2008 Insurance Guide
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20 things to know about auto insurance

6. Sign up for rental insurance. If you don't have an extra car in the garage, make sure your policy covers the cost of a similar-sized rental should your car need repairs after an accident. While a week may seem like the blink of an eye to a body shop, a one-week rental could add hundreds to your out-of-pocket costs after an accident.

7. Shop around. "You can pay more than double for the same insurance, so it does pay to shop around," says Bob Hunter, director of insurance for the Consumer Federation of America.

Most states offer price guidelines for various types of coverage in different areas and they put the information online. Or call your state insurance department and ask if they have pricing information available.

If you call around for quotes, include a few brand-name companies as well as a few independent agents who will shop more than one company for you. Be aware that agents represent companies that pay commissions, and sometimes the best deals come from companies that don't pay commissions, says Hunter.

And don't assume that you'll pay more for a well-known entity. "Insurance companies with the best satisfaction often have the best price," he says.

8. Be specific when shopping rates. Don't just ask for a quote. Give the agent exact numbers on the coverage you're comparing.

And beware of the variables, says Dick Luedke, spokesman for the State Farm Insurance Companies. Are you sure that the deductibles, coverage amounts and liability limits are the same? What about provisions for a rental car or roadside assistance?

"There are a lot of little extras you can get on an insurance policy, so make sure you're making that comparison apples to apples as well," he says.

See how Bankrate ranks your insurance and compare insurance rates.

9. Take advantage of every discount. If you store your car in a garage or drive less than a certain number of miles each year, or have gone a certain number of years without an accident or ticket, your company will probably give you a discount. The same is true if your car has safety features like airbags, anti-lock brakes or anti-theft devices like a tracking system or alarm.

You also could get a break if you have more than one car on your policy, if you buy your policy through the same company that insures your home, or if you pay your premium annually.

In addition, an extra class or course could shave dollars off your premiums. Some companies will give senior drivers a discount for taking a defensive-driving course. Likewise, teens often can get better premiums by maintaining good grades or taking drivers' education courses.

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