Auto insurance is an important part of every car owner's life, providing a financial defense against accidents, theft, and vandalism. Saving money on car insurance is one of the most heavily advertised topics on television, with various car insurance companies claiming that they are the best option for providing the lowest rates with the best coverage possible. While the crowded auto insurance marketplace may be an intimidating environment for motorists looking to save money, there are many things individuals can do to lower their rates.

Good Driving Record

Probably the most effective way to lower auto insurance rates is to consistently maintain a good driving record. While some insurance providers may provide accident forgiveness programs for the first at-fault accident on a motorist's record, others may increase rates by 80%. A 2nd at-fault accident can raise a premium by up to 180%, depending on the severity of the accident. For most states, an average increase for 1 at-fault accident ranges between 20%-40%. DUI offenses will also skyrocket insurance rates, resulting in increases ranging from 30% to 80%. In some states, DUI's can even result in staggering premium increases of over 200%. While many insurance companies do provide programs for drivers with poor driving records to reduce their rates, it is simply a better policy to focus on driving safely.

Maintain Coverage

Maintaining a continuous level of coverage will also reduce car insurance rates, with the longer that a motorist has an insurance policy, the cheaper the policy will be. As a result, newer drivers who were once on their parents' policy should always let their new insurance company know that they were previously covered to avoid unnecessary rate increases. It is important to note that at-fault accidents and other traffic citations will severely limit the potential savings in this area.

Defensive Driving Courses

Defensive driving courses are also an excellent way for drivers to reduce their auto insurance rates, providing anywhere from a 5% to 15% reduction for liability and collision coverages. However, these types of discounts often expire after a certain amount of time depending on the state or specific insurance policy, typically 3 years. Most traffic school classes take between 4 to 6 hours to complete, are offered in-person or online depending on the state, and cost between $25 and $75. It is always advisable for a motorist to check with their insurance company before enrolling in a class to make sure that the cost savings is worth the money spent on the course itself.

Reducing Mileage

Another way to save money on car insurance premiums is to simply drive fewer miles. Many car insurance companies currently offer different low mileage programs with varying degrees of savings, with All-State currently boasting the largest savings in its Milewise program, a widely successful program that offers an impressive 30% to 40% in savings for its customers. Other major insurance companies with successful low mileage programs include Liberty Mutual's ByMile program which offers drivers an average of about 25% in savings, Safeco's RightTrack program which offers savings between 5% and 30%, and Nationwide's SmartMiles program which offers up to 10% in savings for motorists. Certain states also provide financial incentives for drivers who reduce overall mileage, with California providing the largest rate reductions of any state in the country. California drivers who reduced their yearly mileage from 10,000 to 5,000 averaged an impressive 16.4% drop in premiums, while drivers who reduced their yearly mileage from 15,000 to 5,000 saw a 25.1% reduction.

Increasing Deductibles

One of the riskier ways to reduce car insurance rates is to increase the deductible of a policy, the amount paid by the motorist in the event of an accident or other events such as theft or vandalism. While drivers with safe driving records may want to utilize this option, they should always be aware that this will result in a much greater expense in the event of an accident or other vehicle damages incurred.