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If You’re Not Doing This, You’re Leaving at Least $400 on the Table

How'd you like an extra $400 bucks? How about four times that? If you're not shopping around for auto insurance, that's the money you're likely leaving on the table, according to a new report from NerdWallet.

If you live in Delaware and don’t shop around, you're robbing yourself of $1,845 each year. Residents of Michigan and Connecticut who don’t shop around stand to lose over $1,000 in potential savings. And for the average consumer, it’s about $416.

The good news: You can do something about it. Here's how to lower your rates in three easy steps.

How Distracted Driving is Taking a Toll on Insurance Costs 1:41

Step 1: Shop Around

First, decide what kind of coverage is best for you. (For example, you could get minimum liability insurance required by the state or add on comprehensive and collision insurance.) Then, survey the landscape. “Shopping around is the lowest-hanging fruit for any particular consumer and in any particular state,” said Seth Birnbaum, CEO and co-founder of EverQuote, an online car insurance shopping service.

Similar coverage can cost double with one company what it does at another. When comparing rates, just be sure you’re comparing apples to apples — and get at least three or four quotes from different companies. You can do this by visiting an aggregator site that will display different quotes next to each other, like EverQuote, NerdWallet’s car insurance comparison tool, or Compare.com.

Or, contact a few highly recommended insurance companies from people you trust — “the same way as if you were looking for a new dentist,” Jeanne Salvatore, chief engagement officer and senior spokesperson at the Insurance Information Institute, told NBC News.

Step 2: Ask for Discounts

It’s important to scoop up any and every discount you’re eligible for. You’ll probably need to block out 30 minutes to an hour on your calendar to call your insurance company (or a few potential companies) directly to ask about eligibility and discount amount.

Safe driving discounts and affinity discounts are a good place to start. Ask about companies’ safe driving programs and how you can join, plus if they offer additional discounts for taking certain driving safety courses. Affinity discounts, on the other hand, are for groups of people, often large-scale employers, professions, colleges and more. For example, many insurance companies offer a 10 percent teacher discount, which, on a two-car policy, could be as much as $240 per year. When you call your company, ask, “Do you have any affinity discounts?” or request a discount review. You could net 5 percent in savings for the smallest affinity discount, and up to almost 45 percent off for a safe driving discount, says Birnbaum — equaling as much as $1,000 per year in discounts on a substantially sized policy.

Step 3: Consider Bundling

The more business you throw to a particular insurer, the more you save. So ask specifically how much you could save by buying your auto insurance from the same company you get homeowner or renter insurance from. “People would be shocked” at the savings, said Birnbaum — you could get an additional 15 percent off on top of other discounts by bundling auto insurance with a homeowners’ policy. Call the company, and ask for a “final quote that includes any potential discount you might be eligible for,” recommended Amy Danise, insurance expert at NerdWallet.

Step 4: Increase your Deductible

Insurance is meant to cover expenses you can't afford. If you can afford the difference between a $250 and $500 insurance deductible (meaning you cover that much of your claim before the insurer pays) or even better, a $500 and $1,000 deductible; go ahead and increase the deductible. There are big savings there as well.

Image: People browse through rows of cars for sale at a car dealership in Columbus, Ohio.
People browse through rows of cars for sale at a car dealership in Columbus, Ohio. Ty Wright / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Step 5: Work on Your Credit

Another, more long-term way to save on car insurance is upping your credit score. Most states allow credit to impact individuals’ car insurance rates, and “having poor credit can actually cost you more than having caused an accident,” said Danise.

Exhibit A: Drivers with poor credit pay an average of $690 more per year for car insurance than those with good credit, according to a different NerdWallet study. On the other hand, drivers who have caused a crash pay an average of $446 more per year than those with a clean driving record. To increase your score, start by making on-time payments for everything — credit cards, loans, utilities, etc. (Scheduling automatic payments through your financial institution is the easiest way to do this). Try to get your credit utilization (the ratio of credit you use compared to what’s available to you) down below 30 percent both overall and on each card. Finally, pay down debt as best you can, avoid closing old cards, and avoid applying for new credit often.

Step 6: Repeat

Every year when the policy comes up for renewal, ask yourself if you’re still getting the best deal available. After all, 38 percent of Americans with car insurance say they haven’t price-checked their insurance in at least three years — or ever, according to NerdWallet’s report.

With Hayden Field