Fifteen minutes can save you 15% or more — and you don’t have to become a Geico consumer to make that happen.
When it comes to car insurance, Americans often can’t be bothered to shop around, surveys show. One in three drivers say they never shop around for car insurance quotes and another 30% say they only shop around every few years — which may explain why the average driver hasn’t switched car insurance companies in 12 years, according to a nationally representative survey released this week of 1,000 U.S. adults conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International on behalf of InsuranceQuotes.com.
This finding mirrors plenty of others that show just how infrequently Americans shop around for auto insurance: A study released earlier this year by credit reporting firm Transunion revealed that in 2014 just 16.8% of U.S. consumers shopped around for car insurance (they got an average of only 2.2 quotes when they did), and another survey released this year from the nonprofit Insurance Research Council found that only about a quarter of drivers had shopped for car insurance within the past year.
The reasons that Americans don’t shop around are likely due, in part, to the hurdles that come with it. Indeed, 88% of drivers find shopping for car insurance to be a frustrating experience — with 50% saying that it’s too time consuming, 33% saying it’s hard to compare prices and 5% saying they don’t trust the advertised prices and have privacy concerns, according to a nationally representative survey of 500 adults by financial site NerdWallet.
The problem: Not shopping around is a very costly mistake. The average annual savings that drivers get by switching to a new insurer is $387, according to the 2014 U.S. Insurance Shopping Study conducted by J.D. Power. That means the average driver — who, according to the insurancequotes.com survey, hasn’t switched car insurance companies in 12 years — will waste more than $4,600 on auto insurance over that period.
The solution, of course, is a simple one: shop often — experts say you should review your policy and competitive policies every year— and shop smart. Here’s how to start the shopping process.
Look on your state’s insurance commissioner’s site
“Many state insurance commissioners offer publications or websites that provide a comparison of rates from every insurance company in that state,” says Josh Lavine, president of independent insurance agency Capitol Benefits in Gaithersburg, Md. These sites may also list complaints and other useful information — all of which can help you identify the insurance companies that you might want to get quotes from, he says. You can find your state’s insurance commissioner’s site here.
Call auto body shops and consult Consumer Reports
To find good insurance companies, call local auto body shops and ask them which insurance companies treat their clients most fairly, says Lavine. Once you do that, you may want to cross-reference what they say with Consumer Reports annual ratings of auto insurance companies.
Get at least three quotes
To get quotes, you can call on the phone (call at least a few of the companies you identified from your state’s insurance commissioner’s site, auto body shops and Consumer Reports), use an agent, and/or go online (sites like CarInsurance.com, Insure.com and BestQuotes.com are good for this, says Jonah Lovens, the director of performance marketing and business development for customer acquisition company Fluent, which has a number of auto insurance clients. (Note that many sites may yield you a lot of calls from agents, so be prepared for that.) But whichever way you decide to do it, get at least three quotes and ideally more, says Laura Adams, senior insurance analyst with InsuranceQuotes.com.
Make sure the quotes are for policies that are alike with the same limits on things like liability, collision, comprehensive, as well as the same deductible, she says. Those who haven’t shopped around in a while may need to up their liability coverage if they have more assets now, and if their car is much older now, may want to cut back their comprehensive coverage, she adds.
Ask about discounts
When getting your quotes, ask the representative about any discounts you might qualify for that could lower your rates, Adams says. Common discounts might include: being a good student (77% of the insurance carriers surveyed by Insure.com offered this with an average 16% discount), having a home policy with the same company (68% offered this with a 9% discount), paying the bill upfront (46% offered this with a 9% discount), being married (41% offered this with a 14% discount) and taking a driver training course (41% offered this with a 7% average discount). You can find some of the less common discounts auto insurers may offer here.
“You have to ask because every carrier offers different discounts,” says Adams.
Written by Catey Hill of MarketWatch