As bill negotiation experts, we’re frequently asked to negotiate car insurance. It’s a major monthly bill—at $1,470 a year on average, auto insurance is most Americans fifth largest household bill. And, since we like to give out advice for free, people often ask us how to negotiate their own car insurance. But the first question is really: can you negotiate car insurance?
The answer is: No. Not really. But you can still save money.
First, the bad news: in the United States, legally, car insurance is non-negotiable. Negotiating your car insurance isn’t like negotiating your cable bill, where you can just call and haggle a lower rate. Insurance providers won’t, and can’t, negotiate with you.
Fortunately, there’s good news too. In practice, there are several ways to save money on car insurance.
There are basically three ways to save money on car insurance:
- Changing your car insurance provider.
- Adding discounts with your current car insurance provider.
- Changing coverage from your current car insurance provider.
Adding discounts on your car insurance is the closest thing to “negotiating” it, but it’s still not technically negotiation. We’ll explain why later. At the end of the day, the only way to significantly lower your car insurance rate is to shop around to different providers. So, if you want to skip right to the end, we’ll start with using Jerry.ai to get car insurance quotes.
Jerry.ai is a cutting-edge insurance start-up that’s the easiest way to get quotes from over 40 carriers without getting spammed. On average, people who use Jerry.ai for their insurance save over $800 a year by comparing rates. Plus, the app will do all the paperwork for you if you do want to switch.
So, you want to do it right. Let’s say you want to understand why there’s not a simple question to “how to negotiate car insurance?” First, you need to understand whether car insurance is something you can negotiate at all. In this post we’ll explain why you can’t negotiate insurance for your vehicles. Then, we’ll explain what you can do to lower your car insurance anyway.
Why can’t you negotiate car insurance?
Car insurance, like all insurance, is a heavily regulated industry. While there are (generally) no federal regulations surrounding car insurance, each state has their own set of rules. And almost all state laws, prohibit “rebating.” Here’s how that (generally) works:
Insurance companies have to file with each state they do business in. In 42 of those states, insurance carriers must file the specific rates they charge with the state. Then, they’re required to actually hold to those rates. Which means they have very specific rules for how they can charge for insurance.
If they say ahead of time “we charge $X for this specific kind of car, with this specific kind of driver, with this specific level of coverage” then they’re required by law to charge that. They have to write you a policy that includes that pricing, and they can’t alter that pricing unless one of those factors changes.
And generally speaking, this is a good thing. States with heavier insurance regulation generally have lower pricing than less regulated states. Over the last three decades, insurance premiums have risen nearly 60%. In California, the state with perhaps the most stringent insurance regulations, they’ve dropped 6%.
As part of those regulations, most states explicitly forbid “rebating.” More simply, that means they’re not allowed to give you a discount off the official rate. The reason for that is to ensure that insurers charge everybody the same price.
Here’s an example of an anti-rebating statute from Mississippi:
“No such insurer or employee or agent thereof shall pay, allow, or give, or offer to pay, allow, or give, directly or indirectly, as an inducement to insurance or after insurance has been affected, any rebate, discount, abatement, credit, or reduction of the premium named in a policy of insurance, or any special favor or advantage in the dividends or other benefits to accrue thereon, or any valuable consideration or inducement whatever, not specified in the policy of insurance.” (Emphasis added)
So, basically, that law says: insurance companies aren’t allowed to give you discounts.
Of course, that varies state by state, but generally the rules are the same. Wyoming is the only state that doesn’t have a regulatory system for insurance. So, if they want to provide insurance, they’re generally going to need a no-rebate policy.
It’s looking like this may possibly change in the future, to make the insurance industry more like the cable/internet industry. Major national insurance associations are pushing for a review of these regulations to allow rebating in certain circumstances.
A draft bulletin for North Dakota would allow insurance companies to offer discounts if it would “mitigate loss or provide loss control.” In practice, this would make insurance like your cable bill: in order to get a good rate, you have to call and threaten to cancel. If that happens, you’ll be able to truly negotiate car insurance—for better or worse. But for now, that’s just a proposal.
