Expensive maintenance, stinging state fees and fuel tank fill-ups can make owning a car a pricey proposition. Your car insurance may represent one of the few areas for possible savings. If you haven't reviewed your policy in a while, you might be missing out on a multitude of valuable discounts.
Discounts are an important way consumers can narrow the field when it comes to choosing a provider.
"One of the most important things is to advocate for yourself. Ask what discounts are available," says Jim Whittle, assistant general counsel and chief claims counsel of the American Insurance Association. "There's a whole slew of discounts in the marketplace."
Save on your auto insurance -- compare quotes from reputable insurers
To help you find the best deal, Bankrate has updated its table of popular discounts found on the websites of the 10 largest auto insurers.
Note: Some discounts not available in all states.
Results found in Oct. 22-23, 2015, survey of discount information available on the websites of the 10 largest car insurance companies. The list of top 10 car insurers is by market share in 2014, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
We did the digging for you
We unscientifically, but meticulously, dug through the depths of insurers' websites and sifted through sometimes intricate wording about discounts to save you from doing the heavy lifting.
Many well-known car insurance discounts are spelled out prominently on companies' websites. State Farm's website, for example, states that you can save up to 20% if you have 2 or more vehicles in the same household insured by people who are related.
Nationwide, like all the insurers, has a main list of discounts on its website. If you search further for discounts by state, you'll find various additional reductions that may be possible where you live, including discounts if your vehicle is newer or has air bags.
On some sites, details about certain discounts can be found only in Q&A sections or in blog posts.
As in past years, Bankrate has found a trend toward more discounts, including one that's new to our chart: 3 of the top 10 now give a price break on auto insurance if you own your own home or condominium.
How should you use this information?
The most important thing consumers can do to find the best car insurance rate is shop around, even if you don't plan on switching providers. Request quotes from multiple insurers and see the savings that each can offer. Be sure to inquire about discounts detailed on our chart.
"If you are out looking for a product, you know what you want in terms of coverage, you know what premiums would be, you find out what discounts are available," Whittle says. "Everyone should be asking when they get a quote, 'What discounts are available? What discounts might I qualify for?'"
Some auto insurers use a method known as "price optimization" to figure out which customers are likely to comparison-shop versus which customers aren't, says Amy Bach, executive director of the insurance consumer group United Policyholders. In some instances, you can end up being punished for being loyal to your insurer, she says.
Be proactive against rising costs
"If they find out that you're not going to shop and compare, they may say, 'We're going to give you a discount for having good grades,'" Bach says. "But that actually may mask the fact that they may be charging you more, based on the data-mining that they found."
To avoid being on the losing end of price optimization or missing out on discounts, it's critical to comparison-shop for the best auto insurance policy.
"Anybody who doesn't take advantage of the opportunity to shop is probably putting themselves at a disadvantage," says Bob Passmore, assistant vice president of personal lines policy at Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.
"The cost of a lot of insurance goes up by the cost of everything else," he says. "The cost of taking care of the aftermath in accidents -- medical care and auto body repair -- continues to go up, and that's going to be reflected in the insurance premiums we all pay."
Don't get overwhelmed!
When shopping for an insurance policy, you may get wildly varying quotes from one insurer to the next. And when you factor in the different discounts each insurer provides, you can easily feel overwhelmed.
"The best thing to do is take your current coverage out and ask for quotes for the same thing," Passmore says. "Make sure you're getting the same limits quoted, the same optional coverages quoted. … Somebody could give you a quote for a minimum-limits policy that will look really cheap, but it might be half or a quarter of the limits that you already have."
Bach says it's also important to ask insurers about their rules for raising rates and surcharging you if you file a claim.
"Find out, 'OK, if I have a fender bender where no one gets hurt, is that going to make my rate go up? Does every claim make my rate go up?'" she says.
And when it comes to discounts, don't take what's presented on insurers' websites as the final word. Ask if there are any other discounts available.
"It's always worth asking the question," Passmore says.