Most Bay Area homeowners will save more than $500 a year by switching from their current insurance company to a lower-priced company. Some will save more than $1,000.

Our Ratings Tables report annual premiums we collected for the companies that write almost all of the homeowners insurance business in the Bay Area. Costs vary significantly from company to company. For example—

  • For a sample frame house in Berkeley, rates range from $756 with Mercury and $844 with Travelers to more than $2,300. The premium for State Farm, the state’s largest writer of homeowners insurance policies, is $1,606. The premium for Farmers, the state’s second-largest insurer, is $1,944.
  • For a sample frame home in Nob Hill, rates range from $823 with Mercury and $981 with Travelers to over $2,200. The rate for State Farm is $1,151; for Farmers, it’s $1,547.

Which companies will offer you the lowest rates depends on several factors discussed in this article. Since your home, its characteristics, and your insurance needs likely differ from those of the sample profiles we used for our comparisons, do some shopping on your own before you choose an insurer.

You don’t have to wait until the end of your policy term to switch to a company that offers a lower rate. Although you might have to pay a fee to cancel your current policy, the fee is small compared to the savings you can get with a lower-cost carrier.

Although rates for homeowners insurance depend in large part on variables you can’t control, there are steps you can take—in addition to shopping for the best rate—to minimize costs:

  • Choose a high deductible.
  • Obtain an accurate estimate of what it will take to replace your home. Insurance agents often try to sell excessive coverage by providing inflated estimates of replacement costs.
  • Consider declining earthquake coverage, which adds from $500 to over $3,000 to a typical homeowners policy for a house with frame construction, and usually three times as much for a masonry house. Since earthquake policies usually include a hefty 15 percent deductible, think about whether the added cost is worth the protection offered. Few homeowners in California bother buying it.
  • Limit the number of claims you make. Filing a claim will result in higher premiums from most insurers and may cause an insurer to drop you—which will make it difficult and more expensive to get insurance elsewhere.
  • Consider buying your homeowners and auto policies from the same company. Many companies offer dual-policy discounts to customers who insure both their homes and cars with them. But keep in mind that such discounts are usually small and won’t make a high-priced company a good deal. Click here for our ratings of auto insurance companies.

Fortunately, it is possible to choose a low-priced company and still get good claims service. Our Ratings Tables provide insight on companies’ service performance.

Keep your insurance policy up to date. Many homeowners do not maintain adequate insurance coverage, leaving themselves financially vulnerable in the event of a total loss. Don’t assume your insurer will take the initiative in keeping your homeowners policy up to date. Every few years have your insurer re-estimate your home’s replacement cost, and then adjust your coverage as needed.

Because companies’ pricing methods and premiums change over time, shop around for a better rate every other year or so.