2008 Insurance Guide
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insurance
Reducing insurance costs

 

Health insurance

Obvious health insurance savings: Do you smoke? Are you overweight? If you can give up the nicotine, your rates will drop dramatically, and dropping pounds is a good way to drop dollars off of your premiums.

Not-so-obvious savings: There isn't much available here. Of all insurances, health has to be the one that ironically makes people the most sick. Some companies will give you better rates if you're, say, a triathlon athlete. Cochran says that his company offers something called "non-tobacco preferred plus," which are the best of the best rates and only given to 1 percent to 2 percent of their customers. So if you've just run the Boston Marathon or are simply especially fit compared to most Americans, you may want to push for something like that.

Naturally, there's a but: But if you think there's no way you qualify for something like that, there are some other options for bringing down your insurance overall that you may have forgotten to consider.

If you have two or three different insurance agents or agencies, consider consolidating some of them with one agency; that generally can bring down your rates on all of your insurance policies.

More insurance savings tips:
  • House. If an agent is aware that your dog is a pit bull, you may be paying more in home insurance. If your best friend is now in doggie heaven and you're getting a poodle, let your agent know.
  • House, auto, health. Don't insurance hop. Stick around and some agencies will reduce premiums by 5 percent or even 10 percent if you've been with them for several years. Still, compare rates every once in a while. A 5 percent discount on an outrageous price is likely worse than no discount on a reasonable price.
  • House, auto. Some homeowners and auto insurance agencies will give you a discount if you've had a loss-free record or safe driving record for several years. If that's you, it can't hurt to ask if you have that discount.
  • Renters insurance and auto. Simmonds says that if you buy your renters insurance, which is typically cheap, from the same agency that handles your auto insurance, you'll probably get such a significant discount (maybe $100 to $200) with your car insurance that you'll wind up getting free tenant insurance (which may run as low as $150 per year) for your valuables.
  • House, auto, health. Pay your other bills on time. If your credit score goes down due to missed mortgage and credit card payments, sometimes your insurance rates will go up. Unfair, perhaps, but the insurance companies then assume you're a risk with them as well.
  • House. Cochran says if you have an umbrella insurance policy, see what happens if you raise the coverage. Often, if you change coverage from $300,000 to $500,000, your umbrella insurance will go up a couple bucks a month, but your homeowners insurance might drop $10, giving you more overall coverage for $8 less. Why? Because you've demonstrated that you understand the value of money, and that you're likely to be a responsible homeowner.

Simmonds says that your house and auto policies will almost always go down if you have one agent representing you. He doesn't think it's worth trying to do that with health, which most people get from their employer, or life and disability policies, because they're all so different. "I'd rather deal with someone who really knows what they're doing, than with someone who just works with these policies part time," he says.

Also, if your teenager becomes a lifeguard and takes a life-saving course, or if you take a CPR class or participate in anything that seems like it will make your home, health, car or life safer, it's worth asking if those new situations will bring down your rates.

But most importantly, reviewing your insurance and talking to your agent about it once a year to keep them apprised of any life-changing events that may change the equation on your rates is crucial to lowering your premiums, says Brewe. "Painful as it is and as boring and tedious a topic as it may seem, you really should look at your insurance needs once a year."

Geoff Williams is a freelance writer in Loveland, Ohio.

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