In the current economic climate, many people are taking another look at their lives to cut spending. Even if your job and business is still intact, the rather unstable stock market and low-interest savings accounts call for setting money aside for emergencies and retirement plans. One bill we cannot eliminate is our car insurance.    But the better news is that we can reduce it, saving money without sacrificing coverage quality. Here are six (secret) insider tips your own insurer probably hasn’t shared with you:

Pay ahead of time — Ask if you can save money by paying for six to 12 months of your annual car insurance in advance. If you have a monthly payment plan, you may be paying more, as the insurer needs to spend more to send out monthly bills and collections. Some insurance companies will offer discounts for purchasing longer periods of coverage to ensure that you will continue your coverage with their company.

Car smashed on barrier

Cancel before switching — If you do decide to switch insurers, make sure you cancel your previous insurer’s coverage once the new policy starts. If you just decide to “cancel” your old insurance by not paying the bill, that company can report you to a credit bureau for nonpayment. Your credit score will be affected and future auto insurance premiums will most likely increase, too.

Research ratings — Find out how insurers rate a car before you purchase it. Insurers have a rating system based on the risk of liability and damage if you do have accident claims. Some companies, like State Farm, actually publish this information, and you can always ask for a quote before buying, too. Another way to save money is to buy a car model that insurers consider less risky. So you might want to skip buying that hot used Subaru Impreza WRX, and instead seek out a used Ford Freestyle. Various safety features, such as air bags or automatic seat belts, can also give you a deep discount — as much as 30 percent.

Chip in for maintenance — Consider taking care of minor scratches or fender benders yourself, without reporting it to your insurer. Especially for drivers who already have some dings on their driving report, this may really save money in the long run.

Understand how driver assignment works — Check how your insurer assigns drivers to cars. If your company assigns your teenage son to the most expensive car, your rates can double or triple. But if your company assigns him to the older family car, his rates may be slightly lower.

Don’t make assumptions — Your old insurer may not give you the best rate out of loyalty. Shop around for car insurance quotes every year to make sure your family is getting the best deal.

Exploring your insurance options is one of the best — and fastest — ways to reduce your premiums while maintaining the best coverage. But remember: Insurance premiums change regularly, so a good deal now may be overpriced next year. Do your research every year, and you’ll know for sure whether you’re getting the best deal.

Contributing writer Barbara Waltz is one of the founders of 247QuoteUs, an online resource blog and insurance quote comparison guide. © Studio One Networks.

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