Lots of discounts are available, but you have to ask for them.

You can't change many of your risk factors. But you can save money by taking advantage of discounts that insurers offer for behavior that lowers your risk -- from driving less than the average number of miles per year to taking a defensive driving class. Certain types of people -- senior citizens, for instance -- also are eligible for lower rates. You'll also save by if you have certain safety or protective equipment installed in your car, like anti-lock brakes or a security system. Make sure you ask about these discounts. Your agent may not tell you about them.

Here are some other money saving tactics:

Combine coverages. As with any product, it's cheaper for insurance companies to sell more to one customer, so insurers often cut premiums up to 15 percent if you link auto and homeowners policies.

Sweat the small stuff. Frequent claims are red flags for insurers; some won't renew policyholders with more than two claims in three years. So try to carry more of the risk yourself by paying for repairs costing under $1000 out of your own pocket. Or, if the damage is purely cosmetic, you could just ignore it.

Raise your deductible. The average driver files a collision claim once every 3 years, and a comprehensive claim once every 10 years. Increasing a collision deductible on your auto policy from $200 to $500 can save up to 30 percent annually. Given the likelihood of filing a claim, you might come out ahead with the higher deductible.

Drive safely. A clean driving record -- for at least 36 months -- keeps your premiums low. Completing a defensive driving course can qualify you for a discount.

Pick the car carefully. Cars that cost a lot to repair, or that are popular with thieves, can cost more to insure. The National Insurance Crime Bureau has a list of the most frequently stolen cars.

Park your teens in one car. Name teenagers as the occasional drivers of your least expensive car, and make sure they only drive that car.

Get your records straight. Insurers have access to all sorts of personal information, including your motor vehicle record, credit record, and your history of claims with other insurers. It makes no sense to lie about your background. Mistakes can happen, however, and a glitch on your report could make you look like a worse risk than you are. If you haven't done so in a few years, consider obtaining your credit reports from credit reporting services, such as Equifax or Experian.

© 2003 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.

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