When life changes, tell your car insurance company

Mary Lou Jay

When you move, buy a new car or change jobs, you share the news with family and friends. But there's one call you may not think about making -- and it's an important one. When a change in your life involves a change in your driving habits, your car insurer needs to know.

Failing to notify your insurance company could simply mean that you end up paying too much for car insurance. Or you could end up getting an unpleasant surprise if you do have an accident: You may not be covered.

Here's how life's changes can affect your car insurance.

New car

If you already have insurance on a vehicle, you're generally covered for a short period of time when you buy a new car, according to Progressive. But if you don't let your insurer know about your purchase within a certain time period (usually two weeks to 30 days), your new car loses that protection.

Even during the grace period, your coverage might not be enough. If your old vehicle's policy didn't include collision coverage, your new vehicle won't have that coverage either. So if you want to protect that shiny new model right away, contact your insurer and buy additional coverage before you drive the new car off the lot.

If you're keeping your current car in addition to buying the new car, check with your insurer to make sure that both vehicles are covered.

New home

Car insurers base your premiums on a number of factors, including where you live. If you move to a rough neighborhood, you'll increase your risk for theft, so your insurer likely will want to charge you more. On the other hand, if you move to a safe area, you'll probably see your premium decrease.

Notifying your insurer is especially important if you're moving to another state; state laws vary widely when it comes to car insurance requirements. You'll want to be sure that you have the type and amounts of coverage that you need.

If you neglect to notify your insurance company about your move, your insurer may not pay the claim if you have an accident or if your car gets stolen. Moreover, if you get pulled over and don't have your state's required coverage, you could end up getting a ticket.

New teen driver

Your insurance company should know immediately when your teens get licensed and which vehicle or vehicles they'll be driving. Yes, your rates will go up. But not listing your teens as drivers in your household could mean that the insurance company won't pay the bills if they're involved in an accident.

To reduce higher premium pain, the Insurance Information Institute recommends asking your insurer whether it offers good student discounts or discounts for teens who have taken driver's education or defensive driving courses.

New job -- or no job

The length of your commute can affect your premiums, so give your insurer a call if you know you'll be driving a longer or shorter distance to work. Just retired or laid off? Your premiums could be cut because you won't be making that round trip every day.

If you've just joined a carpool (for work or for taking your kids to school), the Insurance Information Institute recommends talking with your insurer to make sure you have sufficient coverage to protect the additional passengers.

New spouse

Many insurers offer multicar discounts, meaning you could get a price break if you cover both your car and your spouse's car under the same policy. So once you tie the knot, check with your insurer to see whether you can save money by combining your policies.

Another reason to tell your insurer about your marriage: If your spouse is using your vehicle regularly, your insurer will need a heads-up. If your spouse has a bad driving record, you could see your premiums increase.

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