If you want the best deal on anything from insurance to energy and car breakdown cover, then when your renewal letter comes through the post, it's often a matter of shopping around and switching. But we're not always keen to vote with our feet - especially when we like the service we're getting where we are - so many people stay put. This loyalty can cost us hundreds of pounds a year.
Fortunately consumer experts say there's another way to save money: you can haggle.%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%
Which? carried out an investigation, where it called major insurers, phone companies and utility firms, and tried to haggle for a better deal. They made an average annual saving of £60 on broadband contracts, £40 on breakdown charges, £36 on home insurance, £42 on car insurance and £60 on mobile phone contracts.
They published a list of the companies who were easiest to haggle with - alongside the percentage of the time they offered a deal:
1. AA - 85%
2. Virgin Mobile - 92%
3. Admiral - 88%
4. More Than - 86%
5. LV= - 86%
6. Vodafone: 86%
7. Direct Line - 85%
8. Churchill - 84%
9. RAC - 84%
10 Orange - 81%
How do you do it?
Which? used its research to produce a guide to haggling for various different services. However, there are some techniques which work for any situation.
The first step is to do your research. You'll need to check a recent bill so you know what you are paying, then do a price comparison to find out where you can get a better deal - and the price on offer there. That gives you a benchmark.
Next, you need to be sure that if the worst comes to the worst you would be happy to move for a cheaper deal, because you cannot go into battle with empty threats. As long as you are happy with this, you can simply call up and say you are going to move elsewhere because there's a better deal available.
The magazine published a potential script, starting by asserting you think you are paying too much and that new customers are getting a better deal, followed by the threat to go elsewhere, and finally mentioning the better deal you have researched.
In return you may be offered a cheaper deal, or more for your money - so it's worth deciding at the outset what kind of an offer you would be willing to accept. If they offer something you don't particularly want, Which? suggests saying 'Is that the best you can give me? I was hoping for...' and then listing what you were after.
It's worth bearing in mind that you need to stay polite and firm during the process - so the salesperson actively wants to do a deal with you. If the person you are speaking to tells you they cannot offer a discount, ask to speak to their supervisor, who may have more authority. And if they cave in and offer a deal immediately, bear in mind that this may not be the maximum they are allowed to give - so try to ask for extra.
As Which? points out, not everyone is hugely comfortable with haggling, but when it can save you hundreds of pounds, it must be worth a try.
The cheapest cars to insure
You don't have to switch for a better deal: you can haggle
Price new: £5,995
Dacia has made a big impact in the UK with its line of affordable motors.
The Sandero is the foundation of the brand's offering and is famed for being the UK's cheapest car.
With a group two insurance classification it's also one of the cheapest cars to insure right now.
The entry level Access model is sparsely equipped, but it has a practical interior, big boot and low running costs.
Price new: £8,060
The Seat Mii is a small city car which Auto Express praises for its spacious interior, good build quality and supple ride.
All models are in insurance group one, bar the group two Sport version.
The Mii is available in three-door or five-door styles, but both measure just 3.5 metres, making it perfect for getting around town.
Price new: £8,090
The Skoda Citigo was crowned Auto Express Best City Car 2013.
The magazine praised its low running costs and practicality as well as its grown up driving experience.
Like its Mii stable mate the Citigo has group one insurance in all apart from its top specification model, making it one of the cheapest cars to insure.
Price new: £8,265
The third of the Volkswagen's group of three city cars to make the list is the Up!
Auto Express says the Up! was 'born to rule' city streets with its small dimensions and lightweight body.
There's three versions of this fun city car; Take Up! has a group one rating as does Move Up! while the higher spec High Up! gets a group two classification.
Price new: £8,345
The Hyundai i10 is another car which can get you a cheap insurance quote thanks to a group one insurance rating across all the 1.0-litre petrol models.
Auto Express says the new 2014 i10 offers big car features in a small package. And for £8,345 you also get Hyundai's five-year warranty and roadside assistance package.
Price new: £8,995
Vauxhall has managed to squeeze one of its full sized Corsas into insurance group two.
Auto Express says the 1.0-litre ecoFlex model has the lowest insurance costs of any mainstream supermini.
The eye-catching design, solid interior and big-car features make it an appealing buy for drivers.
Price new: £9,575
The Smart car caused a bit of a stir when it first appeared thanks to its dinky dimensions and bold two-seat layout, making it very useful for driving about town and absurdly easy to park.
The Smart ForTwo is the latest incarnation, which keeps to the same formula; it still has only two seats and is one of the smallest cars on the road measuring just 2.5 metres long,
The entry level 0.8- and 1.0-litre models qualify for group two insurance.
Price new: £11,810
The Peugeot Partner Tepee 1.6 VTi is the passenger version of the Partner van and according to Auto Express easily the most spacious new car that currently qualifies for a group two insurance rating.
It's got a boxy shape that provides plenty of room and has sliding doors which make it a very practical and flexible family car.
If you're after something smaller the Peugeot Bipper Tepee, which is the smallest of Peugeot's family of Tepee MPVs, also gets a group two insurance rating.