THE different insurance cover that families take out add up to one of the biggest expenditures for the average household.
With many households spending in excess of €4,000 a year on a variety of cover, it is worth remembering that families often end up overpaying for policies that can be bought for considerably less.
The Irish Brokers Association (IBA), in conjunction with the Irish Independent, has conducted a study to assess how easily consumers could save hundreds, if not thousands of euro, on their premiums.
Nearly half of Irish households phone a couple of insurance companies themselves every few years, identify the best deal at that time and just assume that the same provider will continue to offer the best price.
But households are wrong if they think that just doing this is enough to guarantee that they will get the best value for the various insurance products bought by families -- motor, home, health and life cover. Chief executive of the IBA Ciaran Phelan stressed that the price of policies change dramatically all the time.
"Unless you are willing to ring up to 25 insurance companies, which is very time consuming, you should get a broker to do it for you," he said.
"Anecdotal evidence suggests that those who use a broker usually pay less for their insurances and are less likely to be over or under insured," he added.
The IBA study looked at the following principal classes of insurance:
Consumers are generally more active in reviewing the cost of this class of insurance.
And so they should be, Mr Phelan said, as the typical family shells out between €800 and €1,000 on two cars.
Savings of up to €300 a year are easily attainable by ensuring you get the best-value policy in the market, the IBA study found.
Again, there are big savings to be made on like-for-like comparisons.
In addition, there are many consumers paying over the odds having incorrectly insured the value of the building, rather than the rebuilding cost of their home.
The insurance cost for your house is the cost of re-building it, and not the market value of the home.
Rebuilding costs have fallen dramatically recently. Check out the cost per square foot or square metre by looking up the free guide on the website of the Society of Chartered Surveyors, www.scs.ie.
Mr Phelan said building cost are down by 20pc or more. Make sure that the insurance company you are dealing with will also be there to assist you should you have a claim.
Most consumers need mortgage protection and term assurance to replace their income in the event of their untimely death.
A 40-year-old couple spending €1,000 per annum can typically afford between €200,000 and €300,000 in cover.
With increasing longevity resulting in falling insurance prices over the last few years, a saving of at least 20pc is quite achievable.
That should amount to at least €200 a year.
There is increased competition with various special offers available.
This means there are potential savings of €300-plus depending on the size of your family.
Again you need to look at your other insurances to see if you can avail of cross-insurance discounts, Mr Phelan said.
PERMANENT HEALTH INSURANCE
This is one of the forgotten, but hugely important, insurances if you are self-employed, but can be an expensive item.
Cost and cover types vary considerable for those where this cover is not provided by your employer.
There are a number of new market entrants driving down the cost of this cover which bodes well for consumers.
We often forget about the other insurances that we have that include travel insurance, serious illness, payment protection insurance on loans, etc. Again savings can be made.
Managing the cost of your own insurances is extremely difficult -- few people have the time or the expertise to give it sufficient attention, Mr Phelan said.
Most people's insurance costs suffer from a lack of attention resulting in one of the following:
* Overpaying on premiums when there is a cheaper alternative available.
* Being underinsured -- either overlooking core risks or simply not having the experience to recognise certain policy exclusions that could have dramatic consequences in the event of a claim.
* Being over-insured -- forgetting to cancel insurance on assets or risks that have been disposed of or are no longer relevant for various reasons.
So, forget about rising insurance premiums -- instead set yourself the goal of saving €1,000 in insurance costs in 2011.