If you're installing new siding, install Class A rated fire-resistant materials such as metal, fiber cement shingles and clapboards, and masonry. Using these materials can reduce your premium by up to 20 percent, especially in dry areas of the country that are more susceptible to fire damage.
Photo courtesy of CertainTeed Corp.
A swimming pool (especially with a diving board), a hot tub or a trampoline.
A dangerous condition on your property (like cracked steps or a low spot that collects water or ice) that could injure someone. If the injured party files a claim with his or her insurance company, your rates will rise.
Having a pit bull, Rottweiler, Doberman Pinscher or wolf mix. These breeds affect your insurance rates because dog bites cost insurers about $310 million annually.
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In hurricane-prone areas, installing wind-resistant shutters can save you up to 30 percent on the hurricane portion of your premium (often about 60 percent of the total premium in coastal areas), which means an overall savings of almost 20 percent. For an average home, basic metal shutters start at about $700. If your wind premium is $1,000, the shutters would pay for themselves in three to five years. Search online for “storm shutters” or “hurricane shutters.”
Photo courtesy of stormshutters.com
Washing machine hoses that leak or even burst are a common cause of water damage. Some insurance companies offer a discount of up to 10 percent on your premiums if you replace the rubber hoses on your washing machine with no-burst stainless steel hoses ($20 a pair at home centers and hardware stores). In 10 minutes, you could save five times the cost of the hoses on your next bill, but this is a smart move even if your insurer doesn't offer a discount.
Insurance companies offer big discounts (up to 45 percent) for tough roofing materials. Talk to your agent to learn about the exact discounts for materials other than standard asphalt. In most cases, metal roofing gives you the largest discount, but it also costs two to four times as much as standard asphalt shingles. For a less expensive roof that still qualifies for a discount, consider heavier grade Class 4 modified asphalt and shake shingles.
Photo courtesy of CertainTeed Corp.
Some companies will discount your premium 2 to 5 percent if you have safeguards in place to warn of plumbing failures. These include battery-operated or plug-in temperature sensors ($20 to $60 depending on the type) which detect furnace breakdowns and leak detectors ($15 to $200 depending on the model). For purchase info, search online for “leak detectors” and “temperature sensors.”
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It doesn't make sense to keep paying for collision and comprehensive (C&C) coverage for a car that is ten or more years old. Find the “book” value of your vehicle on the Internet (nada.com, edmounds.com or kbb.com) or at the library. Then add up the annual premiums for C&C. Chances are, you're paying for the full value of the vehicle every three years. If you're comfortable accepting a low level of risk, cancel your C&C coverage and put that money away. You'll probably come out ahead.
Some companies offer incentives for paying the invoice within 10 days, rather than taking the full 30 days. If your insurer offers a “prompt pay” discount (ask for one), it may be worth your while to reprioritize your bill payment schedule. If you're temporarily short on cash, it may even make sense to pay with your credit card.
This one's a no-brainer. If your kid is away at college, minus the family car, your insurance rates will be lower. Tell your agent that your kid is at school and work out arrangements for those few days when he or she is home. If your student has a car at school, you should still notify your agent. The rates may be lower based on the school's location.
If you drive 20 miles to work every day, you're paying a higher premium than people who drive only 5 miles. So if you get a new job closer to home, tell your agent immediately. Also, if you're lucky enough to retire, tell your agent so they can reclassify you as a “pleasure driver.” You'll see a drop in your premiums in both cases.
Insurance companies check your driving record regularly and increase your premium on the very next bill if they find a traffic violation. But they're not always so quick to reduce your premium later when the violation falls off your record. So keep track of the dates of your tickets and ask for a reduction once your record is “clean” (usually three years, but check with your state's Department of Motor Vehicles).
If you get a small dent or other minor damage on an older car, think twice about filing a claim and getting it fixed. To avoid rate hikes, it might be worth your while to just live with it if there are no safety issues. And if you have towing coverage on your policy and use it to get your jalopy towed every six months, be ready for a 10 percent rate increase on your next renewal. Buy a roadside assistance plan (available from AAA, AARP and other vendors) instead. It's cheaper.