As it stands, you can use every negotiating trick in the book, and they’re not going to give you a straight up discount because it’s illegal. Okay, things aren’t looking good. How to negotiate car insurance? You can’t. But don’t give up. There’s hope.
How to Save Money on Car Insurance
Okay, so you can’t negotiate insurance. Big deal. You can still get a lower rate. There are three ways to do this: shopping around, adding discounts, or changing your current coverage with your same provider. In order to make sure you have every available option for alternatives to negotiating car insurance, we’re going to tackle these one at a time.
Shopping for lower insurance
Of these, your best chance for major savings is changing providers. The problem is that it’s generally been a big hassle in the past and many people are loyal to their insurance provider.
In the old days, the way this has worked is: you call up your insurance broker, who either only sells one kind of insurance, or only has contracts with a handful of providers, and you can’t save anything. That has changed with the ability to buy insurance online. These days, you could spend the day going to each website, for each insurance carrier, and requesting a quote. Three things will happen: you’ll spend a long time filling out forms, then you’ll have to wait for an email or phone call to “discuss your options,” then carriers bombard you with mail, email, and phone calls for the rest of your life.
That system sucks. However, it has one big bright side: hidden in that mountain of wasted time and spam is the lowest rate on your auto insurance. It’s still got two major downsides though: it can be a lot of paperwork and hassle to switch and you have to do that every renewal to stay the best rate.
Fortunately, there’s a better way. Insurtech companies like Jerry.ai have leveraged technology to do all of the steps above, without selling your personal information. In less than a minute, they can gather quotes from more than 40 different providers, present them to you, and then take care of switching for you. On average, switching through Jerry.ai saves shoppers $887 a year and it’s free, since they make money from the insurance carriers directly.
Because insurance rates change regularly and because each company has a slightly different setup for how they charge, the only way to know for sure that you’re on the best rate is to check the competition. Using a service like Jerry.ai is, in our opinion, the fastest and easiest way to find the lowest rates.
What makes it especially valuable is their promise not to spam you. Contacting 40 carriers one-by-one would mean spam emails for the rest of your life, but Jerry.ai will never send you unwanted emails or pushy phone calls.
You don’t necessarily have to be at renewal with your old provider to try switching. Generally speaking, by law, insurance providers have to refund you for the rest of your premium if you cancel early. Depending on state and provider, some carriers have early cancellation fees, which you can look up before cancelling anything early.
Adding discounts with your current car insurance provider
Okay, so you want to stick with your current provider. The closest option to a BillFixers-style negotiation, where you keep the same service with the same provider, is applying available discounts to your current service. Almost all insurance carriers have specified carveouts that allow you to get additional discounts.
These aren’t considered rebating, because they’re universal and available to everything. For example, an insurer might provide discounts to students who get above a 3.0 GPA. That doesn’t break the anti-rebating rules, because it’s pre-written into the policy and available to all customers.
Can you get car insurance discounts?
When you signed up for your policy, you should have received all of the discounts available to you. However, most people don’t take advantage of all their available discounts. There are two reason for this.
First, your situation might have changed and they don’t necessarily apply discounts automatically. An easy example of this: you signed up for insurance five years ago, last year you joined a membership association for accountants, but it never occurred to you to tell your insurance company. So, you never found out they offer special discounts to accountants.
Second, insurance agents and insurance companies have different motivations. An insurance agent gets paid a commission based on the amount of the policy. So, let’s take the membership organization example. Your agent might conveniently forget to mention that you get a discount for being an accountant when you signed up. Take it from an anonymous ex-insurance agent:
“Because many insurance agents make money on how large your policy is, they can leave certain discounts off or give you coverage you don’t need (or take away coverage you should have just to beat your price). It gets even shittier, and lots of companies will do things like not run a report and get you on board for 6 months, and then all of a sudden count that (accident, ticket, claim) against you and jack the rate up.”
