If you’ve been a little reckless behind the wheel over the past few years, you might be feeling the impact of your bad behaviour on your car insurance bill. You’ll never get around paying for insurance, but you can make it more manageable with a few changes to your driving habits. If you’re not sure where to start, here are a few ideas:
1. Contest tickets. Getting a ticket isn’t what increases your premium – being found guilty of an offense is when it officially goes on your record and has the potential to raise your insurance costs. You are officially found guilty in one of three ways: when you pay your ticket; when you’ve contested your ticket in court and lost; or when you fail to pay your ticket in a certain timeframe. If you feel like you have a legitimate case to contest your ticket, though, doing so and winning will keep it off your record. In Ontario, for example, you’ll find instructions on the back of your ticket on how you can contest it, if that’ what you decide.
2. Pay up. If you’re not contesting a ticket, or, if you’ve been found guilty after attempting to get the charge dismissed, make sure you pay your ticket in a timely manner. In some cases, ignoring a ticket could result in a license suspension, which would impact your insurance premium.
3. Keep your insurance company in the loop. Be proactive and make sure to update your insurance company as your record changes, so that you can take advantage of a lower premium when it’s time to renew. You’ll also want to loop them in when you make other life changes, such as moving, getting married or having a teen driver in the house. Depending on what change you’re making, you could be eligible for a discount. On the other hand, if you’re afraid you’re premium will be raised by your life change, you’ll still want to advise your company, rather than risk voiding your policy by withholding important information.
4. Adopt good habits. You can’t change what’s happened in the past, but there’s no time like the present to start adopting better driving habits. From now on, resolve to buckle up, drive the limit, come to a complete stop at stop signs and lights, ignore your phone and other distractions while behind the wheel, and only pass other cars when it is safe and legal. Be extra mindful of speed and safely when driving in school zones and behind school buses, and always have your up-to-date insurance information in your glove compartment.
5. Prove it. So, you’ve made a real effort to change your habits, but other than waiting for your record to get clean, how can you prove to your insurance company that you’re a changed driver? Some insurance companies offer what’s called Usage Based Insurance (UBI), in which they use a device to track your driving habits (such as speed, acceleration and braking). In many cases, you’ll be offered a discount upfront just for participating in the program, and if you’re data shows that you’ve been a safe driver, you could be eligible for a discount when it’s time for renewal. UBI has the added benefit of making people better drivers, since they know that their habits are being recorded and there is a discount on the line.
6. Find other ways to save. If you’re waiting for tickets to be removed from your record, you can still find other ways to save money. The first is to shop around for car insurance. You might assume that with your record, you’ll have a hard time securing new insurance, but it’s worth comparing prices from other companies since different providers will offer different quotes for the same driver. In addition, you could talk to your current provider about changing up your payment plan so that you can pay your entire year’s payment in a lump sum for a discounted price, or about raising your deductible for a lower premium.
Why not make 2018 the year that you pay less for car insurance and set a few New Year’s resolutions to help improve your driving record and save some money. On top of having some extra cash in your wallet, you’ll also be safer on the road – and that’s an invaluable reward.