Question: How high a deductible can I get on my homeowners insurance? If I boost my deductible, how much can I save on my premiums?
Answer: If your deductible is $500 now, increasing it to $1,000 can lower your premiums by up to 20 percent. Most insurers offer much higher deductibles, too, which is a popular strategy for people who have enough money in emergency funds to cover potential costs. Raising your deductible is a good way to reduce your premiums, and it makes you less likely to file small claims that could result in a rate hike.
At Chubb, about half of the wealthiest customers choose a deductible of $10,000 to $50,000. "For homes here in Malibu that are valued at $10 million to $25 million, having a $25,000 deductible isn't out of the ordinary at all," says Derek Ross, president of Kulchin Ross Insurance Services, an independent agency in Tarzana, Calif.
The higher the deductible, the bigger the premium savings. Let's say, for example, you have a policy with Fireman's Fund with a $1,000 deductible and a $3,000 annual premium.
You should file a claim only if it is at least several hundred dollars more than the deductible. "If your insurer raises your rate by 10 percent for three to five years after you have a claim, that could easily exceed the amount the insurer paid beyond the deductible," says Ross. Whatever deductible you choose, keep enough money in an emergency fund to self-insure up to the deductible -- or even a few hundred dollars more.
The risk of self-insuring may not be as high as you think. The average person files a homeowners insurance claim only once every eight to 10 years, says Jeanne Salvatore of the Insurance Information Institute. You could take the money you save in premiums and add it to your emergency fund each year so that you're prepared when you do have a claim, recommends Ross. You could also use the extra money to boost your dwelling, property and liability coverage levels by tens of thousands of dollars.
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