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5 Ways to Keep Your Car Insurance Bill From Being a Disaster

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Auto insurance is a familiar, if vexing financial burden for American drivers.

Across the country, annual prices range from $934 in Maine to $2,699 in Louisiana, but one thing auto insurance shoppers have in common is that they can get a price break on their insurance bill.

If, that is, they follow these tips:

Be patient -- and look around. Don't pull the trigger on the first deal you get. Auto insurance websites such as FastQuotesDirect.com allow you to check multiple auto insurance quotes at one time. In addition, you can vet individual companies via your state's insurance department website. Visit USA.gov for a direct link to your state's insurance commission.

Get a group discount. You can get a good deal on car insurance in some offbeat places. Big box retailers such as Costco (COST) offer discounts of 10% or so simply by signing up as a member (through Progressive Insurance (PGR) in that case). Or look into an affiliation discount through groups such as AARP, which can offer even deeper discounts for members.

Check your mileage. Mileage figures aren't static. More Americans are working at home or have switched jobs that may lead to a shorter commute from work. In many states, that matters a great deal when it comes to car insurance rates. Check your current insurance policy -- look for the number on the policy's declarations page -- and see if your average mileage has been reduced in recent months. If so, let your insurer know right away. It could save you a bundle, as auto insurers base their policy fees on how much you drive.

Get vocal about your vehicle's safety features. Does your car or truck have antilock breaks, vehicle theft protection and front and side airbags? Insurance companies love these features and will likely offer you a price break for having them. Chances are your insurance agent or your carrier will ask you about such features, but if they don't, make sure to bring them up -- and ask for a discount.

Consolidate your insurance. You can't swing an engine block without seeing media ads for "multi-policy" discounts on auto insurance. Don't be reluctant to get on board with consolidated insurance -- you can save big bucks. Nationwide Insurance, for example, offers discounts of up to 25% for a combined auto, life and home insurance package. Most insurers offer similar discounts.

Also, always mention your safe driving record when dealing with an auto insurance agent or company. That may lead to your best deal on vehicle insurance.

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