Unless you live in New Hampshire, here in the States, you're required to have some form of car insurance covering your vehicle. The annual cost to insure a car depends on an array of factors ranging from the type of vehicle to where you live to your driving record. You undoubtedly know what you pay for insurance on an annual or monthly basis, but do you know how much you will end up paying over the course of your driving life? According to Insurance.com, the average person will spend $84,388.

What does 'average' mean in the context of this study? In this case, researchers assume that you first insure your own vehicle at 21 years old, get married at 27, insure two teenagers for a few years and then stop driving when you turn 75. That passage of time is filled with a variety of claims, including accidents and other incidents that get sent across your insurance agent's desk.

Predictably, Insurance.com offers up a few suggestions for cutting your overall coverage expenses. Some are easier said than done (avoid traffic tickets) while others might actually be fun (defensive driving course). Check out the company's press release for the full details after the jump.

[Source: Insurance.com | Image: Flickr/jcrakow via CC2.0]
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Dig deep! Car insurance will cost you $84,000

A typical American can expect to pay an average of $84,388 for car insurance over a lifetime, according to an analysis of auto insurance quotes in the Insurance.com database.

How much money is that? Enough to purchase a median-priced home in central Florida city of Ocala – and still have $2,188 in pocket change left over, according to recent home price statistics from the National Association of Realtors.

Insurance.com based its analysis on quotes from drivers who first purchased insurance at age 21, married at 27, briefly insured two teens and stopped driving at age 75. The average premium includes drivers with all types of claims, accidents and other driving histories.

The lifetime cost of car insurance stacks up against other lifetime costs (ages 16 to 75) as follows:

Athletic shoes at one pair annually (ages 16-75): $2,737.01 for males, $2,597.18 for females
Pet insurance for one dog (12 years): $4,766
Trip to Disney World for a family of four: $5,026
Four years of college: $30,420
NYC monthly subway pass (ages 16 to 75): $63,012
New car every seven years (ages 22 to75): $150,065.71
All of the costs are in 2011 dollars and are not adjusted for inflation.

Cutting your lifetime car insurance cost

The thought of shelling out tens of thousands of dollars to insure your car may make you consider trading in car keys for a bus pass. Fortunately, there are relatively easy ways to trim auto insurance costs.

Sandra Spann, a spokeswoman for American Family Insurance, suggests one simple rule for driving down your lifetime insurance costs: "Obey the traffic laws and stay ticket-free."

Most companies give you lower auto insurance rates when you remain accident-free and don't rack up violations, Spann says. In that way, "they will reward you for good behavior," she says.

Raising your deductible is another easy way to cut your lifetime auto insurance costs.

However, don't take this step unless you have enough savings to pay the deductible should you have an accident. Paying a deductible with a high-interest credit card can be costly, Spann warn.

Adding teens to your auto insurance policy

Finding ways to trim auto insurance costs becomes even more important during the years your children are driving.

"Your biggest insurance expense comes when you add your kids to the policy," says Joann Kraemer, a spokesperson for MetLife Auto & Home.

Kraemer says taking advantage of good-student discounts can save parents money on auto insurance.

Kyle Anderson, a spokesperson for State Auto Insurance Cos., urges parents to alert their insurance company once the children head off to college.

"Let your insurer know if your child goes away to school or college," Anderson says. "Premiums may be lower if the car doesn't go to school with them."

Some insurance companies also will offer a lower insurance rate if you'll agree to install a device in the car that monitors your teen's driving habits.

Other ways to cut auto insurance costs

Some tips for cutting auto insurance costs may be less obvious than others. For example, your plan to cut car insurance costs should begin the minute you zero in on the model you'd like to buy in your next car purchase, Anderson says.

"Take a look at its track record," he says. "How is it rated in terms of safety? Does it often make it onto the list of 'most stolen vehicles'?

Cars with strong safety records are less expensive to insure.

"Safer vehicles save you money," says Kraemer. "They just have the features that protect people against injuries."

Experts say other ways to save on lifetime auto insurance costs include:

Alert your insurance company if you are driving fewer miles to work.

Take a driver safety/defensive driving course. (In another recent story, we noted that discounts for classes are generally available only to certain age groups.)

Drop collision and comprehensive coverage on older cars.

Compare auto insurance quotes – using both online insurance tools and going to agents – to zero in on the lowest insurance rates.

Investigate whether bundling your coverages (such as auto insurance, home insurance, and umbrella insurance) with the same provider will give you better value for your insurance dollar.

Consider alternatives such as pay-as-you-drive auto insurance if you don't have a long commute, and if it's offered in your state.

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