How do I find out what discounts are offered by my insurance company? Is there a central place I can look to find out? — Bryan, Toronto
The government knows which discounts your insurance company offers, but the only way you can find out is to ask your company directly.
"There's no one-stop shop or chart you can look at to get answers like that — it's flexible and it's up to the company," says Pete Karageorgos, director of Ontario consumer and industry relations for the Insurance Bureau of Canada. "It's a matter of asking, 'What's available?' 'What do I have?' and 'What can i qualify for?'"
In Ontario, insurance companies have to file with the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) to change their rates. FSCO knows which discounts companies have applied to offer, Karageorgos says.
Some insurance companies do list discounts on their web pages, but you may have to ask for discounts directly instead of assuming they'll just give them to you.
"You have to contact your insurance professional and say 'Give me your list of discounts,'" says Anne Marie Thomas, senior manager of partner relationships for rate-comparison site Insurancehotline.com.
Even if you get a discount, it might only apply to some of the coverage on your policy, Karageorgos says.
"It may not apply to optional coverage, like comprehensive," he says. "So you're not getting a discount on that portion."
Companies offer many different discounts. Here are some things you can do which might get you one:
Put on winter tires: In January, all Ontario insurance companies will have to start giving discounts for drivers who install winter tires. It's up to companies to decide how much the discount will be.
Right now, less than half of companies give a discount, says Thomas. The provinces with pubic insurance (B.C., Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec ) don't give discounts for winter tires. In the other provinces, insurers can give a discount — but they don't have to.
Retire: You can get a discount if you're retired and over 65. This is another discount required by the Ontario government, Karageorgos says. According to FSCO, the retiree discount can range from 5 to 15 per cent off your premium for accident benefits coverage.
Name-drop: Your insurance company may give you a group discount depending on the company you work for, the school you graduated from or an organization to which you belong .
Get your car and home insurance from the same company: Some companies give discounts if you have all your insurance from them. "The idea is that you might think twice about cancelling if you have to change more than one policy," Thomas says. The discount can range from 3 to 15 per cent, FSCO says.
Insure more cars: Some companies give a 5 to 15 per cent discount if you're insuring more than one car, FSCO says. "If you have a tenant, you could see whether you can get a discount if he's insured with your same company," Thomas says.
Send your kids off to university: If your kids live under the same roof, they're automatically considered an occasional driver and you'll have to pay for them. But you'll pay less with some companies if your kids are in another city for school. "If you have a child who's gone away to university and it's far enough away that they're not coming home every weekend to drive your car, you might get a 50 per cent discount on what you're paying for them," Thomas says.
Don't get into an accident: Some companies offer renewal discounts between 5 and 20 per cent if you've been with them for a set number of years without an at-fault accident.
Driving safely is the easiest way to keep insurance rates down, period, says Karageorgos.
"The best way to get the best rate is to be the best and safest driver on the road," he says.
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