Massachusetts drivers have saved $480 million in car insurance premiums since a managed competition system was instituted three years ago this spring, says the state’s insurance commissioner.

Instituting competitive rates also brought 13 new insurers to the Bay State’s auto insurance market, and some consumers say they’re still reaping savings year-to-year as they find bargains thanks to careful comparison shopping.

It’s quite a difference for a state which once had some of the most expensive – and most highly regulated – car insurance rates in the nation.

Before April 2008, Massachusetts set rates that never varied from company to company. The state also set up discount programs that also never varied. Customers had very few options and even less incentive to shop around.

“What I can tell you there have been improvements in product design and savings,” says Robert W. Gilbert Jr., president and chief executive officer of the James J. Dowd and Sons Insurance Agency in Holyoke. “It’s hard to pin down, but our average savings is $100 to $500, depending on the customer’s exposures.”

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