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This week, we tackle a range of questions from readers with auto-insurance questions.

The Pensioner

I have recently replaced my car and my wife's.

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My previous car was a 2006 Acura TL with front-wheel-drive. The new car is a 2010 BMW 335xi coupe. My premium increased $300 despite the fact that the new car is all-wheel-drive and rated safer.

My wife's former car was a 2005 Infiniti G35 coupe with rear-wheel- drive. Her new car is a 2008 Infiniti EX, an all-wheel-drive crossover. The premium on this car went up $250. Also the premiums apparently are going up 20 per cent next year. We are both seniors with excellent driving records. Any advice?

I wish I got a commission every time I was asked a question like this. No one insurance company has the lowest rates for everyone and every vehicle. Many couples insure both vehicles with the same company and feel that the "multi-vehicle" discount they receive gives them the best price out there.

It doesn't.

From my experience in rate comparisons I have found that 70 per cent of all drivers searching for lower rates online were paying an average of $500 over the best rate available to them. Surprisingly, I also found (as did you) that some companies were charging higher rates for safer vehicles.

My suggestion is to go online and get separate rate comparison quotes for each of your vehicles. This will more than likely direct you to entirely different insurance companies for each vehicle, but you'll be paying the best rate, which should greatly reduce your overall cost. While online you can also adjust the deductible amounts to lower your rates, too.

The Penny Pincher

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I resent having to pay a commission. Can I save money by moving to an insurance company that deals directly with its customers instead of going through a broker? Is an insurance company that pays commissions generally more expensive than one that doesn't?

I'm sure that, similarly, insurance companies resent having to pay for advertising. And ultimately this cost gets built back into your premium. Companies that use brokers pay them a commission for the business they receive. Companies that don't use brokers advertise directly to the consumer through media channels such as radio, TV, newspapers and the Internet.

The best bang for your buck is going with the company that quotes you the lowest rate - regardless of whether or not commissions are involved.

Mr. Protective

Under what authority can insurance companies gather information on a private individual? Who tells them if I have a speeding ticket? Can they request a "driver's abstract" without my written consent?

Your secrets are safe with me. However, when you sign the application for your auto insurance, you authorize the insurance company to access your Claims History Report, Driver Abstract and give them permission to contact your previous insurance companies.

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If you get convicted of a speeding ticket, your insurance company is not automatically notified. That being said, they may at any time order your abstract. Usually a change in your policy will cause them to order and review your driver's abstract. Don't tell anyone.

Lee Romanov is an insurance consumer advocate and creator of www.romanovreport.com.

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