1. Use an Independent Agent
There are two types of agents out there, captive and independent. Captive agents can only sell one brand of insurance. Independent Agents can shop your coverage with multiple companies at once to find the best rate for you.
2. Shop Around- Occasionally
There is nothing an insurance company hates more than a insured who hops from company to company looking to save $20.00 a year. In order to combat this, many companies gives you loyalty discounts for staying with them. As an exception to this, many companies will give you discounts based on the time you were with your last company if you’re new to their company. Companies want to know you’re going to hang around at least 3-5 years so that you don’t file that $50,000 claim and run. So shop around, but don’t overdo it.
3. Know your policy
No one who wants to stay awake for more than 20 minutes at night wants to read their insurance policies. If you’re not going to read it, make sure you understand the overall coverage on the policy. As an agent, I can tell you there is nothing worse than looking a tear stricken woman in the face and telling her that her lost wedding ring isn’t covered. If there is something in your home that is precious to you, it’s always better to ask and make sure it’s covered than to assume it’s covered.
Make sure you know what perils are covered on your policy. Are you covered if your pipes freeze or for hidden termite damage? What about vandalism, broken glass or hotel stays? Understanding the coverage you have will make sure you save money by not losing property.
Don’t overinsure. Your loan amount included the land. Make sure you give your agents the appraisal value of the home- land is not insurable. Make sure you’re not paying extra premium for personal property you don’t own or liability you don’t need. Tell your agents your Net Worth and make sure you’re really paying for what you need and not a “standard” package.
4. Combine Discounts
Insurance companies give you deep discounts for having multiple policies with them. Many times you can add “toys” like ATV’s, RV’s and boats to your current policies. Throw your Auto and possibly an Umbrella policy on there and watch the discounts add up. Ask for speciality programs if you’re in the sweet spot age of 40-65 years old.
5. Communicate with Your Agent
I cannot tell you how many times I have asked questions before a renewal and discovered things an insured never told us. Right now, a new roof will save you a TON of money on a homeowner policy, yet many people fail to call and tell us they’ve upgraded. New electrical wiring, plumbing (from the home to the street), new heating and air units and new roofs will help on your premium. Security systems, even if it’s not monitored by a company, can save you money as well. Make sure you have a fire extinguisher, smoke detectors and dead bolts on your doors. I’ve seen discounts as high as 5% just for those small changes.
6. Raise Your Deductibles
I know, no one wants to hear that your insurance company wants you to pay more out-of-pocket. However, there are many people who have gone 20 years without ever filing a claim. That’s 20 years worth of extra premium paid out for potential claims they never filed. It’s wise to determine how much you can save in order to make repairs yourself. If you’re comfortable paying $2,500 in case of emergency, raise that deductible and stuff the savings away.
7. Reduce Hazards
A simple monthly walk through of your home can spot potential claims. Check your water heaters and under the sinks. Make sure there is no dust or animal hair on your appliances that could start a fire. Do an outside walk around and look at your roof and siding for potential damages. Check overhead tree branches for damaged limbs that could fall on your home. Look for damaged wood or peeling paint and repair it. Keep your yard clean and repair any broken concrete or holes in the ground. You do not want a liability law suit when someone trips over a hole in your yard and breaks their leg!
8. Keep a Good Insurance Score
An insurance score is similar to a credit score. The higher your actual credit score is, the better rate you will have on your insurance. Most people don’t realize insurance is part of finance and good financial habits are rewarded.
9. Know Your Fire Protection Class
Fire Protection Class is a rating given out by ISO (the insurance gods) that rate your local fire department by several key factors that basically determines how effectively they can stop a fire. The rating is from 1-10, with 1 being the best rate and 10 meaning good grief your rates are going to be high. Most Urban areas fall in the 1-3 range, suburbs are 3-5 and country living is 6-10.
Fire protection class is something to look at if you’re buying a home and want to keep your premium low. However, I have seen cities work hard at raising their protection class. If your class is a higher number, get involved and see if you can help your community get a better rating. Mine recently went from a 3 to a 2 and it saved me about $100 a year on premium. If yours changes from a 9 to a 5 you’re going to see a significant premium reduction.
10. Don’t File Claims YOU Can Cover or for maintenance purposes
Let me give you a great example for this:
Assume you have a $1,000 deductible. A storm comes through and knocks a tree down in your yard. Let’s assume your policy covers fallen trees. You call a tree trimmer to come help out and he quotes you $1,050.
If you claim this on your policy, you’re going to get a $50.00 check. I have actually seen people file claims for a minimal amount of damages over their deductible. I’m certainly not telling you NOT to file a claim, but it’s not always wise to make the choice for that claim. There are companies that will hold a claim against you for 5 years now. FIVE. Do you really want a $50 claim sitting there for 5 years?
An insurance policy is NOT a maintenance policy. If your roof is getting old and you know it’s getting old, make the repairs or replace it. Don’t wait for a hail storm to damage the roof so you can get a new one. (You have NO idea how many people do this.) Insurance is supposed to be for catastrophic events or financial damages you can’t cover!!! It’s this kind of mentality that is causing insurance companies nationwide to raise their premiums!