With 2015's arrival, it's a new year and the slate is clean, brimming with potential for being the best year ever.

New year, new insurance policy: Why it’s time to make the switch

With 2015’s arrival, it’s a new year and the slate is clean, brimming with potential for being the best year ever. While there are a variety of ways in which this may come to pass, a good indicator is the improving state of the economy. Consumer confidence is up, unemployment is down and gas prices are operating at levels no one imagined they’d reach after flirting with $4 a gallon in 2014.

This extra spending power will surely help stretch the average consumer’s dollar much further than it has in recent past, but there’s another way to get more bang for your buck – by switching car insurance companies. While this may seem like a bold, impulsive move, the money you could wind up saving will leave you wondering why you didn’t make the switch sooner.

“Been thinking about switching car insurance plans? This is the year to do it.”

The reason is because a number of people – whether they know it or not – aren’t optimizing their insurance ownership experience. For example, in a poll done by the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America, more than 1 in 3 consumers said they likely weren’t taking advantage of as many discounts as they could be.

“Many Americans could be foolishly throwing money away because they fail to ask about insurance discounts for which they may qualify,” said Madelyn Flannagan, vice president of agent development, education and research at IIABA. “Companies often offer some unique, regional, very specific and, at times, quirky discounts.”

The poll found that some consumers could be shaving as much as 30 percent off their premiums simply by inquiring about discounts or securing one that’s more in line with their needs.

Just 15 percent of drivers today are uninsured, according to the Insurance Research Council. Though this rate could be lower, the reason why so many people are covered is because auto insurance is required by law in 49 of the 50 states. In short, you have to have an insurance plan in place if you want to drive. But what you don’t have to do is spend a lot of money.

Here are a few tips on making the switch:

Get as many quotes as possible

Whether it’s getting in touch with your insurer directly or checking out quote comparison websites, it’s never been easier to find out how much you can spend per month on premiums for car insurance. Take advantage of these sources so you can find the plan and the provider that’s best for you.

Ask around

Odds are that you have a friend whose insurer is the one you’re considering. Be mindful of what they’re spending in premiums, but don’t be shy about asking them their opinion, what services are offered, and if they’ve ever had to file a claim. Generally speaking, more people are satisfied with the claims process, based on a recent survey done last year by J.D. Power and Associates. Make sure you check out professional resources like the Better Business Bureau, Consumer Reports, and A.M. Best for additional guidance.

Get new plan before you cancel

A common mistake that people make is canceling their current plan, then buy the new one. This is inadvisable, though, because depending on how long the switch takes, you won’t be covered. Also, make sure that you get in touch with your former insurer to formally cancel the policy. You’ll want to do this both so that what’s left on your plan is prorated and so that you don’t wind up with unexpected cancelation fees.

With your new plan in place, what you save on premiums may leave your wallet a whole lot thicker come 2016 when it’s time to renew.