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More Drivers Driving Without Car Insurance

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Americans have been seeking ways to cut their spending in these tumultuous economic times. One of the biggest cost casualties has been car insurance. The number of uninsured motorists nationwide has doubled in the past year from 10% to 20%, according to the online agency Insurance.com.

"Money is a little tight with people, and they decide if they need to skip on something, they’ll let their insurance lapse," said Sam Belden, Vice President of Insurance.com. "It’s directly attributable to the economy," he added. "And it’s exacerbated by premiums also rising over the past year. When people are squeezed the most, the insurance rates are also going up."

Belden said insurance premiums have increased by 6 or 7 percent this year.

The Insurance Research Council, a group funded by the insurance industry, is expected to release a study next month showing that several hundred thousand drivers dropped their insurance in 2008, partly because of the economy and jobless rate. About 40 percent of callers who followed up on online applications this year let their policies lapse, up from 10 percent a couple of years ago.

David Corum, vice president of the council, said the study shows that a single percentage point increase in unemployment is associated with a half-point increase in uninsured drivers. Despite the hike in rates and the stumbling economy, Belden said policyholders should never let their coverage lapse. Drivers who let their policies lapse usually must pay up to a 50 percent surcharge for a new policy.

Belden said drivers should talk to their agents about various payment options suited for their income. "If you pay once every three months, the amount may look absurd," Belden said. "You can move to monthly payments to even it out. If it gets too desperate, some insurance companies take partial payments at a time. If all else fails, maybe you’re with the wrong company. There’s a lot of rate variation between the insurance companies out there."