Q: What's the best way to get the best deal on auto insurance? -- R.S., via the Internet
A: A car that is titled only under a student's name will have to have its own insurance policy. So the best way to get the best deal is to stay on your parents' policy. If you're lucky, Mom and Pop will keep paying the premiums for you, since they still have that need to protect their little birdie even though you're halfway out of their nest.
You'll want to check whether the insurance company offers "children away at school" credits. This feature is sometimes available to students who are on their parents' policy and who go to school more than 150 miles from home. Students pay the same lower premiums they would if they were married -- usually a savings of about 25 percent. Needless to say, this provides one of the benefits of marriage without the hassles -- no spouse needed!
In any event, you'll want to shop around. Get quotes from more than one agent, since rates can vary greatly. Ask your friends, ask your school, check the Yellow Pages. When you contact a company, try to get a feel for its service. Ask the folks there what they might do to lower your costs. Then check 'em out against this list.
- Don't over-insure. If you've got a 1968 Plymouth Valiant with push-button transmission, you may not need collision and/or comprehensive coverage. In other words, you don't want your insurance premiums to cost more than the value of the car. If you already have a good health insurance plan, you may want to decline optional coverage for medical payments.
- Take advantage of discounts. They'll give you one for low-mileage driving. This will also encourage you to walk around campus and raise your chances of having that Special Someone hurtle into you in pursuit of an errant Frisbee. While you're at it, you can also ask for discounts for nonsmokers and for multicar or homeowner/car insurance (if by some miracle you should already own your home). Ask about possible discounts for safety and anti-theft devices on your vehicle, including airbags (not windbags, airbags!), anti-lock brakes and alarms.
- Be a good student. That's right -- insurance companies seem to think that students who have good grades tend to be lower risks than those who flunk out of school. Go figure.
- It goes without saying: Don't have any accidents. It isn't just that we don't want you to get hurt; we also don't want your premiums to go up.
- Ask for a higher deductible. That's the money you pay out of pocket before your policy kicks in. If you're prepared to shell out the first $500, instead of $250, for the damage done to your car, you could substantially reduce your collision and comprehensive cost by as much as 30 percent.
- If you haven't bought your car yet, find out which vehicles might have a higher risk of getting stolen or of being in an accident, and therefore more costly to insure. Write to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 1005 North Glebe Road, Arlington, VA 22201, and ask for the Highway Loss Data Chart.
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