In certain parts of the country, car insurance makes up a significant part of a monthly budget. After a well-known car insurance company raised my rates by $1,200 for the year — after being a loyal customer with no claims or accidents — I was off to shop for car insurance.

Shopping around annually for a better auto insurance policy has saved me thousands of dollars in the long run. The commercials are right; how else can you save $500 or more with just a 15-minute phone call?

Some insurance agents do offer discounts for long-time customers without accidents. But you won’t know if you can find a better deal unless you look around. I was surprised by many of the questions my new insurance agency asked me, so it sent me poking around to find out exactly how companies determine car insurance premiums.

Most people realize that their driving record, including any moving traffic violations, accidents, and insurance claims, affect car insurance rates. Here are 7 more factors that may affect your car insurance rates.

Not every insurer considers every one of these factors — which is another reason it’s so important to shop around to find the best deal.

1. Your Car Insurance Credit Score

Just as we have a regular credit score that takes in to account our on-time payments, our debt-to-available credit ratio, our credit diversity and several other factors, we also have a car insurance credit score. Your insurance credit score takes in to account on-time insurance payments and other factors, including your driving record, as well as your actual credit score. Studies show that people with a higher credit score and insurance score are less likely to get in to accidents.

2. Your Age And Gender

These are two factors that you obviously can’t change, but know that, as you get older (to a certain point) your car insurance rates will drop. Older, more experienced drivers are less likely to get in to accidents. A married woman over 35 is likely to have slightly lower rates than her husband, as gender also plays a role. Rates go up again for senior citizens. But you can defray these increases by re-taking your driving test, showing that you have an up-to-date physical with a clean bill-of-health, and even joining AARP for insurance discounts.

3. The Length Of Your Commute / Annual Mileage

Senior citizens may also save money on car insurance if they are retired. For working-age drivers, the length of your commute can affect your premiums. If you work from home or are a stay-at-home parent and drive only locally, you may qualify for hefty insurance discounts if you drive your vehicle less than 7,000 miles per year.

4. Whether Or Not You Own A Home

Whether or not you bundle your home insurance with your car insurance, you’ll get car insurance discounts for being a home owner. But you might save even more by bundling all your insurance needs together with one agency.

5. Your Address

Drivers in rural areas often pay less for car insurance than city drivers; traffic congestion can cause more accidents. Some neighborhoods may also be viewed as higher risks for comprehensive coverage. Similarly, if you keep your car in a garage, you may get discounts on your comprehensive or glass coverage.

6. The Type Of Car You Drive

When I was shopping around for insurance for my Toyota Highlander before I made the purchase, my insurance agent told me that if I purchased a Hyundai minivan, my insurance would be significantly lower. When I once shopped for insurance on a late-model Mustang, I nearly dropped the phone. The car you select – whether it’s a sports car or a minivan deemed safest in its class – impacts your car insurance rates. However, it’s a myth that the color of your car affects your insurance rates. That yellow Shelby is going to cost as much as the red one, so if you’re going to splurge, go all out and pick the color you like best.

7. Your Education Level

Whether or not you have a college degree, and even the level of that degree, can affect your premium with some companies. If you have a teen driver in your household, ask about discounts for students with a 4.0 GPA or “A” average. Additionally, taking a defensive driving course, which costs around $40 and takes about six hours, saves you 10 percent annually for three years, which can also reduce insurance costs significantly.

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