Paying too much for auto insurance? Here’s why


Are you paying too much for auto insurance? It may feel that, based on your accident history or driving record, what you’re being charged isn’t fair. Well, it turns out you might be right.

A new report from the Consumer Federation of America shows that your income has a much bigger impact on your auto insurance rates than you might think, especially compared to other factors like your accident history and experience. Even with a perfect driving record, you could be paying more for your auto insurance premiums  than someone with a higher income.

Here are four things you should know about if you want to get the best rate possible.

1. A lower income often means higher rates.

The CFA’s study found that, a majority of the time, a moderate- or low-income driver with a perfect record will pay more for basic liability auto insurance than a high-income driver with recent marks – like a crash or  speeding ticket – on their record. The results come from the nation’s top five auto insurers,  – Progressive, Geico, Allstate, Farmers and State Farm  in 10 cities across the United States. This is worrying, since 49 of the 50 states (New Hampshire is the lone holdout) require drivers to purchase auto insurance. It seems that the less money you earn, the more you’ll have to pay for this required expense.

2. Your driving record carries less weight.

Particularly troubling is the detail in the study regarding driving records. According to the report, good drivers with moderate income would pay more than high-income drivers with a DUI in the past year 70 percent of the time. In fact, they’d pay more than a high-income driver who had a speeding violation AND caused an accident in the past year. Based on these stats, the Consumer Federation of America believes insurers are more interested in your income than how safe you are behind the wheel.

3. Different insurers offer different rates.

Of the five insurers included in the research, Geico and Progressive had the worst records, offering higher premiums to lower-income, safer drivers more than three-quarters of the time. State Farm, however, did so far less often. The driver details were the same, including the driver’s address, age, driving experience and type of car, with the only difference being their level of education, job title, income and how recently they had insurance coverage. And while some insurers did better, lower-income drivers lost out most of the time.

4. At least one state is getting it right!

The CFA study points out that in California, a state with strong consumer-friendly laws currently in place, these worrisome trends disappeared. Los Angeles was the only city where the better driver was offered a lower price 100 percent of the time, demonstrating that consumers can be protected from these practices without the whole industry drying up.

Here’s what you can do:

Aside from your state’s insurance regulators stepping in and changing the rules, your best option as a driver is to shop around. However, the CFA found that top insurers may not even offer lower-income drivers a quote, making it more difficult for them to find affordable coverage. The study’s authors still recommend that you shop around if you’ve got a good driving record but feel your premiums are too high–and not just at the other top five insurers–to find a better deal for your budget.

Just remember, price isn’t everything. You still need a good insurance company that has a long track history of great customer support and is financially viable.

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About Ilyce Glink

Author of 13 books, including the bestselling 100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask. Writer of the nationally syndicated column, “Real Estate Matters.” Top-rated radio host in Atlanta. Writer for CBS Managing editor of the Equifax Personal Finance Blog.
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