I just saved $800 a year by switching my car insurance to a new company. A friend of mine just saved $1,200 a year by doing the same.

Though I’ve gotten a respectable job, built a long, clean driving history and pumped up my credit score (all important underwriting factors), my insurance company had been charging me as if I was the same deadbeat college student I was when I joined them 12 years ago.

Turns out, I should have been shopping around (or asking my company for a policy review) every two years or so.

What else can you do to save money on car insurance? Try these tips.

• Take a defensive driving course. The American Safety Council ( offers one online for just $24.95. It will get you a 10 percent discount on the cost of your liability, no-fault and collision insurance premiums for three years. Don’t worry, there’s no exam.

• Don’t have kids. Just kidding. But young drivers are awfully expensive to insure.

Ask about good student discounts and make your kids take defensive driving courses. And if your child goes away to school without a car, let your insurance company know. If the college is far enough away, you’ll likely get a break on your premiums while he or she is gone.

When it’s time for them to get their own policy, it will probably be cheaper to spin them off into a policy of their own at the same company than to start them from scratch with a new one.

• Get your homeowner and auto insurance from the same provider. That qualifies you for a multipolicy discount. Even if you are renting your home, get rental coverage. Those policies are usually very inexpensive.

• Don’t skimp on coverage in order to lower premium costs. Would you rather pay a few dollars more for adequate liability coverage or cheap out and end up losing your house when someone sues you?

Having lower coverage limits might save you a couple of dollars each month, but can cost you hundreds of thousands when it’s time to file a claim.

• Choose the highest deductible you can reasonably afford. An MSN Money study found you can save up to 50 percent of your annual comprehensive and collision premiums by raising your deductible from $250 to $2,500.

Of course, if you won’t have $2,500 lying around if you get into an accident, this is obviously not a good idea.

• Consider skipping rental car coverage or roadside assistance. If you have AAA, why do you need additional roadside assistance?

Also, if your repair shop or dealership offers free loaner cars, or you have an extra vehicle, you probably don’t need rental car coverage. You can also add rental car coverage when you go out of town, and take it off when you get back.

• Put your cellphone in the glove box. Nearly a quarter of all car crashes involve cellphone uses, according to the National Safety Council. If you’re caught texting and driving just once, you can get a fine of up to $150 and five points on your license. Five points!

• Check out companies you’ve never heard of. It costs money to advertise, and those costs get passed on to the customer. I love talking lizards as much as the next guy, but as long as a company is financially secure and offers great claims service, it doesn’t have to be a household name.

• Pay your premium in full. You’ll save on installment fees.