If you’ve not had your insurance renewal documents through yet, then prepare yourself for a nasty surprise.

According to figures from the Association of British Insurers (ABI), vehicle insurance is up a third (34%)compared to this time last year. However, readers who have contacted me are reporting increases in premiums of 50% or more – and the same with other key insurance policies, like home and contents cover.

So is it possible to get a good deal on your insurance policy (or one that isn’t as bad?) Here’s my guide on how to reduce costs.

Getting a decent renewal price is all about timing. As a general rule, if you contact your insurance company three to four weeks before the renewal date, you’ll get a better discounted price if you stay with them for another year. The closer you get to renewal, the worse the deal gets. So stick a note in your calendar a month before your insurance policies are due to renew or end.

Get rid of anything that you don’t need. Lots of us end up paying for ‘add-on’ policies like gap insurance (the sale of which is being investigated by regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority). There may be other components to your existing policy that you don’t need, like legal expenses insurance.

Alternatively you can increase the excess limits on various chunks of your policy. Yes, you’ll pay more if you have to make a claim, but you can shave off some cash this way. You may also find you are over-insured, as lots of people overestimate the value of the contents of their property, so price everything up and contact your insurer. Don’t forget you only get a payout for the replacement value of the items you’re claiming for, not a brand new version. So an iPhone 8 claim will not get you the latest iPhone.

Take time over your application. I’d give as much detail as you can on things like repairs you’ve made to the structure of a building – like your roof, for example – or simple details like exactly when your car passed its MOT. Bear in mind though that some home improvements or car modifications will actually make your policy increase in price. Others that you might assume would save you cash, don’t in practice. Many insurers tell me that forking out for a video doorbell won’t result in a discount, for example.

Consider combining your policies. If you’ve got more than one car, or you’re willing to combine home/vehicle/travel insurance, you may get a much better deal, though I’d ask if any aspects of the policy like what’s covered or excess limits change in comparison to a stand-alone policy. A great idea is to take out a single multi-gadget policy. I took one out recently that covers five gadgets and costs around £30 a month. Taking out five individual policies at £15 a pop per gadget works out at £900 a year, so I save £540.

Comparison sites will give a useful overview of the insurance deals out there. But be aware that things like flat or thatched roofs can significantly increase your quote, won’t come up on all comparison sites. So have a think about what might have a big effect on the price, like car modifications or things like your age or health. You can use these factors to get a more realistic quote, though you’ll have to go through the insurer’s website. Remember not all insurers are on comparison sites – but some discounts only apply if you click through from these sites.

Have a fiddle about with the application too. There are lots of weird quirks that can have an impact on your quote. One of the most notorious is what you put in to the field covering your job. Research has shown that a few subtle changes to the way you describe what you can do can shave off some cash!

And finally, pay annually. If you want to save money it will cost you less if you pay up front for the next 12 months.

Martyn James is a leading consumer rights campaigner, TV and radio broadcaster and journalist.

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