Thursday, June 9, 2011

Things that can affect your auto insurance rates

A new survey says that more than half of Americans have recently made an economic-driven change that may affect how much they pay for car insurance.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners survey found that:
  • nearly 40 percent of respondents were driving less or taking public transportation more
  • nearly 20 percent traded in a vehicle for a lower-priced model or got rid of a second vehicle entirely
  • and almost 20 percent of drivers reduced or canceled their car insurance to save money -- something we do not recommend. You'll almost certainly pay more to get coverage later, and if you continue to drive without coverage, you expose yourself to potentially devastating financial liability.
(Bonus round: Here's a long list of NAIC tips for lowering your auto insurance premiums.)

Here are some of the changes that can affect how much you pay for insurance:
  • You moved: A change in zip code may affect your premium, depending on crime statistics in the area.
  • You changed cars: A lower-value car, not surprisingly, is usually cheaper to insure. If you're car's paid off and not worth much, you might consider saving money by raising your deductible or canceling your collision coverage. But keep your liability coverage.
  • A new job, or no job: These can affect whether you commute, and how far.
  • Driving less: Almost 40 percent of consumers said they're driving less. Many are walking or taking public transportation more often. If this sounds like you, you should talk to your insurer and see if you qualify for a low-mileage discount.
  • Bad credit score: The weak economy, layoffs and the collapse of the housing market have left many people with battered credit. Most states, including Washington, allow insurers to use your credit information to decide how much to charge you. (Here in Washington, we have successfully fought to limit this practice, but have not yet been able to convince lawmakers to ban it entirely.)
Also, if you're struggling to find coverage here in Washington, we maintain an online list of companies offering policies for hard-to-insure drivers.