Financial Literacy - Insurance
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insurance
Slash your insurance costs

How to cut costs on ...
4. How to cut costs on homeowners insurance

As with auto insurance, begin your search at Bankrate as well as other insurance sites. Look to Iiaa.org for help finding a broker.

Discounts are often offered for carrying multiple policies with the same company, so if you need both homeowners (or renters) and auto policies, make apples-to-apples comparisons with insurance companies that offer both types of insurance. Ask about other discounts as well -- some companies give retirees discounts, for example.

Use Bankrate's homeowners insurance work sheet to help you shop.

The cost of not having enough insurance is potentially high. For instance, you'll need to boost your coverage after home improvements. "It doesn't cost a lot for extra coverage," Lankford says. "Go to Accucoverage.com and for $7.95 they'll let you figure out the replacement value of your home using the same databases insurers use." It'll save you the cost of an appraisal as well.

Figure out how much renters insurance you need using insurer-provided checklists to tally costs. Renters policies only cost a couple hundred dollars a year and represent a good value if you consider how much it costs to replace a computer system and a good TV. Renters insurance also covers liability if someone gets hurt in or near the home or apartment rental.

You can be overinsured, especially on homeowners insurance if the market value of the home is much more than its replacement value. "I live on Capitol Hill in D.C.," says Lankford, "and the property is worth much more than the cost of rebuilding my home itself."

Notify your insurance of improvements that may cut premiums. In Florida, the insurance commissioner found that many people weren't getting credit for all the storm proofing they had done, so make sure to let your insurance company know if you have hurricane shutters or if you've installed an alarm system.

The big opportunity for savings on homeowners insurance is raising the deductible. Depending on the deductible, savings could be as much as 25 percent, according Lankford. "A lot of people start at $500 but I recommend at least $1,000," she says.

Think carefully before submitting a claim where the payout will only put a few hundred dollars back in your pocket. With a higher deductible you won't be as tempted to file small claims that might put you at risk of rate hikes or getting dropped. "It often comes as a big surprise to people that insurers share information through CLUE (Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange) reports, so when the insurance company doesn't renew you and you go shopping for another policy, it will be tough for you to get covered," says Lankford.

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