Two Ways To Reduce Car Costs

VW 1963

From my experience, there are two ways to reduce car insurance costs: get older and comparison shop for insurance quotes. I recently did the latter, and was pleasantly surprised to get an almost 20% reduction from my previous carrier. But the really big reductions over the years came from the first way. Combined, my car insurance costs have dropped by 87.3%. Or is it 91.7%?

In 1973, I found myself for a spell in Baltimore, and needed some cheap wheels. I found a clean ’63 Beetle for $300 ($1529 adjusted) that just needed some fresh points to run like a top again. I went to the Maryland DMV to register it and had a very rude awakening: I needed to show proof of insurance! WTF? In Iowa, there was no such requirement, and I’d driven insurance-free for several years there (accident free too, fortunately).

Someone suggested Geico, but back then qualifying for it was not that easy. I was twenty, so they sent me to their high-risk unit, called Criterion. It was the best I could do, but the price (for basic liability only) was a shocker: $350! ($1784 adjusted) Jeez; that was more than I paid for the car. Fortunately, I had a job, but that insurance payment really hurt big time. And it somewhat encouraged me to head back west before long.

Ford 1969 Country sedan

Admittedly, that expensive insurance policy ended up come in handy: a couple of months later, after an epic cross-Canada trip, I found myself back in Iowa. On an outing, I ran a partially-obscured stop sign in a strange town (full story here), and totaled a ’69 Ford Country Sedan (why did they call it a “sedan” anyway?) station wagon in the process. Surprisingly, the VW survived, with some mismatched front fenders and hood from a junker. And the insurance paid the claim for the Ford, of course.

Over the decades since, I’ve watched our car insurance costs melt away as we’ve gotten older, moved to Eugene, had kids move out, and eliminated Comprehensive coverage on our cars (I don’t consider it worthwhile when a car crosses under the $10k value threshold). Today, I pay $114 for six months’ coverage on my Xb, and that includes a higher liability max ($300k/$300k) than the minimum required.

Now I’m not sure, but I seem to remember that that $350 premium in 1973 was for a full year, thus the 87.3% reduction to today. But if I’m wrong, and it was only for six months, then it was a 91.7% reduction. There are many benefits to getting older, but improved memory obviously isn’t one of them.