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Product Review

Cut your car insurance premium, not coverage

Avoiding high-loss vehicles can help lower the tab

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In a recent survey of more than 29,000 Consumer Reports subscribers, an impressive 87 percent of those who filed auto insurance claims were highly satisfied with how their insurer handled and settled their claims. Here are ways to get the best value while maintaining the coverage you need:

Pick a top-rated insurer. Insurers reward longtime customers, especially those who haven’t filed claims, with loyalty discounts. But premiums are only one part of the equation. Consumer Reports rates insurers based on its subscribers’ overall satisfaction with how their claims were handled. Among the highest-rated insurance groups are Amica, New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance, and USAA.

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Avoid high-loss vehicles. Data-driven insurers track repair costs in intricate detail, so they know which vehicles cost more to repair (the luxury Lexus IS F, for example) and which rack up more bodily-injury damages (the Hyundai Accent). So when shopping for various makes and models, ask your car dealer to show you each one’s rating in the “Relative Collision Insurance Cost Information Booklet,” produced annually by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Look for discounts. Almost 90 percent of respondents saved with good-driver discounts, and 85 percent got breaks for having safety features on their vehicle, such as an antilock brake system and side air bags. Multiple-policy discounts might apply if you buy your auto, home, and other insurance from the same company.

Don’t settle for poor-quality repairs. You can avoid getting ripped off on repairs, which can happen if your insurer pushes you to use a shop that cuts corners. Most claim filers in the survey — 94 percent — selected their own repair shop or went along with a shop recommended by their insurer without undue pressure, and 90 percent were highly satisfied with their repairs.

Shop for a better rate. Even if you’re satisfied with your premium, it still pays to shop. About 88 percent of survey respondents who compared prices said they found their current insurer’s premiums were about as low as or lower than what the competition wanted to charge. But 12 percent found a better deal.

Raise your deductible. The vast majority of respondents had deductibles of less than $500 on their collision and comprehensive coverage; many can save by raising it. Boosting your deductible from $250 to $1,000 could reduce your premium by 20 percent because you are shouldering more of the cost of a loss — if you have one.

Report when you are driving less. The more you drive, the more chance of an accident and the more insurers will charge you to cover that exposure. If you drive less, let your insurer know.

Don’t buy state minimums. It can be penny-wise and pound-foolish to buy only the minimum coverage required by law. For example, the reimbursement cost for a car-crash injury that doesn’t leave the victim incapacitated averages $22,000, according to the National Safety Council. Yet the minimum legally required bodily injury liability coverage is only about $10,000 to $20,000 in 16 states, including California, Florida, and New Jersey.

Consumer Reports writes columns, reviews, and ratings on cars, appliances, electronics, and other consumer goods. Previous stories can be found at consumerreports.org.
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