So, what can you do about it?
How to negotiate car insurance discounts
The secret to “negotiating” car insurance discounts is simple: call and ask. While your insurance provider can’t just provide discounts because you ask, they can look and find what discounts they could already have been providing.
You can do your research online first. Search your provider’s name plus “discounts” and see what offers they have. Because of the regulation around this, car insurance discounts are generally (supposed to be) transparent, so many insurers will make it as simple as that. However, resources are pretty scattered. So, you can always ask about some of the most common options to see if they’re available to you.
Each discount may save only a few percent, but major discounts like safe driving, loyalty, and product bundling can save as much as 20 or 30%. Generally speaking, whatever the company offers you when you ask is what you’ll get, so there’s no sense trying to haggle further—per discount. You should always ask for more discounts, though.
What kind of discounts are available for car insurance
Each insurer has their own special discounts and each version of the discounts below is going to be slightly different. The only way to know for sure is to contact your carrier, but here are some of the kinds of discounts you can ask about:
Safe Driving Record Discount: A driver without a record of accidents can receive a discount for being a “safe driver.” This is often one of the largest available discounts.
Customer Loyalty Discount: If you stay with your insurance carrier for 5, 10, or 20 years, you likely become eligible for significant discounts. Of course, you have to make sure that the annual premium increases don’t outpace these.
Low Mileage Discount: The less time you spend on the road, the less likely you are to get in a car accident. If you don’t go on roadtrips or have a short commute, you may be eligible.
Student Away From Home Discount: If you’re the parent of a college student who is off at school without a car, but you still have them on your family insurance, you can get a special discount. This is similar to low mileage discounts, but specific to your situation.
Multi-Driver Discount: Buying in bulk tends to save money. The more people on your policy, the bigger a discount the carrier is likely to give you.
Multi-Vehicle Discount: If you own multiple vehicles and insure them all through the same carrier, you qualify for a Multi-Vehicle discount. you’ll generally be able to get a discounted rate.
Multi-Policy Discount: If you get different kinds of coverage from the same provider, they’ll cut you a deal. So, for example, you might get discounted auto insurance if you also buy home insurance from the same company. However, it’s unusual for one company to have the best rate for multiple kinds of policies. So, you have to be careful here that the savings from the multi-policy discount don’t outweigh the costs.
Autopay/Paperless Discount: Insurance providers lose a little bit of money every time you pay via credit card and they risk losing the whole payment if you pay by check and stop paying, so they’ll give you a small discount if you allow direct debits from a checking account.
Paid-in-Full Discount: Cash is king. The more money the carrier has, the more they can reinvest and earn. So, if you pay for the whole annual premium upfront, they’ll discount the amount you’re paying. While this can seem like free money, be careful of the opportunity cost here.
Good Student Discount: Good grades can equal good insurance rates. Insurance is all about odds. And kids out getting straight As are statistically less likely to be out crashing their car, so… discount.
Affinity Group membership Discount: Many group organizations offer special discounts on car insurance. The list is very wide: alumni organizations, professional associations, credit unions, and other groups. If you are a member of any group, you can search or ask.
Occupation Discount: Similar to membership organizations, many insurers will offer a discount based on profession. Most common among these are discounts for military, veterans, first responders, teachers, and other government employees.
Homeowner Discount: If you own your own home, rather than renting, you’ll sometimes qualify for an additional discount based on your “less risky” profile. Generally, all you need to do is send in a copy of proof of ownership (like your deed, property tax statement, or home insurance policy.)
Telematics Discount: Generally, discounts are based on a proxy for your driving: good students likely drive safer. But with technology, insurance providers can track your driving style and provide discounts based on your literal driving safety. Not speeding, braking slowly, driving less, all count in your favor. But it’s a two sided coin. Startups like Root are taking this to a whole new level: your driving is the primary basis for your rate, not just a discount option.
