If one of your New Year's resolutions is to save money in 2012 then this is a story for you. The head of New Jersey's Department of Banking and Insurance (DOBI) has some helpful and easy tips for you before you renew your car insurance policies.

"Renewal time is shopping time," explains DOBI commissioner Tom Considine. "You should dedicate some period and go on the computer and look around and call your agent and ask him for different options."

Considine says you shouldn't hesitate to ask your agent about any discount offers. He explains, "Don't assume everything is the same this year that it was last year. Your carrier may have new programs put in place."

Consumers who married within the last year should alert their auto insurers. Statistically, young married couples tend to have a lower incidence of accidents and claims than unmarried individuals. This may result in lower premiums. Considine says, "Married couples fall into a different rate than single people and it's a rate that's going to help them economically. Additionally when you get married you should move your cars to one carrier because you get a volume discount for want of a better phrase."

There are other factors that impact the cost of insurance. People who have changed jobs and are now working closer to home are traveling fewer miles and lowering their exposure to risk. Insurers will calculate premiums based on the average distance driven on an annual basis. Getting older could also mean a change in your rate. Younger drivers who are new behind the wheel may be considered riskier than older drivers with more experience. Consumers should check with their insurance agent to see if they have aged out of a younger bracket and are now considered a less risky driver.

To lower a rate, consumers can adjust the amount of their deductible. A higher deductible will mean paying more in the event of an accident, but it will also mean a lower premium. Consumers who pay their premium in one payment as opposed to in installments may pay less. Bundling insurance is another possible cost saver. Insuring your home and your car with the same company can highlight you as a loyal customer and may lower the premium.

Consumers should also know that insurance agents and brokers are required to provide customers with three coverage options. You must be told the costs and how those costs affect benefits in each option.

Every insurer has its own rating system which will affect premium costs. Some may offer accident forgiveness policies while others may not. Accident forgiveness means an insurer agrees not to increase a premium after an insurer is involved in an accident. Since these policies come with higher protection they also come with higher premiums. Accident forgiveness policies will vary by insurer so it is important to get the details before choosing this option.

Violations and accidents, which may increase your costs, eventually expire over time. When they do, rates may decrease. Consumers should keep tabs on these items to ensure they are removed in a timely manner. Each insurance company has their own method for determining how long it takes for a violation or accident to expire. Consumers should contact their individual insurance agent or company to learn more.

Finally, drivers with a few bad experiences on the road may want to start off the New Year by completing a defensive driver's course. An approved course will help consumers behind the wheel and may also qualify them for a discount with their insurer.

Considine says, "If people want more information they can go to the department's website at www.njdobi.org."