If you’re of college age – or have a college-age student in the family – you probably know it's a terrible time to buy auto insurance.

First, teens have higher premiums because of their inexperience behind the wheel. Statistics show that automobile accidents are the #1 teen killer with more than 3,000 fatalities and nearly 450,000 injuries annually. Second, money is tight. A higher premium charged to somebody just starting off in life makes the payment feel even larger.

Before you resign yourself to paying massive monthly premiums, take some time to do a little shopping. Following these tips could lower the rate significantly.

Keep Up Those Grades

Most auto insurance companies offer a discount for teens who have good grades. Normally somewhere around 10%, this discount is usually available to college students too – until age 25, depending on the company. That's why it pays to get quotes from several insurers before making your choice.

Safe Driving

No accidents, no speeding tickets and no other trouble could mean a sizable discount. Some companies say that your discount could be as much as 45%.

Defensive Driving Class

Take a defensive driving course and save another 10% at some companies. The length of the classes varies but 10% can add up fast, especially if you’re a college student trying to save every dollar.

Stay on Your Parents’ Policy

In general, you can stay on your parents’ auto insurance policy until you permanently move out of your primary home. If you’re living on a college campus, that is considered a temporary residence. It doesn’t hurt to compare an individual policy to a family policy, but most of the time you will pay less by staying on the family plan.

Install an Anti-theft Device

Just because it’s a school doesn’t mean that it’s safe. Auto insurance companies will often give you a discount for an anti-theft device. The size of the discount depends on the type of device you install. Remember, if your car is going with you to college, you have to inform your insurance company; the cost of insurance depends on where the car will be located.

Add Up How Much You'll Drive

If you'll be living on campus more than 100 miles from home – and you're not taking your car to college and nobody else will be driving it while you're away – tell your insurance company. Your parents' car insurance could drop as much as 30%.

On the other hand, if you're commuting back and forth to classes – especially a hour or more each way – you might want to up your coverage since you’ll spend a lot more time in your car.

The Bottom Line

If you’re in the market for auto insurance, practice good habits. Get multiple quotes, ask the insurance company about any special discounts for college students, and keep those grades impressive. It pays to stay safe, be responsible and achieve great things while away at school – and it keeps your auto insurance rates lower, too. For more money-saving tips, see How To Reduce Auto Insurance Costs and Beginner's Guide To Auto Insurance.

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