What are the most common car-insurance discounts?

U.S. households spent $943 on car insurance from mid-2011 to mid-2012, according to the government's Consumer Expenditure Survey reports. That's a lot of dough. It outpaces what households spent on vehicle maintenance in the yearlong period, according to CES data — not to mention store-bought fruits and vegetables, booze and dairy products. Holy cow, indeed.

Maybe that's why car-insurance companies bombard us with discount ads, from Progressive's ever-chipper Flo to a cadre of hapless Geico cavemen. Florida-based Bankrate.com compiled the most common discounts from the top 10 auto insurers, including State Farm, Allstate, Geico and Progressive, and you might be eligible for savings you didn't know existed.

"July is a big month for auto insurance renewals," Bankrate insurance analyst Doug Whiteman told us. "There are some other [discounts] that are more rare that maybe people have never heard about. It's really worth your while to look into these things."

Bankrate surveyed 17 discount categories. Discounts for good students or those who bundle multiple policies (home and auto, for instance) are the most popular; all 10 insurers offer them. At the other end, just two insurers offer a discount for driving a hybrid or alternative-fuel vehicle. Farmers Insurance gives out the most discounts (16) while American Family has the least (10), but note that those figures alone don't indicate which insurer is the cheapest. You'll want to compare rates for yourself.

Here's what Bankrate found:


The company surveyed the websites in June. Some discounts aren't available in all 50 states, Whiteman cautioned. State regulators sometimes dictate who gets what, and insurance companies can vary the discount mix based on state-by-state data, he said.

Some discounts appear out of date. Seven of the 10 insurers offer deals for cars with antilock brakes, even though the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has found little correlation between antilock brakes and crash reduction. By contrast, electronic stability systems — which incorporate antilock brakes and have been required in new cars since 2012 — have been shown to reduce crashes quite a bit.

Bankrate didn't find many discounts for stability systems, Whiteman said, so it's unlikely that many insurers offer them. This is a group that still offers discounts for motorized seatbelts or frontal airbags — the former phased out in the early 1990s, the latter required since 1999 — so it remains to be seen how long it will take to board the stability-control bandwagon. Farmers Insurance does offer a discount for stability-control-equipped vehicles, but representatives at Progressive and Allstate did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Chicago-area State Farm representive Missy Dundov told us that the insurer does not include a specific discount for the system.

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