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You Really Can Lower Your Car Insurance Cost

It’s getting more expensive to insure your car, but there are some steps you can take to keep premiums affordable. The average annual automobile insurance rates in the United States rose to $1,548 in 2019, according to an analysis by The Zebra, an insurance comparison website. While that was just a 2 percent increase from 2018 — roughly on a par with the annual inflation rate — it followed several years of larger increases, the report said. Advanced technology is partly to blame for the higher costs, The Zebra said. Automakers are incorporating more anti-theft and safety features into their vehicles, like collision warning systems and blind-spot monitors, which make them safer to drive but more expensive to repair after an accident.

Am I required to insure my car?

All states except New Hampshire require minimum levels of liability coverage, which pays for another person’s property damage, medical care and other costs caused by you. Other types of coverage are usually optional (although if you finance a car, your lender may require them). They include collision coverage, which pays for damage to your car if it hits another car or something else, like a tree or a wall; and comprehensive coverage, which covers damage to your car from most everything else, like fire, hail, flooding and theft. If your car is aging and its value has declined substantially, you may want to consider dropping optional coverages, to lower your premium, said Mr. Hunter, the insurance expert. Even a minor fender bender can prove costly to fix, said Robert C. Passmore, assistant vice president of the American Property Casualty Insurance Association. Modern bumpers may house advanced sensors that must be replaced or recalibrated after an accident. Repairs no longer involve just “banging it out with a hammer,” he said. “They save lives and reduce the number of accidents,” Mr. Passmore said of the new safety systems. “But there are some costs that come with it.”You Really Can Lower Your Car Insurance Cost Insurers are also imposing stiffer penalties, or surcharges, for drivers ticketed for distracted driving. The average surcharge for texting while driving, for instance, is 23 percent of the premium, or more than $350 a year, the report found. These fees typically last for several years.

Are driver discounts available?

In many states, yes, so ask your agent. Insurers may offer discounts for bundling auto coverage with other types of insurance, like homeowner or renter’s policies. There may be other discounts for having your premium payment automatically deducted from your bank account, or paying the full premium upfront, The Zebra found. Younger drivers may receive credit for maintaining good grades or taking a driver’s education course.

While insurance rates vary significantly by location because of differences in traffic congestion, crime, weather and state regulations, about two-thirds of American drivers saw their premiums increase last year, The Zebra’s report found. (It analyzed 73 million auto rate quotes from 418 insurers using a driver profile based on a 30-year-old single man with a good driving record and a 2015 Honda Accord EX.) In some cities and states, the annual cost is much higher than the national average. Michigan had the highest average rate at more than $3,000, followed by Louisiana and Florida, each topping $2,000. Maine and North Carolina have the lowest rates, at just under $1,000 a year. While average rates increased in most states, they fell in 17 states and the District of Columbia.