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Cheap auto insurance and finding the best value

Although the government insists we are out of the recession, life still feels tough. Unemployment remains high and wages are falling in real terms. We therefore need to make all the savings possible. Except buying just on the basis of price can be a false economy. We all know the saying, "You get what you pay for." Sadly that applies to insurance as well. So, before you buy, here are a few suggestions on how to protect yourself:

1. Always shop around. It's reckless to buy the first policy you happen to see. You have no way of testing whether it gives you value for money. So collect as many auto insurance quotes as possible and spend a little time comparing the extent of the cover on offer and how much you are expected to pay. This gives you a minimum amount of information.

2. Check the website of your insurance commissioner. Each state has a commissioner and it's his or her job to regulate the local insurance companies. The best commissioners publish lists of which insurance companies have had complaints upheld against them. It's not in your interests to buy a policy from a company which has been proved to deliver poor service, particularly when it comes to handling claims.

3. Ensure you have claimed all the available discounts. The quotes you receive will usually focus on the standard rates for the make and model, and people in your general age group. But each insurance company offers discounts to encourage people to drive safely and reduce the risk of a claim. This begins with where you live. If you do not have off-road parking, is it economic to find a lockable garage somewhere nearby. Have you fitted anti-theft and other safety devices? Have you been on an approved course to improve your driving? If you are unsure what discounts are available, contact the insurers directly and ask.

4. Consider whether you will benefit from a pay-as-you-drive policy. These are new policies not not yet available in all states. If you agree to fit technology to monitor how many miles you drive, where and when you drive, and how you drive, you can make major savings if you have a low mileage and drive very safely. Are you prepared to sacrifice your privacy for cheap auto insurance?