Anti-Theft Discount: Another technology option: the harder your car is to steal, the less likely your insurer has to cover the cost of a theft. Generally, this will just be based on the kind of car you have and if it has built in anti-theft, but there may be additional savings if you have something like LoJack.
Car Safety Features Discount: The safer your car, the less expensive an accident could be. And, many modern cars feature collision prevention technology, which doesn’t just keep you alive—it saves your insurance provider money. So hey, why not share the wealth?
Safe Driving Course Discount: One active choice you can make to get a discount is to attend a safe driving or defensive driving course. These are generally licensed by your state and can either be an online course or actual defensive driving instruction behind the wheel with an instructor.
Green Vehicle Discount: This is another case of statistics supporting good behavior. Yes, it’s good to drive a hybrid, electric, or other energy efficient cars. And generally insurers will frame this as a thank you for saving the environment (and seriously, thank you.) But it also makes you statistically less likely to be involved in a crash, which saves them money.
As a final note, once you’re on the phone, don’t forget to ask about other options to save money. They may have new or different discounts available that aren’t listed here. If not, they’ll tell you the other option for saving money on car insurance: lowering your coverage.
Changing your coverage from your current car insurance provider
Put simply: the worse your insurance coverage is, the less it costs. So, you can get a policy with a higher deductible and you’ll pay a lower premium. Or, you can drop comprehensive or collision coverage and you’ll lower premiums.
Frankly, this is a personal and financial decision. We can’t give advice here. Insurance companies employ entire teams of people, huge pools of data, and complicated algorithms to determine the cost-benefit ratio of each trade-off. It’s essentially impossible to determine the “right” answer on your own, so it’s just about determining what seems right for you.
When is changing your coverage worth it?
There are certain situations when it may be worthwhile to look into lowering aspects of your coverage.
If you think you’re very unlikely to get into an accident and you have some savings, then maybe having a high deductible doesn’t matter to you. Raising your deductible from $500 to $1,000 saves 9% on premiums on average. So, in theory the equation is: (monthly premium * .09) * (number of months until your next accident) = X. If X is less than more than $500, then you just saved money!
Example: let’s say you pay $100 a month for car insurance (for easy math sake.) A 9% savings would be $9 a month. So, if you don’t get into an accident for 55 months, then all of a sudden you’ve spent more on premiums than on the deductible.
Instead, you can put that money away in your savings and if you get in an accident in month 56, you’ll have saved money. That’s self insurance. But, if you get into an accident in month 2, you’ll really regret spending that extra $482. And hey, there’s the whole concept of insurance right there.
Another example: you only ever park your car in a garage, then maybe it isn’t worth insuring it against theft.
But again, we’re not financial advisors and quite frankly don’t want to be responsible for you deciding to get barebones with your insurance and then getting in an accident. So, proceed with caution. That’s one of the nice things about shopping around to other providers. You can look for identical coverage deductibles, maximums, benefits, and whatever else and still get a better price at the same time.
Hopefully, you’ve now learned why car insurance isn’t negotiable, but why you can save money anyway.
Even the world’s best negotiator (and we work with a few) can’t negotiate a rate that’s non-negotiable. And as much as we’d love to be able to negotiate car insurance, the data points to the fact that in a world where insurance is negotiable, the costs will end up going up on average. But if that world comes, BillFixers will be ready to take on your car insurance bill like we negotiate tv, internet, and phone bills today.
If you’re looking to negotiate car insurance, a good next step is to look into competing quotes from other providers first (this is where a company like Jerry.ai can help). If you can’t find anything cheaper, contact your current provider and ask them about available discounts that might bring your current policy down. If that doesn’t work, you can always revise your coverage to bring down the payments, just make sure you still have the level of protection you need.
So, what’s stopping you from seeing what the best available rate is?
When we’re not able to negotiate a category of bills, we’ll partner with the best companies we can find to help save consumers money. While nobody pays us to place content anywhere, we’ll sometimes be compensated if you choose to use them. In this case, we’ve partnered with Jerry.