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If you’re not driving as much this year, pick up the phone and tell your car insurance company. You might be able to get your payment reduced right away.
Your annual mileage is a factor in how much your car insurance costs, and since driving has greatly reduced since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, you could be overpaying your auto insurance premium, several experts say.
“Let’s say last year your annual mileage was 12,000 and now this year it’s only going to be 8,000 — that’s a significant change,” says Laura Adams, an insurance expert and host of the “Money Girl” podcast. “Letting them know that you’re driving fewer miles should allow you to pay less.”
Any individual relief you may get that way would be on top of reductions that companies introduced for everybody at the beginning of the pandemic. Those reductions, according to consumer advocates, are not enough when compared to what companies are saving, and insurers could do better by their customers.
People in the U.S. drove 264.2 billion fewer miles during the first half of 2020, down 17% nationally compared to the first half of 2019, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Fewer cars on the road means fewer accidents, and insurance companies make money by not paying for accidents and other claims.
Insurance companies returned about $14 billion in refunds and credits to auto customers in 2020 because people were driving less, according to a recent statement from the American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA), a trade association for insurance companies.
But a state-by-state analysis by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a consumer advocacy organization, shows insurance companies have financially benefited from fewer claims but have barely compensated customers since the start of the pandemic. COVID-19 relief varied by state and insurer, but the majority of insurers gave back less than half of one month’s average premium, the report found. (The report noted that in many states, State Farm, GEICO and USAA provided “better” relief than other insurance companies.)
“When people are struggling financially, every dollar counts,” says Jacob van Cleef, the group’s consumer watchdog associate. “It was underwhelming, to say the least, when you add together what insurance companies were willing to give back.”
Several experts we spoke to say it’s unlikely that more collective relief will come from insurance companies, but insurers may give you a discount to keep you as a customer if you ask.
“Insurers continue to work with policyholders to adjust their policies in 2021,” Mark Sektnan, APCIA’s vice president, says in the statement. “Policyholders are encouraged to communicate any reduction in their driving habits to their insurer to discuss adjustments in premiums if those changes have not already happened automatically.”
That’s why now is the perfect opportunity to take the initiative and ask for a lower car insurance premium if you’re driving less — or at the very least, a discount or two that’s not related to mileage. Jannese Torres-Rodriguez, a personal finance expert and host of the “Yo Quiero Dinero” podcast, says she simply logged onto her insurance company’s online portal, updated her yearly mileage, and immediately saw savings.
“I thought, ‘Why am I paying for 15,000 miles a year of coverage when I’m driving now less than 5,000 miles?’” says Torres-Rodriguez. “I think there’s a lot of room for negotiation. It all depends obviously on the insurance company, but the last thing they want right now is to lose your business.”
If you’re not sure what to say or where to start, we’ve got you covered.
How to Ask for a Lower Auto Insurance Premium
A good place to start is by telling your insurance company what you’re trying to accomplish, says Torres-Rodriguez.
If you can manage your auto insurance policy online without making a phone call, try that first. But if your only option is to call up your insurance representative and negotiate, there are four things to keep in mind when speaking to them:
- Stay polite — but firm. Don’t call your insurance company and demand a lower auto rate. You need to go into the conversation with logic and civility, even if the initial response is negative.
- Prepare to make your case for why you’re asking for a lower rate, whether it’s because you’re driving less, struggling financially, or another reason.
- Any discounts you receive will likely be forward-looking, according to several experts we spoke to. That means any money you’ve already paid toward your auto insurance premium likely won’t be reimbursed to you.
- Research rates from competing insurers, and if they are lower, use that information as part of your pitch.
If you have an auto insurance policy but want to negotiate a better rate, say the following:
|Hello, my name is ____ and I’ve been a policyholder with you since [date]. My circumstances have changed and I feel that I’m paying too much for my auto insurance every month. I’d like to lower my auto premium because of [reason, such as lower mileage, financial struggles, etc]. I’ve researched other insurance companies that can insure me for less for the same amount of coverage. What opportunities do you have in order for me to stay as your customer but still save some money on my end?|
As you move through the conversation, ask detailed questions to uncover any potential savings you aren’t aware of. “You can definitely have more than one discount,” says Torres-Rodriguez. Here are 10 questions you can ask your auto insurer to try to get your premium reduced:
- Are you offering any assistance for people financially struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as extended grace periods, waiving late fees and penalties, or payment plans?
- Do you offer any low-mileage discounts? If so, how do I qualify? (Regulations around mileage vary by state and insurance company, but many insurers offer low-mileage discounts to people who drive no more than 5,000 to 10,000 miles per year).
- How much would I save if I bundle my home and auto insurance with you?
- What about renewal or customer loyalty discounts?
- Can I save money by paying my entire annual premium upfront?
- Do you offer any discounts for safety features, like anti-lock brakes or airbags?
- Can I qualify for any safe driver discounts?
- Do you offer any employer discounts? (Tell them the company you work for).
- Am I paying for additional benefits, like roadside assistance or accident forgiveness?
- Can you walk me through any deductible changes I could make to save money? (By asking for a higher deductible, you can lower your monthly costs substantially. But it only makes sense to raise your deductible if you have enough money set aside to pay it when you file a claim).