One Way to Save on Car Insurance Costs

Vehicle insurance, mandatory in most jurisdictions, is a wise idea to protect the motorist, his vehicle, and anyone with whom he/she may have an accident.

Shopping around may reveal savings in insurance costs, which can tailor your coverage. In some cases, it may be prudent to consider higher deductibles, or dropping some coverage on older cars.

Another means of reducing car insurance premiums is to take advantage of cost saving discounts offered on policies. Taking an approved driver safety course can yield premium discounts for as much as three years. Reducing the prospect of car theft is another cost savings technique, often lasting for the entire time one owns that specific vehicle.

Each automobile has a unique Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), which goes into detail describing that specific vehicle. DMV and insurance companies use the VIN to identify individual motor vehicles. Theft of a car often involves disguising the stolen vehicle by altering the VIN or substituting the VIN dashboard plate number with another.

There are proven means of making this process immeasurably more difficult for car thieves. Etching a car VIN permanently onto the windshield and other windows of a car forces time consuming and costly total glass replacement to effectively disguise the vehicle. VINs may be mechanically engraved into the glass or chemical etching the number into the glass may be used.

Once the VIN is permanently reproduced on the glass, some insurance companies respond by offering an insurance discount of between 5 and 15 percent on the comprehensive portion of the automobile insurance policy, and this discount is permanent. Most auto insurers do not offer this VIN etching discount except on a state-by-state basis. It would be prudent on the part of the car owner to inquire if the window etching discount is available.

Chemical etching of a VIN into the exterior surface of automotive glass is a simple process, yet the dealer who sold my wife a new 2019 car does not offer this service. Calls to several automobile dealerships and auto glass firms resulted in the same response. While our survey of firms was not exhaustive, it is evident this service is not readily available in the greater Albany, NY, area which is home to about a million people. Nor was anyone I talked to aware of New York Insurance Law 2336 (f) which requires an auto insurance company to offer a discount for VIN etchings.

Contacting the local office of AAA was unproductive, they don’t do etching nor could they recommend anyone who could, although an April 2019 article on the Internet suggested calling AAA.

Fortunately, the materials to accomplish the VIN etching process are readily available to the public. Personally, I have used only one source for the etching process, although a number are available on the market for a price per vehicle of around $20.

The only source with which I have had experience is which provides complete kits including custom prepared VIN stencils, glass etching paste, protective gloves, and detailed instructions. Due to my limited experience, the following narrative is limited to this one supplier.

The prospect of making an expensive mistake, and destroying an expensive car windshield caused me great hesitation. I did order a kit and made the attempt to chemically etch the VIN of a car onto the glass. The process took about half an hour for the entire car and was 100% successful. To date, we’ve put the VIN on several family vehicles. After watching the process just once, both my wife and son have successfully done their cars.

Simplicity is the watchword. The exterior of the glass is cleaned, the stencil with the VIN is applied to the glass. Once in place, the etching paste is painted over the stencil and left to sit for several minutes. The stencil is carefully removed from the glass with care being taken not to allow the etching paste to touch the glass. A wet piece of paper towel is used to wipe down the etched area, and the job is done.

Optionally a “warning” sticker may be applied to the window on the driver’s door to advise that the vehicle’s glass has been permanently etched with the vehicle’s VIN. Stickers are included with the kit as ordered.

Ordering an etching kit from gets a set of 10 stencils prepared with the desired VIN. Typically contemporary VINs are a series of 17 letters and numbers, however, upon request, stencils with older non-standard VINs can be produced at no extra cost for antique vehicles.

The insurance carrier for my vintage cars does not offer a VIN etching discount, however, many insurance companies do. The states of Louisiana and New York have enacted legislation requiring auto insurance carriers to provide insurance discounts to the owners of vehicles with the VIN etched into the glass.

Some auto dealerships offer VIN etching service to car buyers, and this has prompted AARP to issue a cautionary warning to car buyers who may charge excessive prices for this service. AARP relates the tale of one buyer who was charged over $300 for etching the VIN onto the car glass.

Ordering a VIN etching kit over the Internet requires that one be 100% accurate entering the numbers for the prepared stencils. One family member was required to have a windshield replaced, resulting in the necessity of etching the identifying number on the new glass.

An inquiry was made through the insurance carrier covering one family member’s new 2019 Jeep Cherokee and the comprehensive portion of the insurance premium was $97.27, and the discounted premium cost for VIN etched glass was $82.68 for each year resulting in savings of $14.59 annually. In addition to the theft protection, the cost of etching the windshield more than pays for itself in less than two years. Beyond that, it’s all real savings for the duration the car is owned.

Steve Sevits earned a Master’s Degree from the State University of New York and is a retired commercial pilot with forty-four years experience flying corporate aircraft. His published articles have appeared in numerous technical journals including Short Wing Piper News which focuses on antique aircraft. Steve is also a volunteer member of the FAA Safety Team. He collects vintage automobiles and lives in Upstate New York.

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