Few people want to be judged for anything other than the content of their character, yet unfortunately, that's not always the way the world works. When it comes to auto insurance, how old you are does affect how much you pay every month.
Luckily, you don't simply have to accept this fate as-is. Michigan-based Peter Vitale, an expert in all things auto insurance, offers his tips on how to navigate the proverbial waters at any age. He'll also dive into how different circumstances can hurt or help you, regardless of how old you are.
In the Beginning
There are some teenagers who start off as safe, cautious drivers, and then stay that way for life. However, the reality is that young peoples' brains are still developing, which can impact everything from their working memory to their impulse control. Couple that with a lack of experience, and their rates are typically going to be higher.
So, at age 16, when you have very little money, a premium might cost you nearly $7,000 per year. By the time you hit 35, the same policy will cost just $1,900. An average driver in their 50s will pay even less than that. Of course, it's worth noting that it's not just age that will hike up your rates, though. Men pay about 12% more than women do.
Take a Class
Michigan's Peter Vitale recommends being extremely proactive at this age. Insurance companies want to see that their customers are responsible members of society, ones that can handle responsibility in a number of scenarios. So, getting straight As in school might not seem related to how you drive a car, but it speaks to the fact that you pay attention and you're able to keep up with multiple demands. That's why so many insurance companies offer Good Student discounts.
In addition to your regular classes though, you can also consider taking a driving class on your own. No matter how you slice it, driver's education looks good. So even if you sat through formal schooling to get your license, you might want to take another class anyway. After all, any money off at this age is going to be welcome news.
These classes can cover any number of driver's topics, including rules of the road and tips for navigating stressful situations. While you likely already know much of what these classes have to say, the reminders can be more helpful than you think. It's all about giving you the confidence to survive. When you're on the road, it helps to be as empowered as possible.
There are a few other ways to ensure you get the best possible auto insurance when you're just getting started:
● Shop around: Getting a number of quotes can have a big impact on the actual price you pay. You might be surprised at just how much monthly premiums can vary. Every carrier has their own discounts that you may qualify for, so don't assume anything before you get the actual quote.
● Talk to your parents: Getting on your parent's car insurance can help you save some dough. Also, maybe let your parents know that safer cars tend to cost less if they're looking for something to get you around town.
● Be smart: It cannot be emphasized enough that you're better off being safe than sorry. Accidents are common at this age, so erring on the side of slower, more cautious driving could save your life (and the lives of others). Plus, the more you get into these habits, the lower your rates will be.
Seasoned drivers typically approach auto insurance from a different perspective. After spending so much time on the road, they largely feel like they have everything under control. Luckily, the rates also tend to reflect this. At the same time though, insurance expert Peter Vitale cautions that there's a potential danger here. Plenty of people pay too much just because they've become complacent.
Part of keeping your rates down at an older age means paying attention to what's impacting your rates:
● Accidents: These can stay on your record for up to three years. Calling your insurance company or shopping around can make it easier to understand how this accident is affecting what you pay.
● Infractions: Points on your license accumulate from infractions. This could be anything from a minor speeding ticket up to a serious DUI.
● Neighborhood: Living in a neighborhood that's prone to theft or uninsured drivers is going to bump up your monthly rates. If your state has high minimums for car insurance, meaning the insurance company has to pay more, your rates will be higher too.
● Car: Sports cars, leased cars, and financed cars will affect how much you pay per month. You might be a safe driver, but a sports car is just more likely to get into an accident or be pulled over by the cops.
● Credit: Insurance companies are looking for responsible people, and credit can be a factor when it comes to how a carrier determines its rates.
Some of these things you have little control over. For instance, you're not going to move because of your car insurance, and you might not have much of a choice about whether your car is leased. However, there are a few things that you can do to potentially keep your rates down.
Talk to Your Insurance Company
Your carrier is unlikely to come to you and sketch out how you can save more money (though you never know). What you can do though is call your carrier and ask the staff what you can do to get your rates down.
In some cases, it might mean taking a driver's class. For instance, you might be able to erase the negative effects of a ticket just by brushing up on your skills and taking a few tests. Or you might be able to improve your rates by upping your credit score. Errors are extremely common on these reports and these can be cleared up with nothing more than a few phone calls from you. Or you might be able to cut back on your credit inquiries for a while in an effort to restore your score.
Finding out from your carrier how you can benefit will make a big difference, as it can help you prioritize which things to tackle first. If your insurance carrier is less than forthcoming about what you can do for yourself, you should take note of this. If they're like this now, imagine how helpful they'll be if you have to file a claim.
There are a number of circumstances that can help you get auto insurance for lower rates.
Plenty of people pick where to live based on its proximity to where things are. If you're in a city where pretty much everything you need is right at your fingertips, you might be able to sign up for a service where you're only charged for the miles you drive.
While this option is not available everywhere, this insurance option typically charges a base rate and then a per-mile charge. If you rarely drive your car, there's no reason to be paying the same amount as someone who's out on the road non-stop.
Peter Vitale knows that your rates will rise slightly as you inch into your 70s and 80s. However, there are some insurance companies that will offer money off if you're heading into your retirement years. Doing some research into available carriers in your area can help.
Policies and Life Events
Sometimes, bundling your home, auto, commercial, etc. insurance can go a long way in terms of bringing your rates down. Sometimes, just purchasing your own home or getting married can qualify you for a discount.
The safer your car is, the more likely you are to get a discount. So, check to see if advanced features, such as tracking devices or anti-theft protections, will lower your rates.
Adjusting Your Policy
When a bank or a lender owns part of your car, they have the right to dictate what kind of insurance you get. When you own your car though, you get to decide. If you've paid off your car in full, you might be able to drop collision or comprehensive coverage. This does mean that you'll be on the hook for repairing your car on your own if you cause an accident.
About Peter Vitale
Michigan-based Peter Vitale is an insurance expert and a trusted leader in the industry. He's helped numerous small- and medium-sized insurance agencies understand how to improve their customer engagement, sales policies, and marketing angles. His larger goals include establishing better corporate culture for the benefit of both customers and employees alike. He lives in Oakland County and serves on the Board of Directors at the Better Business Bureau. He loves to share what he's learned from his many years at work.