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One call leads to cheaper car insurance for Georgia couple

Lori Johnston

Reducing the cost of driving is one way that Americans tighten their budgets. Some decide against taking long road trips or decide to join a carpool to work. Motorists who’ve saved money on car insurance are sharing their cost-saving stories with For one Georgia family, it took just one phone call.

Who: Dale Stephens, pastor at Georgia Tech’s Chi Alpha Campus Ministries in Atlanta

Why seeking savings: Stephens, 33, wanted to trim costs after his wife, Andrea, left her job to stay home with their two daughters, 11-year-old Saria, and 7-year-old Jade. “We were trying to cut back on all of our expenses – cable, TV, phones,” he says.

How much saved: $325 a year (by lowering his premium by $27 a month, to $152)

How he saved it: Stephens, who owns a 2008 GM Acadia and a 2005 Infiniti FX35, called his insurer, The Hanover, in February 2012 to request a lower premium.

In the massive cutting-back, I decided to call and said, ‘Hey, I’ve been with you for a while, I think we are paying more than we should,’ ” he says.

First, the company suggested raising his deductible from $500 to $1,000, which would only save $10 a month and didn’t appear to be enough savings.

“I threatened, ‘If this is all we can do, I need to shop around,’” he recalls.

Stephens was told that the company would like to try to work with him; he was transferred to a sales agent who took down his information. The next day, he got a call offering the premium reduction, without raising his deductible.

“I was surprised they had something to offer,” Stephens says. “I assumed they would say, ‘We reviewed it and we can’t.’”

Advice for other consumers: Recognize that car insurers need your business amid stiff competition, Stephens says. He notes that his lack of car accidents or traffic tickets as well as a record of on-time premium payments likely demonstrated to his insurer that he was a policyholder worth keeping. He’s been with The Hanover for more than decade.

Insurers need you more than you need them, until the day you have the accident,” he says.

The expert says: Insurers won’t volunteer to give you lower rates unless they think they’re going to lose you as a customer, says Amy Bach, executive director of United Policyholders, a nonprofit group that helps insurance consumers.

“If you don’t ask, you don’t have a chance of getting it,” she says.

But if you’re a high risk to an insurer — such as having a bad record or owning a sports car — it’s less likely that your request will be granted.

Consumers also can research discounts offered by their current insurer or other insurers, based on such factors as age, completion of driving safety courses, affiliations with professional organizations. Ask your insurer whether any of these factors would apply.

Bach says that a variety of items, such as age, location and length of coverage, figure into how car insurers set rates. “I think there is plenty of room for them to adjust their premiums,” she says.

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