April 8, 2010
Even with a 16-year-old about to get a driver's license, there are ways to keep your auto-insurance rates in check:
• Raise your comprehensive and collision deductibles to at least $1,000, which lowers premiums and prevents you from filing small claims that could jeopardize a claims-free discount.
• Drop collision and comprehensive coverage on older cars that are worth little more than the deductible. To look up your car's value, go to Kelley Blue Book (www.kbb.org).
• Encourage your kids to get good grades. Most insurers offer a big discount for young drivers who maintain at least a B average in high school or college.
• Ask about other discounts for teenage drivers. Some insurers offer discounts for driver-safety programs, cutting costs if the kids take a special class, watch a DVD or read a driver-safety book and take a test.
• Make the most of multipolicy discounts. You'll usually get a break on your auto and homeowners insurance if you buy both from the same company.
• Shop around. The insurance company that offered the best rate for you and your spouse may have among the highest rates when you add a teenager (but it's almost always better to add the child to your policy rather than have him get his own policy).
You can get price quotes from several insurance companies at http://www.insurancerates.com (a new site by InsWeb Corp.) or get personalized service from an independent agent who works with many companies. (Look for one at http://www.iiaba.org.) But you may not want to switch from a longtime insurer to save a few dollars, because your current company may be less likely to raise your rates or drop you if your child has an accident. Also keep in mind that if you've been getting a multipolicy discount, your homeowners rate might rise if you take your auto business elsewhere.
Even if you drop deductibles, don't skimp on liability. Experts recommend liability limits of at least $250,000 per person, $500,000 per accident and $100,000 for property damage. Young drivers are more likely to have accidents, and you could be on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars if your child hits another car or injures someone.
— Kimberly Lankford, Tribune Media Services
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