NEW YORK (MainStreet) The daytime running lights on your newer vehicle could provide a discount on your current car insurance rates and are among many new discounts that have been introduced over the past year, according to a recent Bankrate.com report.
Many consumers are missing out on the opportunity to save on their car insurance and they may not even know it, says Doug Whiteman, a Bankrate.com insurance analyst.
"You can't assume that your insurance company knows that you added an anti-theft system to your car or that your alma mater offers an alumni discount," he said. "It's your responsibility to tell your provider and ask for the discount. This simple step could save you hundreds of dollars per year."
One discount that many owners are not aware of is vehicles equipped with daytime running lights. This discount was rare last year, but now, four out of the top 10 insurers offer a discount for daytime running lights. This is now standard equipment on most new cars, so drivers should make sure they're receiving this discount if it applies to them, Whiteman said.
"It pays to be aware that this discount exists," he said.
Low mileage is another new discount that many carriers are offering. This discount is almost twice as common now as it was a year ago, Whiteman said. Eight of the top 10 insurers offer this discount compared to six out of 10 last year. This discount often ties in with the onboard tracking devices which are called telematics or pay-as-you-drive programs that monitor driving habits.
Owning a newer vehicle is another advantage for consumers. A discount for owning a newer vehicle that is typically three years old or newer is becoming increasingly popular with insurers. Five out of 10 are currently offering this discount.
"Many discounts are driven by safety features such as antilock brakes," he said. "A newer car will be safer and is a lower risk."
Half of the top 10 insurers reward people who belong to a certain group such as a professional association, a college alumni group or a fraternity/sorority and offer partnership or sponsorship relationships.
"Discounts are one way to appeal to consumers," Whiteman said. "This is a competitive business and insurance companies are coming out with new ways to entice customers."
Many of the discounts are not promoted on the websites of major carriers, so check with your agent to see if they offer them, he said. Car owners should do an audit at least once a year when they are renewing their insurance. The discounts usually average 3-5% and as much as 50%, depending on your insurance company.
The full chart, which contains 19 popular discounts, is available here:
Bundling homeowners and automobile insurance typically results in a discount on both policies of 5% to 15%, said Jim Fiske, vice president of Chubb Personal Insurance based in Warren, N.J. In New York, Chubb offers discounts of 10%.
Bundling auto and home insurance can result in consumers paying less in deductibles. If a resident backing his or her car out of the garage crashes into the garage door and both the home and car are damaged, the customer would only pay one deductible even though two insurance policies were impacted, he said. If the auto and home policies were with two different insurers, each one would charge a deductible. In the case of a wind storm, there is a good chance that a tree felled by the storm could damage both the house and the car. If the policies were bundled, only one deductible would be charged.
"Customers who bundle their coverage with one insurer have a better chance of getting insurance for other hard-to-insure risks," he said. "A customer may buy a vacation home along the coast in an area prone to hurricanes. If that customer has bundled his or her homeowners and automobile policies with one insurer and has a favorable claims history, it is more likely that their insurer will be willing to provide insurance for the vacation home, in spite of the exposure."
Consumers need to understand that insurers use criteria that assess risk, said Loretta Worters, vice president of the Insurance Information Institute in New York.
"Your premium is based on how likely you are to get in an accident and how much that accident will cost," she said.
The average yearly auto insurance premium is almost $800, but there is wide variation around these averages, said Worters. For many insurers, "credit-based insurance scoring is one of the most important and statistically valid tools to predict the likelihood of a person filing a claim and the likely cost of that claim," she said.
"Credit-based insurance scores are based on information like payment history, bankruptcies, collections, outstanding debt and length of credit history," Worters said. "For example, regular on time credit card and mortgage payments affect a score positively, while late payments affect a score negatively."
- Written by Ellen Chang for MainStreet