Are You Being Foolishly Loyal to Your Auto Insurer?

Are You Being Foolishly Loyal to Your Auto Insurer?

A lot has changed since 2003—the year iTunes was first released, the Department of Homeland Security officially began operation, and "Dawson's Creek" ended its series run.

One thing that probably hasn't changed? Your car insurance.

If so, you're in good company. A new survey from insuranceQuotes.com finds that the average American driver hasn't switched car insurance companies since 2003.

But by not shopping around, you could be missing out on major discounts.

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About one in four drivers has been with the same auto insurance company for more than 16 years, and 7% have stuck around for more than 30, according to the survey.

Overall, 66% of policyholders rarely or never check if they could get cheaper coverage elsewhere. Millennials (ages 18 to 29) and seniors 65 and up are particularly averse to comparison shopping. 

And that loyalty—or inaction—comes with a price.

"Many people make the mistake of shopping only when they move or buy a new car, but data shows that rates fluctuate even when you haven't had any major life changes," says Laura Adams, insuranceQuotes.com's senior analyst. "This is especially true for young people."

Many are not even aware that they can change policies at any time. Almost half of drivers, or 46%, wrongly believe they have to wait until they receive a renewal notice to consider making a switch. And then there are consumers who auto-pay their monthly bills and may not notice an increase in fees until after a renewal period.

While they may not be taking action, Americans do recognize the value of comparing rates. About two-thirds of survey participants said they find shopping for auto insurance "worthwhile."

So how to go about getting that better auto insurance deal?

Jeremy Bowler, an insurance expert and a senior VP at Market Strategies International, recommends setting up a reminder system to notify yourself at least once a year that it's time to review rates. Use a variety of methods (like independent agents and quote aggregator websites) to compare plans at the same level of coverage.

Bowler also suggests checking companies against your state insurance department website for complaint histories and other important details.

Keep in mind potential discounts related to a good driving record, college attendance or military service.

And if you have been with one company since the '90s, before making a switch, you might try leveraging that longtime relationship by asking whether your current insurance company can grant you a discount.

Before you begin your search, brush up on some of the most confusing car insurance terms.

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