Drivers missing out on car insurance savings

Michael Strong, CNBC contributor

As the adage goes, you'd better shop around. But the results of a new survey show that many drivers are not heeding this advice.

According to, the average American hasn't changed auto insurance companies in 12 years, and more than a third of U.S. drivers never shop for new insurance.

The study, which interviewed 1,000 adults and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percent, found that about 25 percent of drivers have been with the same insurance company for more than 16 years, and 7 percent for more than 30 years.

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"Americans may think loyalty pays off, but when it comes to insurance, that's not always the case," said Laura Adams,'s senior analyst. "If you haven't shopped for auto insurance since the '90s, it's probably safe to say that you're not getting the best deal."

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According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the key to shopping for auto insurance is making sure you get an apples-to-apples comparison of your current policy to the new policy.

The regulatory group suggests shopping for at least three quotes, and creating a chart to keep track of necessary coverage including liability, uninsured motorist, medical and physical damage. It also suggests getting prices for a full-year, six-month and monthly payment plan. Some companies offer discounts for paying in a lump sum rather than stretching out the payments.

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Millennials and senior citizens are the most reticent when it comes to getting on the computer or picking up the phone to get insurance quotes, according to insuranceQuotes' study.

"Many people make the mistake of shopping only when they move or buy a new car, but data shows that rates fluctuate even when you haven't had any major life changes. This is especially true for young people," Adams said.

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Other findings from the survey include:

• Nearly half of Americans do not know that they can change their auto insurance company at any time.

• Six in 10 millennials with auto insurance think they have to wait until their renewal date to switch insurance companies.

For those who don't want to take the time to call around, Kelley Blue Book suggests drivers use their state's department of insurance as a resource. These sites typically offer rate comparisons, customer ratings and complaint ratios, as well as the contact information for a variety of major carriers.

Read MoreWhat's worse than a long commute? Overpaying for it also urges drivers to ask about discounts related to good driving records, college attendance or serving in the military, and suggests they consider raising their deductibles.

"You'll have to pay more out of pocket if you have an accident, but if you increase your deductible by just several hundred dollars, for example, you could save anywhere from 15 to 40 percent or more in collision and comprehensive coverage costs," according to the automotive research firm.