You could save money on your auto insurance by driving a car with safety features or above-average safety ratings.
Car insurance providers want you to stay safe for your own sake, and theirs as well. Driving an unsafe vehicle puts your health at risk, but also presents substantial financial risk to an insurer.
As an incentive to protect yourself and to lower the risk of insuring your vehicle, most major insurance providers offer big discounts for having safety features on your car.
For example, antilock brakeing systems (ABS) can reduce stopping distances up to 30% compared with previous generations of braking systems, and it can also preserve your steering ability, even when your car is sliding on snow or ice.
To car insurance companies, that reduces your overall risk of accidents and claims. It turns out, that’s a good thing for your financial bottom line when it comes to insurance rates. Learn more about how to qualify for safety feature discounts and what could help you qualify for a safer ride and a better insurance rate.
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How do safety device discounts work?
The discount you could qualify for depends somewhat on your insurance provider. Some providers give smaller discounts for each safety feature, such as extra airbags, antilock braking systems, blind spot sensors or above-average safety ratings. Other providers give a flat discount, typically in the range of 8% to 10%, for having any combination of those features.
These safety features are designed to make car accidents less likely and to minimize damages if an accident should occur. Because of this, the safety features theoretically save insurance providers some money in the long run, and the savings are then passed onto you as an incentive to have those features on your vehicle.
What are antilock brakes?
After the first antilock braking systems were built for airplanes in the 1950s and ’60s, the technology trickled down to luxury and commercial vehicles before finding its way to the consumer market. In 1993, Lincoln was the first automaker to announce that ABS would become standard in all of its vehicles. More and more companies began to follow suit thereafter, and now ABS is required for all passenger vehicles by the federal government.
For a braking system that’s not equipped with ABS, how hard you push down on the brake pedal is directly related to how hard the braking system is applied. Without ABS, braking can easily cause a vehicle to go into a skid, especially on wet pavement, gravel, ice or snow. A skid typically means you have no steering control, which puts you at risk of sliding into obstacles or having the vehicle turn sideways to the point of flipping over if you’re driving at significant speeds.
ABS intervenes when you apply the brakes hard, applying quick bursts of on–off pressure to the brake system. It can increase your stopping distance on dry pavement, but on any other surface and in almost any skidding scenario, it preserves some measure of steering control as you come to a stop. That way, if you can’t stop sliding on ice or snow, you still might be able to steer clear or hit with less impact than if you slid straight into an obstacle.
Which discounts am I eligible for?
Your car insurance provider and where you live and drive can impact which discounts are available to you, not to mention your level of coverage. Some providers, like Geico, give more discounts on collision coverage as an incentive to upgrade from a bare-bones policy. Others will give you a flat percentage off the top of your bill, no matter what kind of policy you have.
Most providers also let you combine your safety features discount with discounts for being a safe driver, owning a home, having multiple policies and more to save substantial amounts on your total policy cost. However, many providers also have a limit on how much you can save through discounts — a normal limit is 20% to 25%.
If you have any combination of these features on your vehicle, you probably qualify for a discount with your car insurance provider.
- Antilock brakes. Antilock braking systems (ABS) help your car stop quicker. One study conducted by the Australian Monash University in 2014 found that vehicles with ABS are 35% less likely to be involved in certain types of accidents than those without it. The systems also allow for significantly better steering control when sliding on ice or snow. As of late 2012, all new passenger vehicles in the United States are required to have ABS as a standard feature.
- Airbags. This has been required as a standard feature for all passenger vehicles in the US since 1998. But for some providers, you’ll get a discount for having additional dashboard and side-curtain airbags for passengers.
- Seat belts. Unless your vehicle was made before 1968, it’s required by federal law to have seat belts.
- Lane departure warnings. These sensors keep track of where you are within the lane lines, alerting you if you get too close to the edge of your lane so you don’t drift off the road or into oncoming traffic.
- Daytime running lights. Having running lights that stay on through the day and night can do a lot to increase your visibility on the road, and being noticed by other drivers can reduce your risk of an accident.
- Adaptive cruise control. This feature is still not too common as a standard option. It monitors traffic around the car and works to maintain a safe following distance through automated throttle control or even automated braking.
- Safety ratings. This has less to do with discounts on insurance and more to do with your insurance rate overall, but driving a car with great safety ratings earns you a better rate. Cars with extra safety features, such as blind spot sensors, side-curtain airbags, electronic stabilization control and backup cameras are often cheaper to insure than a car with the bare minimum.
Factory options vs. aftermarket safety features
It’s also worth noting that not all safety features are treated the same when it comes to discounts, even if they seem like they ought to be. For example, many providers will give policy discounts for having ABS installed — but not if it’s an aftermarket modification. This is usually because the insurer can’t put the same level of trust in your local mechanic as it can in the factories of General Motors or Mercedes-Benz.
How do I prove I’m eligible for these discounts?
First you need to know the safety features on your car that can earn a discount with your auto insurance provider. If your specific make and model comes standard with any of the safety options listed above, you’re probably in the clear.
Some providers will take you at your word if they can confirm your car comes standard with safety features. But if certain features are a more expensive option on the vehicle you drive or is installed after you purchased your vehicle from the dealer, you might have to provide documentation that your vehicle has it installed.
You may have to visit a field office in person to show an agent your vehicle is equipped with the safety features you’re claiming, especially if they were installed after you bought the car.
How much can I expect to save?
Among most major providers, safety discounts are likely to earn you a break of 7% to 10% on your total policy cost. Not all providers offer a discount for ABS and other safety features in every state. Check with your provider to see if the discount you want is available in your area. If it isn’t, ask what other features on your vehicle might earn you a lower rate.
Compare a few of the top car insurance providers that offer safety discounts.
- Allstate. This provider commonly gives breaks of up to 10% for having standard safety features on a vehicle.
- Esurance. Save between 2% and 33% on medical payments coverage and/or personal injury protection.
- Farmers Insurance. Offers standard discounts for ABS, electronic stability control and airbags.
- Geico. For having safety features installed, you may receive 5% off the collision portion of your auto coverage.
- Liberty Mutual. Offers unspecified savings for various safety features.
- Progressive. Standard safety features including ABS can net you 5% to 10% off your policy costs.
- The Hartford. Discounts for standard safety features.
- USAA. Offers discounts for having standard safety features.
All told, you can expect to save up to 10% on your car insurance policy if your provider offers discounts for vehicle safety features. And while installing a $5,000 ABS system or similarly expensive safety feature might not make sense from the angle of insurance savings, your and your passenger’s safety should be a priority.
Talk to your insurance provider about whether these discounts are available where you live and how they can affect your insurance rates. If your provider doesn’t offer you the discounts you deserve, compare other options to find the best deal for you and your super safe vehicle.