Drivers can knock between 30pc and 40pc off the cost of their car insurance by refusing to accept the first quote offered by their insurer - and shopping around. That's certainly what I experienced when renewing my motor cover last week - and in the end, I didn't even have to change insurer.
I've been driving a Nissan Qashqai for about five years. I got my car insurance renewal notice in the post a week ago. Last year, I paid €362 to insure my Qashqai. As I have my full no claims bonus and no penalty points, you can imagine my surprise when Aviva, my current insurer, quoted me €446 - 23pc more than last year - to renew my cover.
I have since managed to get the quote down to €313 - without having to move insurer.
As well as this quote being 30pc lower than my original renewal quote, I'm also paying less for my car insurance this year than I did last.
So how did I do it?
First, I rang around a few insurers. I was slightly disheartened when I did this. The best quote which AXA could give me for similar cover was €475. I rang the insurance broker, AA Ireland, which offers car insurance from AXA, Allianz and Aviva. The best quote I could get from AA - which was for AXA's cover - was for €478.
When I explained to the AA agent that this was more expensive than the €446 my current insurer was quoting, she said she would go back to AXA and see if it could do a better price.
She came back with an offer of €418 - or €408 if I signed up for the cover that day. Although cheaper than what Aviva had quoted in my renewal notice, I would have only saved €38 by going with AA - hardly something to get excited about.
So I rang Aviva. I asked if the renewal quote it had sent in the post was the best price it could do. I didn't even mention that I had got a lower quote elsewhere - I wanted to see what price Aviva would come back with first. Aviva started to lower the quote and its agent then asked if I had any other insurance policies with it. I explained that my husband and I had also insured our second car - which we bought a few months ago - with Aviva.
The agent said this meant I was entitled to a multicar discount, which would bring down the price of my cover substantially. Aviva offered a new renewal quote of €312.65 for my Qashqai - saving me €133.
I almost fell off my chair.
I hadn't even had to play hardball or mention that I was considering moving to another insurer. I grabbed the new quote and renewed my cover with Aviva.
As drivers have been warned to expect double-digit motor insurance price hikes this year, my experience shows just how important it is not to accept the first price offered by your insurer when renewing your policy - and to get all of the discounts you are entitled to, including any loyalty discounts.
Another useful tactic is to call into your insurer's local branch rather than to try get a better quote over the phone.
Frank Conway, founder of the financial education website, moneywhizz.org, halved his car insurance renewal quote a few years ago by calling into his insurance branch.
Mr Conway's premium had gone up from €300 to €610 that year, even though he had a clean driving record. When Mr Conway rang his insurer's customer care line to get the quote down, it would only reduce the quote to €450.
"I got a better deal elsewhere and called into my insurer's branch to get some documentation which I needed to move," said Mr Conway. "When an official in the branch learnt I was moving to another insurer, he brought the quote down to €300."
Of course, you may have no luck getting your insurer to come down in price.
"In the past, a lot of insurers would have matched the price if you got a lower insurance quote elsewhere," said Jonathan Hehir, managing director of the car insurance website, coverinaclick.ie.
"However, a lot of insurers are holding the line today. Don't be afraid to move if yours does so. You could have an insurer who quoted €300 last year and is now quoting you €600 for the same cover. Even if your current insurer won't budge, you could still find one who will cover you for €310. Ring between three and five different insurers when shopping around. You could save between 30pc and 40pc by doing so."
To get the best quotes when shopping around, highlight your claims-free history (if you have one).
"Be very clear about how long you've been claims-free for," said Mr Hehir. "Some insurers offer a bigger no claims bonus than five years so you could get a better discount if you have not made a claim for the last six or seven years."
Be honest with any prospective insurer - don't try to hide any penalty points, driving convictions or recent accidents (even if those accidents have not resulted in a claim). "There's no point going back after you've got your quote and giving the information then - it won't look good," said Mr Hehir.
Leave yourself plenty of time to shop around. "People often leave too little time to review their policies before the final due date," said Mr Conway. "This results in them panicking and going either with the latest quote from an existing provider or doing too little groundwork to compare quotes across the market."
Don't despair if you are having no luck shopping around - you may be able to reduce the cost of your cover with your current insurer by stripping out certain features, such as windscreen cover or no claims bonus protection (which ensures your premium won't go up the following year should you make a claim).
Having an additional driver on your policy could bump up the cost of your insurance by between 20pc and 30pc, according to Mr Hehir. That's cover you could drop - particularly if that person rarely drives your car.
Check too that your renewal quote is based on accurate information. Does it have your full no claims bonus for example? Don't assume your insurer has got everything right - it could cost you.