Many Bay Area homeowners can save more than $1,000 a year by switching from their current insurance company to a lower-priced one. Some will save more than $2,000.

We examined annual premiums for sample policyholders for the companies that write almost all of the homeowners insurance business in California. Costs vary significantly from company to company. For instance, a family living in Redwood City in a home with a replacement cost of $550,000 would pay only $834 per year with Hippo, $846 with Pacific Specialty, or $943 with CSAA, but pay more than $2,000 per year with AIG, Chubb, Farmers, Foremost, Liberty, or MetLife.

Because pricing methods and premiums can dramatically change over time, shop around for a better rate every other year or so. But don’t wait until the end of your policy term to shop or switch. If you change insurers, your old company must reimburse you for the unused portion of any payments you’ve made.

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

  • Choose a high deductible.
  • Avoid buying too much coverage or lousy optional protection. We review these choices.
  • Limit the number of claims you make.
  • Consider buying your home and auto policies from the same company. Many offer 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 insurer a good deal.

Fortunately, you can choose a low-priced company and still get good claims service. We also report on companies’ claims handling service performance.