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Next to a root canal, paying for car insurance is about as painful as it gets. And the bill always seems to be an unpleasant surprise. Just when you think you’ve got the monthly budget under control, along comes a hefty 6-month premium.

So I did some research into the common discounts that most car insurance companies offer. Some won’t be much of a surprise, but there are few you may not know about. And for all of them, it’s a good practice to check with your agent to make sure you’re taking advantage of every discount for which you qualify.

Driving History & Habits Discounts

1. Safe Driving Discount: Discounts for safe driving take several forms. With some companies, you’ll get a discount when you go without an accident for a number of years (typically four or five years). Some companies offer to lower your deductible $100 each year you’re accident free (Nationwide calls it the vanishing deductible). And in the case of Progressive, you can actually install a device (called the Progressive Snapshot) that monitors your driving. Based on the results, you may get a lower premium.

2. Low Mileage Discount: If you don’t put a lot of miles you a vehicle, you may qualify for lower premiums. There’s no standard mileage to qualify, although what I’ve seen typically requires no more than 12,000 miles per year. But the number varies, so you’ll need to check with your insurance company.

3. Driving Habits Discount: There are a number of good driving habits that can result in a premium discount. For example, if you and your passengers always wear a seat belt, GEICO offers a discount of up to “15% off the medical payments or personal injury protection portion of your premium.”

Vehicle Equipment Discounts

4. Airbag Discount: Most new cars today come with supplemental restraint systems. If your car has airbags, make sure you get the discount from your insurance carrier. Allstate, for example, offers discounts of up to 30% if your vehicle is equipped with passive restraints (including motorized seat belts).

5. Anti-Lock Brakes Discount: Not only can anti-look brakes help you avoid an accident, they can shave about 5 to 10% off the collision portion of your insurance.

6. Anti-Theft System Discount: An alarm system can knock another 10% off your premiums (25% of the comprehensive portion according to GEICO). Factory installed systems get you this discount. Don’t count on the same savings if you try to install a system on your own.

Payment Discounts

7. Pay-in-Full Discount: This is one that many people miss. Your premiums go down if you pay six months at a time. If you want to pay monthly, the cost will go up, sometimes significantly. The key here is to save well in advance of your premium due date so that you have the money in hand when your insurance bill is due.

8. Automatic Payment Discount: This one was new to me. Some insurance companies will offer a discount if you set up automatically payments from your bank account. And related to this, Progressive offers a $50 savings immediately if you sign up for insurance online.

Driver Education Discounts

9. Good Student Discount: If your teenager has good grades, you’ll qualify for a student discount. With Nationwide, our kids had to maintain a 3.0 GPA, and the savings was significant.

10. Resident Student Discount: This is one we are taking advantage of now. If you child heads off to college more than 100 miles from home without a car, you can qualify for a substantial discount off your premiums. The actual distance the school must be from home varies, so be sure to check with your insurance carrier.

11. Defensive Driver Discount: If you take a defensive driver course can save you as much as 10% off your insurance.

Customer Loyalty Discounts

12. Multiple Car Discount: Presumably if you have multiple vehicles they are insurance with the same company. But if not, consider that most carriers offer discounts when you insure more than one vehicle.

13. Long-term Customer Discount: This is one we take advantage of with Nationwide. I’ve been with the same insurance company for nearly 30 years. Not only do we get a substantial discount as a result of our loyalty, but we also qualify for a special status that basically means they will never deny us insurance.

14. Multiple Policies Discount: If you get all your insurance (auto, life, home) from the same carrier, you’ll qualify for additional discounts. This is another one we take advantage of, and it makes paying our premiums easier because we deal with just one company.

Bonus Discount

15. Good Credit Score Discount: Although this one isn’t technically a “discount,” it’s one that many people miss. Insurance companies use credit scores and history to set premiums. The higher your score, the less you’ll pay. So make sure to keep your credit score in good health.

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Author Bio

Total Articles: 1082
Rob founded the Dough Roller in 2007. A litigation attorney in the securities industry, he lives in Northern Virginia with his wife, their two teenagers, and the family mascot, a shih tzu named Sophie.

Article comments

Kevin Beck says:

Regarding the Payment Discounts section of the article: With GEICO, if you have your monthly payments debited directly from your bank account, there is no partial payment fee added to each payment; you pay the exact same in a 6-month period as if you paid in full. Until then, I used to always pay in full each renewal period; I would just set aside one-sixth the total each month, just as if I was making a monthly payment. I also had the habit of setting aside the partial-payment fee, since I knew my insurance premium almost always went up every six months.

Bob says:

I wouldn’t trust Progressive. I read an article about one of Progressive’s customers. The customer got into an accident with an uninsured driver and got hurt. The Progressive driver had insurance for uninsured drivers. When the customer tried to collect Progressive went to court and fought against their own customer to try to get out of paying off. The uninsured driver was the one at fault.

Rob Drury says:

Most major insurers will offer a substantial discount for OnStar subscribers, often more than the cost of the OnStar subscription. OnStar is available on virtually all new GM vehicles, and as an aftermarket add-on on most other models.

Craig says:

You may also receive a “multi-car” discount if you have a company car to drive.

Jonathan says:

Geico gets rid of the $5.00/month installment fee if you sign up for ACH payments.

Allison says:

Geico’s premium doesn’t change at all with what payment plan you decide to go with. If you don’t choose Auto Draft, your payment plan goes from a 6 pay plan to a 5 pay plan. The first payment is a little higher, then you pay 4 more installments, and then 1 month with no payment. As for the installment fees, that doesn’t affect it. The only thing that changes that is if you are set up on a credit/debit card ($5) versus an EFT withdrawal ($1). Just wanted to clear that up…

Mia says:

GEICO doesn’t offer long-term customer discount, feeling like they don’t appreciate my loyalty. Costco is going to have American Family Insurance, which has better customer reviews than the current one (Ameriprise). Their quote is pretty good for the same coverage, with lower deductible, so goodbye GEICO.