5 ways to cut car insurance costs

One way to offset rising gas prices is to find smarter, cheaper coverage for your car. Here's how.

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By Joe Light, Money Magazine

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(Money Magazine) -- You can't fill your tank these days without feeling as if you've been kicked, simultaneously, in the gut and the bank account.

There's not much you can do about gas prices, but there is one thing you can do to cancel out rising car costs: Get a better deal on your auto insurance.

Competition has kept premiums low; and if you haven't revisited your policy in a while, you may have missed some money savers.

Try one (or more) of these methods to put your auto expenses in neutral.

Prune coverage on old cars

Once your vehicle is worth less than 10 times what you pay each year to insure it, get rid of comprehensive and collision. Find your car's estimated value at kbb.com.

Raise your deductible

The point of car insurance is to protect you from catastrophic costs (your emergency fund should cover stuff like dents and broken windows).

Raise your deductible from $200 to $1,000 and you could save more than 40% on premiums, says the Insurance Information Institute.

Nab discounts

Most insurers offer price cuts for such things as having anti-lock brakes; having been accident-free; having taken a defensive-driving course; and even for using the same insurer for your home policy. For more, see the auto insurance checklist at iii.org/individuals/auto.

These can take up to 25% off your premium. But your insurer won't come to you with them; call the company and ask what discounts it offers.

Dig up competing quotes

This is the most work but could have the greatest payoff. Go to naic.org to find your state insurance commission Web site, where you can download a car insurance buying guide.

This often lists scenarios (Mary is a 34-year-old married woman who drives a Chevy Tahoe) with sample rates from the biggest insurers in the state.

Pick the example closest to you and the five insurers with the lowest rates. Call them for quotes.

If the state guide doesn't list insurers, get the five best quotes at insweb.com, but note that the site doesn't include State Farm.

Next, check with an independent agent (get a name at iiaba.net) to see if any insurers you haven't checked can beat your top five.

Sidestep hassle

Make sure any insurer with a better quote is legit. Vet it via your state's insurance commission site; look especially for the ratio of complaints to number of policies written.

Are you prepared for a financial emergency?

With a recession and rising inflation, it's more crucial than ever to have a six to 12-month living-expense cushion in cash for an emergency. Don't have it? Drop us a line at makeover@moneymail.com. Include your name, age, city, state, marital status, occupation, how much you have in cash savings and retirement savings. Please send a photo of you (and your spouse, where applicable) too. To top of page

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