Q: It's almost time to renew my car insurance. As I check out different companies, what should I look for? - Vic Vehicle
A: Dear Mr. Vehicle: You're in the same situation as I, only a couple of months earlier. I'm glad you asked this question as I, too, look for a new insurer.
Obviously, you'll check any company for its driver discount. This runs the gamut from multiple policy and/or multiple vehicle discounts to low-mileage and good driver, among others. Let's take a look at each.
* Multiple policy and multiple vehicle discounts: You can save as much as 10 percent or more if you have multiple discounts with the same insurer. Aside from auto, these policies can include a homeowners' insurance policy, health or life insurance (depending upon the company and your location), jewelry rider, umbrella rider, sewer rider, flood, and so forth.
* Low-mileage discounts: While not offered by every company, this discount can offer as much as 40 percent, especially if you work from home or take public transportation. When we lived in Virginia and I worked and shopped less than five miles from home, I received this savings, which made a huge difference in my premiums.
* Good-driver discounts: If you have a clean driving record for three years, you'll usually be compensated with a small discount.
* Vehicle safety features' discounts: When you shop for a car, think about this type of discount. For example, hybrid cars, anti-lock brakes, airbags, burglar alarms, and the like often can save you some money on your policy.
* Affinity-group discounts: Sam's Club member? Costco? AARP? AAA? Member discounts are great. Also, check with your employer to see if your company has negotiated any discounts to its workers.
(Believe it or not, it's time once again for income tax preparation tips. Beginning with today's column and continuing through April 9, I'll offer tax experts' advice to help save readers some money on your 2010 tax return.)
Tax Tip: Consumer Reports tells us Uncle Sam won't mail out its paper tax packages or its instruction booklet. If you want to fill out your taxes manually rather than online or with an accountant, go to your local IRS office, the post office, and some libraries to pick up the proper forms, or log onto www.irs.gov to download and print them out.
Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. E-mail her at email@example.com