The harsh economic climate is imbuing a newfound sense of frugality in insurance consumers, according to a new study by the Malvern, Pa.-based Insurance Research Council (IRC).

The IRC study, based on 1,000 telephone interviews conducted with adults, found 28% of those surveyed reporting they are currently shopping for lower auto insurance coverage rates when they previously would not have done so. What’s more, the scrimping did not stop with comparison shopping, as 15% of respondents with auto or homeowners insurance indicated they had increased their insurance deductibles or reduced the amount of coverage in order to reduce costs.

Despite these efforts to economize caused by the downturn, the survey revealed a widespread commitment among consumers to maintain essential auto and homeowners coverage. For example, only 9% of respondents with at least one household vehicle reported canceling or not renewing coverage for a household vehicle in response to the economy. Similarly, only 5% of homeowners and 14% of renters reported foregoing a homeowners or renters insurance policy.

Tellingly, the study found a greater a willingness among Americans to forsake consumer goods and entertainment for insurance, with 65% reporting a greatly reduced spending on entertainment and 37% acknowledging the postponement of the purchase of a major household appliance.

"These findings confirm that most Americans recognize the importance of maintaining essential insurance coverage on their homes and cars," says Elizabeth Sprinkel, SVP of the IRC. "But they also show that Americans are willing to shop and reevaluate their insurance needs in order to reduce insurance costs."

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