PARKERSBURG - Things that people can do themselves can help lower their auto and homeowner's insurance costs, local insurance agents said.
Taking a higher deductible, getting a number of policies from one agency, having a good driving record and doing improvements to a home are some of the ways people can get discounts on their insurance coverage.
Jay Jones of McCrady Jones Insurance in Parkersburg said people need to make sure their homes are insured to their value and the coverage has been updated over the time the customer has had the policy. Many homeowners policies have inflation adjustments in place.
"Most of the time they are in line, but if they haven't been updated in 3-4 years you might have higher coverage than what you need to replace it at today's market," he said. "It could go the other way around."
A security system, which has the ability to contact an emergency dispatcher as well as smoke detectors and fire extinguishers, can save homeowners money.
"Any updates you have done, like a new roof in the last two years, any new wiring, plumbing or electrical work can lower the rate as well," Jones said.
Chuck Noffsinger, a local State Farm Agent in Vienna, said a clean claim history can also help keep costs down.
People should use homeowners insurance when heavy damages are incurred, not minor things that can be easily fixed.
"People should use their homeowners insurance for catastrophes and devastating damages, not aggravating ones," Noffsinger said.
"Over the long haul, people can keep their premiums at their lowest if they don't involve the insurance company in every little thing."
Ray Fanta of Waters Insurance Agency in Parkersburg said the people in this area were fortunate to be able to buy comprehensive homeowner's insurance as it has become more and more difficult to buy in some areas of the country.
"There are areas of the country, along some coastal regions, that exclude wind and hail damage from coverage," he said.
With hurricanes and severe weather in Florida, Fanta said a lot of homeowner insurance is done through the state because of the risk.
"They can't find anyone to write homeowners insurance," he said.
With auto insurance, a number of factors are calculated to determine insurance cost. Things like air bags and other safety features can affect coverage costs.
A more expensive car will have higher insurance costs, Noffsinger said.
The Insurance Institute has a number of safety tests that rate how different automotive models performed in a variety of categories which are used in determining how much coverage might be preferred.
"Many cars already have a number of safety features, which are rated in the policies," Jones said. "Having no tickets or accidents will get you the best rates."
Customers need to ask their agents about what kinds of discounts are available, Noffsinger said, adding some agencies can have multiple discounts available at any time.
A safe driving record and driver's training can provide discounts. For teenagers, a good student discount can be available for those get good grades in school. Other programs are available teaching young people the dangers of drinking and driving as well as texting and driving.
State Farm has the Steer Clear Driver Program where young people can take a course to qualify for a discount. If they have no accidents, they can keep the discount until they are 25.
Auto insurance is a lot like homeowner's insurance where a higher deductible can save a customer money, Jones said.
If people want to increase their liability coverage from $50,000 to $100,000, it may only cost a little bit more to get that coverage.
"In today's world, if you get in a two-car pile up, $50,000 may not be enough coverage," Jones said.
The number of miles a car is driven can affect insurance costs, Fanta said.
"Sometimes taking a walk can help," he said.
Some of the agents said carpooling can be a good alternative.
Progressive is working on a system where drivers could be monitored for a certain period of time with a device that is attached to their cars, Fanta said. The device would record data about how an operator drives and would help generate a report on what the person could do to improve.
"It could result in better rates for the individual," Fanta said. "However, that is still a ways in the future."
In dealing with insurance, Noffsinger said customers should have an annual review of their policies and coverage with their agent.
As people experience changes in their lives, their insurance needs will also change, he said.
With the number of online insurance policies available, many agencies are offering discounts to customers who stay with them for a long period of time.
"Companies are now doing long-term discounts if you are with a carrier for more than three years as well as accident free discounts after a certain amount of time has passed," Jones said. "For the people who are jumping around and trying to get the best rates year in and year out, they are kind of hurting themselves because they have given up some of these discounts."