The obvious way to save money on auto insurance is a clean driving record, but there’s more you can do to get a lower premium. Rather than grumble about your rate, it pays to understand how auto insurance works. You may be entitled to discounts and savings you weren’t aware of with your existing provider, or you might be better off going somewhere else for coverage.

Here are 20 ideas that will get you the most bang for your buck:

1. Bundle your cars under the same insurance policy. You can save as much as 20% on your auto insurance if you put all your cars on the same auto insurance policy as most providers offer a multi-vehicle discount.

2. Bundle your auto and home insurance policies. Similarly, insuring your home and auto with the same insurance company can also bring substantial savings through what is called multi-line discount that can reduce your premiums as much as 15%.

3. Take advantage of your age. If you’re a senior citizen, recently retired, or over 50, most insurance companies offer additional discounts that can save you up to 10% as long as you’re a good driver. Meanwhile, a child or young adult who is away attending college or university and only drives the family vehicle when they’re home to visit, can also enjoy discounted insurance rates.

4. Take advantage of your degree. Most post-secondary institutions and professional associations offer group insurance discounts for their members or alumni that you may qualify for.

5. Check for other discounts. Finding discounts offer by your existing insurance company is low hanging fruit when saving money, and there are several common types offered by most providers. Aside from bundling, ask your provider for a complete list as one may stand out as being ideally suited to your circumstances.

6. Lower your premiums by increasing your deductibles. The higher your deductibles, the less your monthly premiums will be. If you can afford to increase your deductible from $500 to $1,000 in the event you must make a claim, you can save as much as 10% on your monthly bill — just be sure you can afford to pay the higher deductible as it comes due before you coverage kicks in.

7. Pay annually instead of monthly. How you decide to you pay your monthly premiums can also influence how much you insurance coverage costs. Collecting premiums from you on a monthly basis costs your insurance provider money, so if you’re willing and able to pay a lump sum once a year, they’ll give you discount on your insurance coverage.

8. Pay based on usage. Enrolling in a usage-based insurance (UBI) program can save you about 5% to 10% when you first sign up and much as 25% annually if you’re a good driver. By downloading and using a mobile app to monitor how, when, and how far you drive, your provider can track how you drive, including how fast you accelerate and brake, the time of day you're on the road, trip duration, and speed. Better driving will qualify you for a discount, and if you don’t qualify, the data collected by the UBI can’t be used to increase your current premiums.

9. Start out on the right foot. Your driving record is always a big factor when it comes to what you pay for auto insurance and there’s always room for improvement. If you’re a new driver, it pays to take a safe-driving training course as most insurance providers offer a discount to newly licensed drivers who have completed an approved driver training course within the past three years. Such graduates typically pay lower insurance rates than those who haven’t take a course.

10. Don't drive to work. Insurance rates are higher for people who drive their vehicle to work because the more you drive, the greater the chance of getting in an accident. If you can’t work from home, try taking the bus or carpooling if possible. Not only will it save you money on your insurance premium, but you’ll also save money on parking, gas, and wear and tear on your vehicle.

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11. Drive defensively. Being a cautious and courteous driver at all times and driving the posted speed limit will help you maintain a spotless driving record, which is ultimately one of the most influential factors in determining the premium you pay. For example, a speeding ticket will affect your insurance rate for up to three years and accidents stay on your record for at least six years. Driving distracted can also get you into trouble, so don’t be fidgeting with a mobile device when you’re behind the wheel. If your driving record is full of traffic convictions you’re certain to pay more for auto insurance.

12. Rotate your tires seasonally. Putting on winter tires rather driving on all-season ones during the colder months are not only safer but will get you a discount of close to 5% in Ontario — all insurers in the province must offer this discount. Insurers in Alberta offer a similar discount.

13. Drop comprehensive and collision coverage on older vehicles. The vehicle your drive also dictates how much you pay for auto insurance, including its age and condition. If your car is 10 years old or older, consider rethinking your collision and comprehensive coverage, although you must weigh the cost of the coverage with the value of your car and your chosen deductibles. It doesn’t make sense to have a deductible of $1,000 on a car that’s only worth $1,000.

14. Drive a "low-risk" car. Insurance rates for cars are based on the claims history for that vehicle as well as how costly the vehicle is to repair if it’s damaged in an accident. Also, the more likely a car is to be a target for thieves, the more you'll pay to insure it.

15. Go green. Many insurance provider offer a discount of up to 10% for drivers with hybrid or electric vehicles. You can help save the environment and save money at the same time.

16. Add an anti-theft device. Newer vehicles are typically equipped with anti-theft protection, and many insurers provide discounts if you’re driving a vehicle that has these technologies because your car is less likely to be stolen. If your car doesn’t come equipped, you can install it yourself.

17. More coverage isn’t better. It is possible to have too much coverage, which means you’re paying a higher premium than necessary. Some types of coverage may not be applicable to you and increasing your coverage limits too high may not make financial sense. Make sure you have the right amount of insurance coverage for your specific driving needs.

18. Don’t let your coverage lapse. A gap in your history as an insured driver could impact your premiums and make it more difficult to find coverage.

19. Check-in on your car insurance rates as your life changes. Getting married, turning 60, moving, or retiring are all key milestones that can affect your insurance rates, so check with your provider or broker to make sure you’re getting the rate that reflects where you are in life.

20. Keep comparing. Car insurance coverage may be standard throughout your province, but insurance premiums are another story. Premiums from one company to the next can vary by hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. The only way to make sure you are getting the best price for your policy is to compare quotes whether your auto policy is up for renewal or not.

Gary Hilson

Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has produced thousands of words for print and pixel about business and technology for a variety of publications and corporate clients. When he’s not tapping on the keyboard, Gary collects comic books, attends live theater, constructs Lego, and buys books he always intends to read.

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