Consumer Reports: Save money by shopping around for car insurance

Car insurance premiums nationwide have never been higher. Many just renew policies year after year without shopping around, but consumers can save just by changing to another company. Here are some easy ways to keep some of your money in your wallet.

Hugo Correia works up repair estimates at this body shop for car insurance companies. So, he knows his way around policies and keeps a sharp eye on his own premiums.

"If my premium jumps, I'm going to start looking for a better rate," Correia said.

But often people don't even know exactly how much they're paying.

"I hate to say my wife takes care of that, but my wife takes care of that," said Tony Oliveri.

Car insurance rates have gone up about 23 percent in the last eight years nationwide and in some states it's even higher.

But here's the good news: A recent Consumer Reports survey found that switching carriers can save you money. But, only about one in five people actually made a change in the past five years.

"No big surprise --- our survey found when people switch carriers that price was a big factor. And 80-percent of those who switched got better rates," said Consumer Reports Money Editor Tobie Stanger.

So ready to shop around? Consumer Reports found some insurers do better than others at attracting and retaining customers.

"When it comes to overall satisfaction, just two national companies made it to the top tier of our ratings," Stanger said.

USAA topped the ratings, with an overall satisfaction score of 92. But USAA primarily serves military families. Amica also did well, but you may need a clean driving record and good credit report to get its best rates.

Even if you don't switch companies, you can still get some savings by asking for a lower rate if your car is older or if your mileage is low, say around 6,000 miles a year.

Bottom line Consumer Reports advises reviewing your car insurance once a year. It could really pay off.

Another way to save money is to allow your insurance company to track your driving habits electronically, for things like speeding, phone use, even the time of day you drive. Good drivers get lower rates with some companies. But the opposite is also true and your rates could go up based on the data.

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