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What affects your car insurance rates?


Your credit score. In most states, credit is used as a factor by insurance companies. "But that's not fair!"  Insurance companies generate prices relative to the risk. For example, if 700 out of 1,000 claims submitted for single-car accidents come from drivers who have credit scores below 650, then the insurance company is going to charge a higher rate to people with credit scores below 650 seeking a policy because they are 7x more likely to be involved in a single-car accident. This is just one example of many intended to give you a better understanding as to why it affects your rates. It is no different than a mortgage company or credit card company charging you a higher interest rate with a 610 credit score than a 710 credit score. The risk of default is higher. 

Recommendation: If you cannot afford your own policy or you don't have a vehicle to insure for a period of time, see if a friend or a relative will add you as a driver to their policy. If you have a clean driving record, it shouldn't cost much. This way, when you need to get your own insurance in the future, you will technically have insurance without any lapse and you will not be considered high risk.


Whether or not you have active insurance at the time when you are getting quotes with other companies. If you let your policy "lapse" (aka you didn't pay your bill so they canceled your policy), it is going to cause your rates to be considerably higher than you may have been paying before your policy was canceled. The fact is, data shows that drivers who have not had continuous, uninterrupted insurance coverage for at least the previous six months are more likely to file claims for property damage and personal injury. Oh, and don't try to lie to the insurance company when calling for a quote. They can see who you were previously insured with, what vehicles you insured, when the policy was canceled, and in some states, why it was canceled. It just looks bad when your trying to start a new relationship with an insurance company and you've lied to them on the first call. It's like getting denied for a mortgage because you have multiple accounts that went unpaid and were sent to collections.

Now, some people may unfortunately fall into this category who even have stellar credit scores. For example, say Johnny has a 740 credit score, has had insurance continuously for the last 10 years, and 8 months ago he decided to sell his car and backpack in Europe for 6 months. Now, Johnny is back in the U.S. and wants to buy a car. He calls an insurance company for a quote and one of the first questions they ask him is "Do you have active insurance with another company right now?" Obviously, Johnny tells them he hasn't had any insurance for the last 8 months. Johnny then freaks out after hearing how much the policy will cost. "That's like 3x higher than I used to pay! That's insane!"  It's not that the insurance company doesn't want his business, they just see him as a higher risk because he hasn't been insured for some time, and, according to the data, drivers who have had a gap in coverage are more likely to file a claim. That's just the way it works.


The amount of coverage you have. Just like the previous examples where lower credit scores and gaps in coverage indicate a higher risk, so do drivers who have low coverage limits. The data shows that drivers who have just the minimum amount of coverage required to legally drive (usually less than $30,000 per person in coverage) also tend to have lower credit scores and are more likely to have gaps in coverage than drivers who have higher coverage limits (usually $250,000 in coverage). Yet, even someone with an 800 credit score still won't get the lowest possible price if they only have minimal coverage limits. 


The location where you live. Certain zip codes are considered a higher risk than other zip codes based on industry data related to claims. If City A has 10x more accidents than City B, City A is going to be considered a higher risk regardless of the demographics for that area. Just because a town may be more affluent and manicured than a neighboring town, it does not indicate that it is less risky of an area to insure. Now, with that said, major cities, in general, tend to have higher incidents of car thefts and vandalism than in suburban areas. The higher the likelihood of car thefts occurring, the higher the risk. A driver living in Philadelphia shouldn't be surprised that their car insurance rate is higher than a driver living in Ephrata, PA. Now, this is just a generalized example, but what one insurance company sees as a high risk area, the next company may not. For that reason, it is always best to call several companies for quotes.


Your driving record. Drivers who have had absolutely ZERO violations and absolutely ZERO claims (that means no claims for ANYTHING, at all) will be considered a better risk than someone who has one violation or one accident. It seems obvious, but many people don't get it. "Why am I being penalized for having just one accident?!"  Look, with every ticket or accident you have, it increases how risky you look to an insurance company. The more risky you look, the more it will affect your rate. "But I didn't have any tickets for 50 years before the ticket I got last year!"  That's great, but insurance companies only care about what you have done for the last 3-5 years. Like we mentioned previously, don't lie to an insurance company when getting a quote. Tell them up front if you have had any violations, suspensions, DUI's or claims on your insurance in the the past five years. Eventually, they are going to check your driving record and find out, so you may as well save everyone from wasting their time and just be honest. Remember, insurance companies take notes when you call in for a quote. If you are dishonest, it will probably be noted and be seen the next time you call them back for a quote. 


The length of time you have been driving. Whether you're 19 years old or 40 years old, if you've had a drivers license for less than three years, you should expect to pay a much higher rate than someone who has had a drivers license for 10+ years. Statistical data obtained from claims show that newer drivers are more likely to be involved in accidents and/or be ticketed than experienced drivers. After three years of driving without any incidents (tickets or accidents), they should see their insurance rates decrease.


Your marital status. When looking at claims, households with married couples tend to be less likely to file claims than households with single drivers. For example, two single same-sex drivers would pay a higher insurance rate than two married same-sex drivers. So, if you recently married, make sure you notify your insurance company because it will likely save you money.

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