auto

A checklist to save on car insurance

Tara Baukus MelloThanks to the economic downturn, more Americans than ever are looking for ways to reduce their expenses. For many, car insurance is one area that can represent savings, either by changing coverage on an existing policy or switching carriers entirely. Still, in some instances you may want to spend a little more to ensure you have adequate coverage.

Here are four changes you may want to make on your car insurance policy based on recent trends that affect auto insurance.

Check your annual mileage estimate on your policy. Since insurers rate a big part of your risk on how many miles you drive, tell your car insurance agent right away if you are driving less and your policy rate will go down without changing any coverage. At a time when many people are unemployed or have switched jobs after a layoff, the number of miles you originally estimated when you got your policy may be radically different from what you drive currently. Even if your work situation hasn't changed, you may be able to reduce your annual mileage by carpooling or taking public transportation.

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Keep your credit score as high as possible. An increasing number of auto insurers are using financial credit scores as one of the factors in assessing risk and setting rates. For these companies, the higher your credit score, the lower your auto insurance premiums. If your credit has been tarnished recently, you could end up paying more when your next premium comes due, so do everything you can to keep your score as high as possible and to get it back up as quickly as you can. If you know your credit has improved, don't hesitate to ask your insurer to rate you again, since the company may not do it when your premium comes due.

Get adequate uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. The number of uninsured and underinsured drivers is on the rise, primarily due to the increase in unemployment. Unless you have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage on your policy, you will be stuck with the repair bill on your car and potentially your medical expenses, depending on your health insurance coverage. Spend the extra money to get as much of this coverage as possible, since even a minor fender bender in a parking lot could result in repairs that cost thousands of dollars.

Tread carefully if you drop collision coverage. Americans are keeping their cars longer -- another result of hard times. While an older car is generally cheaper to insure, some people consider dropping collision coverage altogether to save even more money. However, remember that a lack of collision coverage means you'll need to foot the entire repair bill for your car if you are at fault. Spending the extra money on collision coverage may be a better choice if it will be challenging to get the funds to repair or replace your car after a collision.

Ask the adviser

If you have a car question, e-mail it to us at Driving for Dollars. Read more Driving for Dollars columns and Bankrate auto stories.
 

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