each carrier has ever-changing expenses. An auto insurance company pulling back from marketing may actually be offering existing and new customers cheaper rates; you never know until you shop around.
3. You Moved
If there’s one agreeable stereotype about our generation, it’s that we’re nomads. We’re far more mobile than our predecessors, and are more likely to live in several cities before settling in our 30s and 40s.
Insurance carriers, like Liberty Mutual, assess geographic areas in terms of overall risk. Consumers in areas with frequent inclement weather, vehicle theft, or simply lots of other drivers, are more likely to file a claim and are thus warrant higher rates.
Plus if a lot of drivers in your area have the same insurance carrier, your auto insurance rate with that carrier will become more expensive. Carriers see areas dense with consumers as higher risk, since among other reasons, a single inclement weather event can cause a high volume of claims from that one area.
If you initially purchased an insurance premium in a “risky” area, and moved to a less risky one with fewer drivers/thefts/volcanic eruptions, that’s another powerful bargaining chip for a cheaper auto insurance rate.
4. You had a Traffic Violation More than Three Years Ago
As a general rule of thumb, traffic violations will increase your insurance rates for three years from the date of the filling of the police report. For speeding, you’ll pay around an extra $300 per year, and for a DUI, over $1,000. This rule of thumb applies to most states except California, where the car insurance premium hike for DUIs lasts a full 10 years.
These violations are forever stamped on your Motor Vehicle Record (MVR), which your carrier has access to. If you switch to a carrier 2.9 years after you were busted for a DUI, they’ll see your DUI, and hike your rate. However, your premium typically won’t come back down until the end of your term, which could be an entire year, so you’ll overpay by nearly $900.
If you had a traffic violation between three and five years ago, you should absolutely call your carrier today to make sure that your rate has been reassessed accounting for the out-of-date violation.
5. You Got Married
Perhaps it’s common knowledge that married couples get discounts on car insurance, but many couples aren’t taking advantage of this because either:
- They forgot to invite Allstate to their wedding.
- They simply forgot to notify them of their new status.
If you’ve gotten married recently, be sure to let your current carrier know. Furthermore, ask your married friends about their carriers’ marriage discounts. Someone may reveal that they got a bigger percentage discount than you for tying the knot, giving you a clear reason to call and switch.
6. You Simply Don’t Drive Much
Many insurance carriers offer low-mileage discounts for drivers who drive fewer than 10k miles per year, but what if you don’t even drive close to that amount? What if you’re like my mom, who only revs up her baby blue Toyota Solara once in a full moon?
Metromile offers customers a pay-per-mile plan, helping infrequent drivers save hundreds on insurance per year. Plus, rates cap at 250 miles per day, so long road trips won’t break the bank. The carrier would also be an excellent choice for anyone shopping for a seasonal car, like an old Wrangler or Miata.
It may be hard to make $500 in an hour, but it’s easy to save that much by just picking up the phone and calling a few insurance companies and requesting an auto . You may save hundreds just by having your current carrier reassess your rate to factor in your current location, marital status, depreciation, and driving record. To get you started, here are our favorite car insurance companies for young adults: