Personal Finance

Do auto insurers offer a VIN etching discount?

Question: Do auto insurance companies offer a discount if you have your VIN etched into your car's windshield and windows?  If so, how much is the discount? 

Answer:  Yes, many auto insurers will give you a discount if your car's vehicle identification number (VIN) is permanently etched into your vehicle's glass.  The discount varies but typically it's anywhere from 5 percent to 15 percent off of your comprehensive coverage.   (See " Vehicle and safety-feature discounts" )

Comprehensive insurance is what covers your vehicle if it's stolen, and for other certain situations.  (See " What does comprehensive cover? ")  Having your VIN etched on your windows counts as a passive security system / anti-theft deterrent and is why a discount may be available on this portion of your policy. 

Some states, such as Louisiana (per Revised Statue 22:1457(c) ) and New York (per Insurance Law 2336(f) ) require an auto insurance company to offer a discount for VIN etchings, while other states leave it up to the car insurance companies to decide if a discount will be offered.

What is VIN etching?

VIN etching is the permanent stenciling of your vehicle's 17-digit identification number onto the windshield and all window glass -- such as rear window, T-top, sunroof or moonroof and door glass -- of your automobile.

The engraving can be done by either laser, chemical or mechanical process and usually takes as little as 10 to 15 minutes.  Typically the etching is done at the bottom of the glass and doesn't obstruct your view or change the overall appearance of your car, but it can help protect it from thieves.

Why do it?

Police and insurance companies both recommend VIN etching to protect your vehicle against theft.  It's much harder for a thief to make a profit off of stealing your vehicle when your car's glass is etched with your VIN.

If your auto has VIN etching, a thief would need to change out all the glass on the vehicle, which is expensive and thus a deterrent to stealing your car versus one without VIN etching.   Also, if your car is stolen, police will have an easier time identifying and recovering your vehicle -- even if the VIN plate is missing -- since the VIN is now available on multiple parts of your vehicle.

Where to get a VIN etching and cost

Dealerships typically offer VIN etching on new cars, but this option tends to be pricey ($200 or more).  To save money, get the etching done on your new or used car by someone other than a dealer. 

DIY etching kits are available for $20, and some American Automobile Association (AAA) offices offer the service for $30 for members and $40 for non-members.  Also, police, state and city crime prevention associations host free VIN etching events throughout the year. Look to see if a free VIN etching event is taking place soon in your area before paying to get it done.

When you have the VIN etching done to your vehicle, you should receive a completed form to submit to your car insurance provider and seek a discount.  It's also a good time to ask your auto insurer about any other types of discounts you may be eligible for but aren't currently receiving.  (See "Your guide to car insurance discounts")

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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