Choose Fire-Resistant Siding
If you're installing new siding, install Class A rated fire-resistant materials such as metal, fiber-cement shingles and clapboards, or masonry. Using these materials can reduce your homeowner's insurance premium by up to 20 percent, especially in dry areas of the country that are more susceptible to fire damage.
Photo provided by CertainTeed Corp.
These things can raise your homeowner's insurance rates:
- 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.
Photo provided by Jupiter Images
Install Storm Shutters
If you live in a hurricane-prone area, 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. Metal hurricane shutters are easy to install on existing homes. Electrically controlled models are also available.
Photo provided by Stormshutters.com
Replace Washer Hoses
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 if you replace the rubber hoses on your washing machine with no-burst stainless steel hoses (sold 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.
Choose a Tough Roof
Standard asphalt shingles take a beating during wind and hail storms. That's why insurance companies offer big discounts (up to 45 percent) for tougher materials. Before you choose a new roof, 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, which come with a 30- to 50-year limited warranty and may be less expensive than replacing a storm-damaged roof.
Photo provided by Certainteed Corp
Install Trouble Detectors
Some insurance companies will discount your homeowners insurance premium 2 to 5 percent if you have safeguards in place to warn of plumbing failures. Battery-operated or plug-in temperature sensors ($20 to $60, depending on the type) detect furnace breakdowns and the resulting frozen and bursting pipes. Leak detectors ($15 to $200, depending on the model) use wireless or wired sensors to sound an alarm (battery-operated models), or can be wired to an automatic shutoff valve on your main water line that closes when water touches the sensor.
Photo provided by Zircon
Consider Reducing Auto Coverage
Old cars (10-plus years) aren't worth much. So at a certain point it doesn't make sense to keep paying for collision and comprehensive (C&C) coverage on them. First, find the “book” value of your vehicle (nada.com, edmunds.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 insurance companies offer incentives for paying an invoice within 10 days, rather than taking the full 30 days. If your insurer offers a “prompt pay” discount (ask for one, if they don't), 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. You can also save money if you pay six months in advance.
Kid at College?
If you have a kid 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.
Change Jobs or Retire?
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.
Track Your Tickets
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).
Avoid Small Claims
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.
This also applies to homeowner's insurance. A good rule of thumb is don't file a claim if it's worth less than $1,000 over your deductible. Statistically, if you file two claims in a three-year period, or make claims related to maintenance issues such as a chronic leak or some missing shingles, you risk triggering a rate hike or worse. Your insurance company may even drop you completely. Just inquiring about a claim (without even filing it!) could raise your rates.
Beef Up Your Garage Door
Fierce winds can wreck garage doors. A stronger door might cut your premiums by 10 percent. You have two options: Install a new hurricane-resistant garage door, or use a retrofit kit with horizontal and vertical bracing to strengthen the existing door. A new double-bay residential hurricane garage door can cost as much as $1,200. A retrofit solution for a double-door garage will run about $500. If you have a $1,000 premium, your payback would be about five years.
Two Homeowner's Insurance Claims to Avoid
Think twice before filing a claim based on dog bites or water damage. These two claims are the most likely to trigger a premium increase. Dog bites are the largest single cause of homeowner's policy claims. Water damage claims are red flags to insurers because of the costs of eliminating mold and repairing chronic plumbing problems.
Install a CO Detector
Carbon monoxide detectors are mandatory in some states. They are an inexpensive way to protect your family from this deadly, invisible gas. Installing them shows your insurance company that you're serious about home safety, and it can earn you a discount.
Install Dead Bolt Locks
A door without a dead bolt lock is an invitation to burglars. Install a dead bolt on all exterior doors and cut your homeowner's insurance premiums by at least 5 percent.
Buy a Backup Generator
A backup generator is a good idea if you live in a storm-prone area. In case of long-term power outages, a generator will keep your refrigerator, fans and dehumidifiers functioning to protect your food and prevent mold and rot in case flooding occurs. It can also save you 2 percent on your homeowner's insurance premium. A generator won't pay for itself in insurance savings, but it will offset the cost (which can run from $300 to $15,000 depending on the size and type).