Money Saving Mondays: Car Insurance

Under “managed competition,” MA insurers are now offering hundreds of discounts – and dropping collision coverage can make sense too

On top of all it costs to own a car and drive a car and fuel a car in Massachusetts, six years after the introduction of what officials call “managed competition,” it still costs a pile to insure a car in Massachusetts – on average, over $1,600 a year.

Finding ways to save, however, is not hopeless, and in our search for strategies, we went to the top – Tom Skelly, chairman of the Massachusetts Association of Insurance Agents and vice president of sales and operations at Deland, Gibson Insurance Associates Inc. in Wellesley Lower Falls.

Skelly said thanks to managed competition, the best place to start is to look around for every last discount now available. Of course, you can save money by using the same insurer for home as auto insurance. Beyond that, some insurers will cut your bill by a few percent if you have low annual mileage or you have a transit pass or you're a newlywed. High-school kids can save their parents by getting good grades or taking an advanced drivers' class.

“A policy sent to you via email and you want no paper at all? There's a discount,’’ Skelly said.

Liberty Mutual alone gives discounts to members or employees of 14,000 groups, employers, credit unions and alumni associations, and these discounts get very specific, like, down to what kind of degree you earned as a Boston College graduate. “If you went to BC Law School versus BC, there are two different companies that will give you a discount on that.’’

Another way many save is by dropping the “collision coverage” on an old car if the Blue Book value minus your insurance deductible means you’d get little or nothing if the car got wrecked – or if the gap is small enough and your available savings are healthy enough you feel it’s prudent to “self-insure” against the chance you’d total the car. An survey found that while Americans keep collision coverage on 96 percent of six-year-old cars, that figure drops, steadily, to just 60 percent of 10-year-old cars.

Skelly agrees dropping collision coverage can make sense for a lot of people but dropping “comprehensive insurance” coverage in Massachusetts may be a bad move because of one big factor: Busted windshields. “We always recommend you leave comprehensive on with a high deductible, because glass is covered with no deductible under the comprehensive section of the policy,’’ Skelly said.

Something you should never skimp on, though: Enough liability insurance if you hurt or kill someone in a crash. “What have I got at risk here? All my 401(k) money? All the money in the bank? All my assets. My house, my condo, my cars, any of my future earnings -- they're all at risk in the case of an accident.

Of course, the deepest discount of all: Going years and years without ever having accidents in the first place. “Driving well,’’ Skelly said, “is the best option to save money -- best discount you can get.’’

With video editor Lauren Kleciak and videographer Mike Bellwin 

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