Women on the road, thumbs up
Are clean driving records enough? Not always.

When every individual goes to purchase automobile insurance, the general concession is that there are certain factors in an individual’s history that will factor into a policy rate. An insurance company must know certain facts about a policy holder’s history to best insure itself against damages and make sure the customer is getting adequate coverage. But when that quote is placed in front of a potential customer there are also other, not so obvious components that may have helped determine that individual’s price.

The Standard Determining Factors For Auto Insurance Rates

Certain aspects of a driver’s personal history and vehicle are inherent to the insurance process. The most obvious being the driving record. The worse a record, the higher the insurance premiums. Depending on the type of car being driven, where it’s located, and the purpose of the vehicle, premiums can be higher or lower. Age and gender are taken into consideration. These are some of the main examples and are based on collected data. For example, in a study conducted by John Hopkins School of Public Health, even though it revealed that overall, men get into less crashes than women, they are three times more likely to die in an accident. These are things insurance companies study.

How Is This Information Gathered?

Most of this information is provided to the insurance company by the individual when he or she applies for insurance. It is an understanding on the consumers’ part that these kinds of facts will aid in finding the best coverage. Other things such as someone’s driving record and credit history can be gathered with the right authorization. Since an insurance company is assuming the liability of insuring the potential customer, they are granted this authorization.

How Do Standard Factors Affect Rates?

We saw above how, based on statistics, insurance companies are able to sometime charge men higher premiums than women. This does not mean that a woman with multiple violations pays less than a man with a clean driving record. It is important to remember that insurance companies look at coverage based on individual circumstances. Standard factors such the type of car one drives can affect rates. If a car is more expensive, damages are costlier to fix, raising your premiums. At the same time, certain safety features can sometimes lower premiums. City drivers can pay higher premiums due to the increased risk of accidents, theft, and vandalism. When looking for insurance, consider personal circumstances.

What Kind of Non-Driving Factors Are Being Used?

The lists above seem reasonable when accounting for vehicle insurance but other, non-driving factors can also come into play. Things such as marital status, education level, occupation, home ownership, and gaps in coverage may be used when figuring rates. According to an article in The New York Times, one consumer group is advocating that state insurance commissioners “restrict insurers’

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ability to use those factors.”

Why Is This Information Relevant to Auto Insurance?

It’s understandable that a woman with a clean driving record located in rural area will pay less premiums than a man in the

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city with multiple dings on his record but the consumer group is arguing that it shouldn’t matter if one is single and the other married. There are some in the insurance industry that disagree. The New York Times article quoted Alex Hageli, personal lines director for Property Casualty Insurers Association of America as saying that data such as “consumers’ age, marital status, place of residence and occupation to be among the best predictors of future loss.” He went on to mention that these are combined with the standard determining factors, “to ensure that low-risk consumers can be better identified and pay less for insurance.”

The Argument From Both Sides

The Consumer Federation of America argues that using factors such as these, especially education level, occupation and home ownership is a discriminatory practice against low to moderate income individuals. In this same report, the Consumer Federation of America polled just over 1,000 American adults to find out if they thought non-driving factors should be considered when someone was seeking automobile insurance coverage. Sixty seven percent of those polled believed that varying non-driving factors should not be used and were not fair for determining rates. On the other hand, the CFA exercised its freedom to shop around for different policies when manipulating non-driving factors with a consistent driving record. William Rijksen, speaking for the American Insurance Association, recently responded to the Consumer Federation of America’s findings, saying that, “Generally speaking, the more consumers know about these helpful tools, the more receptive they are to them given their broad overall benefit. As the study’s own date points out, auto insurance remains a very competitive market and consumers are well-advised to shop around to find the coverage that best meets their individual needs.” For now, when shopping for insurance coverage, be aware that a multitude of aspects are being considered and look for the best policy that suits your lifestyle and budget. Insurance is a necessity.