Car prices have been increasing, and that monthly car insurance bill can get complicated (and pricey). But understanding these key options can help you save money on car insurance in the long run.
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When I was 19 years old, I sped through the empty roadways of rural Wisconsin—with Walk the Moon's "Shut Up and Dance" blaring on the radio—and got pulled over. That was the day I got my first speeding ticket. It came with a $250 fine, which ended up being the same amount I paid a lawyer to try to fight it. And if that weren't enough, my car insurance premiums went up by close to $100 a month—for two years. I learned my lesson. Quickly. 

Cars are significantly more expensive these days (although they seem to have started leveling out), car accidents were up last year—and that car insurance bill is a monthly expense that doesn't get any smaller. It also doesn't help that car insurance is so dang complicated in the first place.

But there are definitely ways that you can save money on that car insurance premium; some let you see extra cash right away, while others are more helpful in the long run. And understanding these different options is key to helping you save money over the course of your vehicle ownership. Here are some avenues to consider.

Make sure to update how many miles you drive.

Are you working from home these days, or have you transitioned to a job that simply requires less driving? The average American driver drives 12,000 to 15,000 miles per year—and car insurance companies offer discounts on premiums for people who drive less than the average. Give your insurance agent a call, let them know your current driving habits, and reap the rewards. 

Bundle your policies.

Despite the commercials insisting that bundling saves money, it's often a forgotten factor. If you have multiple policies, or are perhaps underinsured, consider combining or adding policies to save money. Renter's, homeowner's, and umbrella insurance coverage, among others, are all eligible for bundling discounts. In fact, adding a renter's policy can often save you more money than the renter's policy costs, effectively making you money just by adding it. 

Better credit = lower car insurance premiums

A bad credit score, significant debt, and poor payment history can significantly impact your insurance premiums in most states. However, car insurance companies don't weight credit in the same way that banks and lenders do; outstanding debts and payment history have the highest weight for insurance purposes. In 2015, Consumer Reports found that a low "insurance" credit score can increase your premium by $500 to $2000 or more per year depending on the state in which you live. 

Use an agency to shop rates

You might still be insured by the company that insured your parents. If that was your first insurance company, you may have never considered that better—and sometimes cheaper—options are out there. Shopping for insurance is a hassle, so most folks simply renew when their insurance sends the renewal notice, not thinking twice. 

But agencies such as the Jerry app, which uses AI to find the best rates, or more traditional agencies such as Auto Insurance Specialists, can help make the process of looking for the best rates at renewal painless. If you insure your car through an agency, they will start by finding the best rates for your needs. Then, at every renewal, they will once again shop your rates, to make sure you are paying the lowest and best rates. 

Good driving, good grades discounts

Driving a few miles over the speed limit, running through that yellow, and forgetting to use your turn signal, among other small traffic infractions, might feel small, but they can have a major impact on your rates. Moving violations have a major impact on your car insurance premiums for at least two years after the ticket was received. And according to AAA, speeding doesn't get you where you're going as fast as you might think (or want). Plus, you're wearing down your brakes from sudden stops and costing yourself money in fines and increased premiums. Slowing down and following the rules of the road will save you big money. 

Consider increasing your deductible, or reducing coverage

Many folks opt to increase their deductibles or lose some coverage when money gets tight. However, most don't actually read their insurance policy and start cutting coverage without understanding what they are giving up. Remember: Cutting coverage and increasing your deductible are only two ways to save money—not the only ways.

If you have an old clunker that still has full-coverage insurance, switching to a liability-only plan might make sense, but that might not make sense on a car that you can't afford to replace if it gets totaled. If you have a padded savings account, increasing your deductible to $1,000 or more is an economical choice—but doing the same when you're living paycheck-to-paycheck might land you in a pickle when it's time to pay up. 

Take a defensive driving class

In some states, discounts are available for drivers that take certain defensive driving courses. Some insurance companies provide these discounts only for teen and/or senior drivers. But taking such a class is beneficial for all drivers, even if your insurance company doesn't offer any savings for it. Driving better, as mentioned above, and avoiding collisions and tickets do save money in the long run. 

Get a safer car—and park in a garage

Parking in a garage can make your car less susceptible to theft and other damage—and can win you (perhaps small) deductions on your insurance premiums depending on your insurance carrier. When buying a new (or newer) car, consider that safety features such as automatic braking, reverse cameras, and blind-spot monitoring may also make you eligible for savings. 

Remember: Car insurance is a necessary evil, but savings are available. And driving better? That's the biggest saving of them all. So slow down, follow the rules of the road, and you'll save money—and maybe even save a life while you're at it.