Overwhelmed by your insurance payments? With just a little time and effort — and the right agent — you might be able to reduce your insurance costs by up to 20 percent.

When it comes to insuring your assets, a little legwork can result in substantial savings. Here are some ways to trim the fat off your insurance bills:

  • Homeowners insurance. Homeowners can qualify for insurance discounts if they make certain improvements, such as installing smoke detectors, or belong to some professional organizations. Insurance companies also offer discounts to longstanding clients, so don’t hesitate to ask your agent about such incentives.
  • Car insurance. Many people buy a car before they even think about the insurance costs. Before you car shop, get quotes for a few different vehicles and choose one that will score you a lower rate on car insurance. And be sure to select a model that has been rated highly by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. These typically cost less to insure.
  • Health insurance. Being a family doesn’t mean having to buy a one-size-fits-all plan. Mixing and matching health plans can translate into big savings. Maybe one member requires more preventive care than another. Perhaps it’s cheaper to buy an individual plan for your child than it is to add him or her to the family plan.
  • Life insurance. If you need life insurance, shop around or do business with an independent broker. Ask about cheaper term life, which does not build value as an investment but does provide maximum coverage at the lowest price. If you have the extra money to invest, open an individual retirement account instead and get the tax deferral.
  • Disability insurance. The cost of a disability policy is largely set by two factors: the waiting period before your benefits actually kick in and the benefit period itself. Often, insurance companies will reduce rates if you extend a 90-day waiting period to 180 days, for example. Discuss the pros and cons with your agent first.