Stop sticker shock: Five tips to help keep insurance costs down

Heeding these money-saving tips can help you reduce your insurance costs:

What kind of car or home you own: Purchasing a house that's close to a fire hydrant, in a community served by a professional fire department, or with newer electrical, heating and plumbing systems can lead to savings. Auto policy discounts for features that reduce the likelihood of injuries or theft, such as air bags or anti-theft devices, may also be available. Extra amenities on a car or around the home can also affect insurance coverage.

Compare coverages and prices: Get at least three price quotes before purchasing insurance coverage. An independent insurance agent represents multiple companies and can gather this information in just one visit. In addition to a good price, look for a company that handles claims fairly and efficiently and has a good rating from an industry analyst, such as A.M. Best or Standard and Poor's.

Buy home and auto coverage from the same company: Inquire about premium discounts if multiple policies, such as home and auto, are purchased. General Casualty will reduce premiums by 5 to 15 percent if two or more policies are purchased.

Raise insurance deductibles: For consumers willing to risk more out-of-pocket costs if they suffer a loss, choosing a higher deductible will lower premiums. Raising deductibles could save you from 15 to 30 percent each year on your home or auto insurance. This is often more than enough savings to cover increased deductible costs.

Look for other ways to save

  • If you are 55 years or older and retired you may qualify for up to a 10 percent discount at some companies.
  • Home security devices, such as a smoke detector or burglar alarm, could also save money.
  • Consider reducing coverage on older or seldom driven cars, especially if they're worth less than 10 times the amount currently paid for coverage.
  • Good students with a 3.0 grade point average may earn a discount.
  • A strong credit rating may help lower insurance costs.