Women & Money | Cut insurance premiums

Ten ways to drive down car costs.

The price of gas has soared, which means filling up these days requires emptying out your wallet. But while you can't control the price of gas, you do have many ways to lower your car insurance premiums. The following suggestions can help reduce your costs.

Boost your deductible. The smartest way to save big bucks is to boost your auto insurance deductible. Raising it from $250 to $1,000 could slash your premium by 15 percent or more. All insurance - not just auto - is meant to protect us from major accidents and disasters. The small stuff is best paid for out- of-pocket.

Get less mileage out of your policy. Many insurers will reduce your premium cost by 5 percent or more if you don't drive your car as much. The rules vary, but putting less than 10,000 or 12,000 miles on your car each year could qualify you for a discount. Use public transportation and calculate the impact on your annual driving mileage. If you can get the mileage down, then call your insurer and get your rates cut.

If you and your partner have two cars but need only one for a long-distance commute, then insure one car for higher mileage and keep the other car's mileage low enough to qualify for a discount.

Check in with your insurer if you've recently retired or have started your own home-based business. Switching your driving profile from "commuting" to "pleasure" will result in a lower premium.

Home in on a discount. It definitely pays to get your auto and home insurance with the same company. This could yield a discount of up to 30 percent on the combined premiums.

Couple up on your policy. Auto insurance is one area where it might not make financial sense to keep your expenses separate from your significant other's. If you combine your auto policies, you could see your total insurance costs drop by 30 percent. If you and your partner aren't married, you will need to have both names on each car's registration to be able to qualify for this discount.

Get defensive. Ask your auto insurer if taking a defensive-driving course will reduce your insurance premium. The American Association of Retired Persons offers a driver safety program, regardless of your age or whether you are a member. Learn more at www.aarp.org/drive.

Put your degree to work. Your education can pay off for you with a lower auto insurance premium. Many insurers offer discounts for advanced degrees and specific professions. And if your car has an alarm or a vehicle-tracking system, tell your agent, as that can result in additional savings.

Group discount. Being a member of a certain professional group could qualify you for a discount. And check in with any group you're affiliated with, such as your college's alma mater, which may sponsor a lower-rate plan.

Slow down. A clean driving record can qualify you for a "good driver" discount of 20 percent or so. This means you can't have more than one "minor" blemish, such as a speeding ticket or non-injury accident, on your driving record in a three-year period.

Give yourself credit. Your credit score can play a role in setting your auto-insurance premium in many states. If you're a good credit risk, insurance companies figure you're a better insurance risk, too.

If you've had some problems with your FICO credit score but have recently managed to raise it, check with your auto insurer. If it uses an insurance risk score and reruns your numbers, you could now fall into a better risk pool, which will mean a lower premium.

Also, if you have some unpaid parking tickets (or even unpaid library bills), your city may have passed your unpaid account on to a debt-collection agency. If that agency then ends up reporting the unpaid bill to the credit bureaus, your FICO credit score could take a hit, which can affect your insurance risk score.

Make the grade. Your child's academic record will come into play when you add him or her to your insurance policy. Good grades translate into lower premiums. If your child is a full-time student in high school or college and maintains at least a 3.0 GPA, the cost of adding her to your policy could be cut by as much as 25 percent.

Find out how an insurer "assigns" drivers to the cars in your policy. You want to work with a company that allows you to decide which car you're insuring your child to drive. Insuring your son to drive the 5-year-old minivan is going to cost less than insuring him to drive your new $60,000 luxury car.

Finally, think about fuel-efficiency when shopping for your next car and remember that the make and model you choose has a huge effect on your insurance costs.

Suze Orman is an Emmy award-winning television host and best-selling author, most recently of "Women & Money." Her Web site is www.suzeorman.com.