Editor's note: This article first appeared on CarInsurance.com and is reprinted here with their permission. Click here for the original post.
Spring is here and 2015 is well underway. If you're like many Americans, you want to cut back on your costs this year—a Nielsen survey found the top resolution for one-quarter of consumers was saving more and spending less in 2015.
As you organize your household for Spring, take time to review your car insurance policy and your driving habits to see where you can cut costs.
To help you meet your financial goals, here are eight smart money moves that can help you trim your car insurance bill.
1. Municipal claim for pothole damage
Hitting teeth-chattering potholes can wreak havoc on your car. If you're lucky, you may just need a $50 alignment, but repairing shocks, struts, tires or wheels can sometimes cost hundreds of dollars. About 40% of drivers experiencing pothole damage said their bills were $500 or more, according to a 2014 survey commissioned by Trusted Choice and the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America.
If you have collision coverage, you can file a claim for pothole damage repairs, but first you should check to see if your state, city, town or county government reimburses drivers for pothole damage. Some states—Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Tennessee for instance—allow you to file claims under certain conditions.
If your municipality won't reimburse you, think twice before you file a claim. It may not be prudent to file a claim with your car insurance company if the repair costs don't exceed your deductible by a significant amount. Another drawback: your rates may go up upon renewal of your policy.
2. Close sunroof when the car is parked
Now that winter is in the rear-view mirror you can finally open up your sunroof. Just be sure to close it before you get out of your car. If you leave it open and there's a rainstorm, chances are good that you're on the hook to pay for any resulting water damage to your car.
You must have comprehensive coverage to pay for water damage, and most policies mandate that the damage be from flood waters or other weather events, not from your negligence, for you to make a claim.
3. Review how many miles you drove
Maybe you've started telecommuting, are using public transportation, have moved to a new home closer to where you work, or have retired from your job. If so, it's time to have a talk with your insurance agent.
Driving fewer miles each year won't only save on your gasoline costs, it also may qualify you for lower car insurance rates.
With Safeco, for example, you may be eligible to get a discount of up to 20% if you drive your car less than 8,000 miles a year.
You might be able to save even more if you let your insurer track both how much you drive and how well you drive.
With pay-as-you-drive insurance, you use a plug-in telematics device to track your driving patterns, and that helps determine the rates you pay.
"If your driving patterns show you to be a low-risk driver, you will qualify for a pretty decent discount—more than 40% with some car insurance companies," says Penny Gusner, Insure.com's consumer analyst.
4. Consider high car insurance deductibles
Your car is another year older, so it might be worth it to boost your deductibles, which in turn will help you save on your premium payments.
"That will actually put money back in your pocket," says Brandt Minnich, vice president of marketing at Mercury Insurance.
He says only about 10% of drivers file an insurance claim each year. If you're a safe driver, why pay more for coverage you won't use?
If you're in a minor fender bender, or back your car into a mailbox, you're better off paying for those damages yourself, rather than making a collision or comprehensive claim.
"You'll save money (on premiums) and it will keep you from making small claims that could lead to rate hikes in the future," Gusner says.
5. Consider whether to carry comprehensive and collision insurance
If your car is old, retaining your comprehensive and collision coverage may not even be necessary.
An analysis last year by sister site Insurance.com looked at more than a half-million car insurance quotes and found that 90% of owners with vehicles that were seven years old kept their collision coverage. Only 75% of 8-year-old vehicles still had collision coverage, and the percentage with collision coverage continued to decline based on the age of the car.
"If you're getting to the point with your vehicle that you would no longer pay for repairs, but instead go find a replacement vehicle, then it's time to drop the comp and collision and put that money in savings for a new vehicle," Gusner says.
6. Check for car insurance discounts
Even if you already have a bunch of auto insurance discounts, you may find that your insurer has rolled out new ones in the past year, Minnich says.
Make sure to take advantage of all you possibly can.
Your auto insurer may offer multicar and multipolicy discounts if you insure more than one vehicle or insure your home and your vehicle with the same company.
Discounts also may be available if you're employed in a certain profession, belong to a college alumni group or are a member of a particular association.
And your auto insurer may add new discounts from year to year. Some newer ones include discounts if you go paperless or you electronically sign your document. That saves the time and money of sending your insurance documents back and forth, Minnich says.
(Frannk Gaertner /Shutterstock.com)
7.Take a driver safety course
If you're a baby boomer, taking a driver's refresher course through an organization such as AARP could get you a break on your car insurance rates, Minnich says.
If there's a student in your household, make sure he takes a driver's education course, which can often trim insurance rates.
And if you keep your driving record top notch, you may be eligible for more discounts. With Nationwide, you may be eligible for an accident-free discount of up to 10% if you haven't been involved in any at-fault accidents and haven't had any major moving violations in the past five years.
For those who have been ticketed recently, check with your state department of insurance to see if you can take a taking a driver safety course to dismiss the violation before it shows up on your record. Insurers typically look at your driving record upon renewal of your policy and will raise your rates for moving traffic violations.
8. Take time to shop around
You may not even have to change your coverage to reduce your car insurance rates.
"Just because your current insurer was the cheapest last year doesn't mean it still is now," Gusner says. "Comparison shopping allows you to make sure you're getting the cheapest rates possible."
Last year the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) warned that some auto insurance companies are jacking up rates for existing customers who don't have any claims, simply because they don't shop around. "Your insurer may be increasing your premium by far more than your loyalty discount, precisely because you have been so loyal," says J. Robert Hunter, director of insurance at the CFA. If you shop around and find a lower rate elsewhere, your current insurer might be willing to match it.
Also be aware that rates from insurance companies for the same driver in the same car in the same ZIP code can differ by hundreds or even thousands of dollars. This is because each company uses its own formula when assessing the risk of your location when setting your rate. To research rates for most ZIP codes in the country use our average car insurance rates comparison tool.