How Are Car Insurance Rates Determined?
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UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020
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Insurance companies don’t see us the way we see ourselves. They see us as a calculated “risk” with a mathematical chance of being profitable for them.
Think of it this way. Imagine if your friends and family all asked if you would give them a loan. Now assuming you have a limited amount of money, how would you decide who to lend to?
Whether you realize it or not, you’ve probably already started the task of risk assessment to determine who is least likely to cause problems and put your money at risk.
You’re likely ranking them from best to worst in odds of repayment. And you’re probably trying to recall everything you can about their past performance, with regard to finances and responsibility, to ensure you don’t “make a bet” that won’t pay off.
To take it one step further, if you had to lend money to all of them, would you charge more interest to your younger, irresponsible cousin than you would your older aunt with a perfect credit score?
Congratulations! Now you’re thinking like the insurance companies.
It’s Complicated…and Simple
- Insurance companies perform a risk assessment
- To determine how much to charge for car insurance coverage
- They rely on a variety of data and numerous reports
- To come up with a premium based on the likelihood of you filing a claim
Insurance companies perform the same assessment of us when deciding how much to charge for car insurance coverage.
They use every bit of available data compiled over several years in order to predict the statistical frequency with which people in your “group” file insurance claims, while determining the average amount of claims payments made to “people like you.” Then, of course, they charge accordingly.
While it typically takes an advanced degree in mathematics to be one of the chosen ones who calculates rates for insurance companies, a Rocket Science degree is not necessary to determine that 50,000 newly licensed teenagers will cost an insurance company more money in claims payments than 50,000 35-year old married women. We should all be able to agree on that!
It’s All About the Rating Factors
- Car insurance companies use rating factors
- Which include aspects of you the driver and attributes of the vehicle
- Then once you choose your desired coverage
- They can compute an appropriate auto insurance premium
Insurance companies use rating factors to determine how much to charge you for coverage. Rating factors are individually specific bits of data about each driver, vehicle, and requested coverage that are easily measured and easy to translate into an overall insurance premium.
Of course, you’re not here to read the mind-numbing details of the mathematical algorithms used by insurers to arrive at a premium.
So we’ll just give you the basic pieces of the rating puzzle to demonstrate how insurers decide how much of your budget will go toward your car insurance premium.
What Car Insurance Companies Consider When Pricing Your Premium
- Your age is a very important driver of car insurance rates
- As is the vehicle itself, including how you intend to use it
- Your driving history is also key, as is your location and gender
- The coverage you pick can also greatly affect your premium price, with choices like deductible amount playing a big role
Below is a summary of the rating factors car insurance companies use to determine how much they charge:
Your Age – Generally, the younger the driver, the higher the rate. As we age, we of course gain more experience behind the wheel and experience fewer accidents.
How You Use Your Vehicle – You may use your car for business every day, which is generally more expensive, or perhaps you only drive for pleasure, which means you probably drive it less than a car used for business.
Most of us simply use our cars to drive to work, which is usually rated somewhere between pleasure use and business use.
The amount of miles you intend to put on the vehicle each year also matters, as more time behind the wheel means more opportunity to get into an accident.
Your Insurance Score – Similar to your credit score, your insurance score is a statistically proven indicator of your probability of filing a claim – and costing your insurer money.
Your Gender – Women typically have less auto accidents than men, so their rates are usually lower. Yes, car insurance is nearly 10 percent cheaper for women. It’s always a good idea to be in the “group” that generally costs insurers less money in the form of paid claims.
Where You Live – Normally, this is referred to as the “garaging address.” Basically, wherever you live and park your car at night. Because there are more cars in densely populated areas, the probability of getting into an accident is higher, so city rates tend to be higher.
Are You Married? – This rating factor is geared toward males. Unmarried males, when younger, tend to get in more accidents than married males, so unmarried males have to pay more for their auto insurance.
Your Chosen Liability Limits – The higher your liability limits, meaning the more money the insurance company would have to pay if you are found liable (at fault) for an accident, the more they are inclined to charge you. This should not deter you from choosing high limits, as higher limits provide more protection.
Your Driving Record – There are two reports typically used to determine your driving record. A motor vehicle record, or MVR, and a C.L.U.E. report. The MVR tracks automobile claims, and the C.L.U.E. report tracks claims you have made for any type of insurance. Of course, the more accidents and tickets found on your record, the higher your insurance rate.
The Type of Vehicle You Drive – Without getting into too much detail, more expensive cars call for higher insurance rates. However, it is important to note that this is only the case if you request physical damage coverage. If you do not request this coverage, the insurance company is not responsible for repairing or replacing your car in the event of an accident.
Your Chosen Deductible – The higher the deductible you choose, the lower your insurance rate. But if you get into an accident and need repairs, you’ll be paying a larger chunk of the costs.
Ultimately, if you choose a higher deductible, it means you’re more willing to self-insure your vehicle. Insurers like higher deductibles because it means you have more skin in the game.
Tip: There are multiple discounts available to you to assist in lowering your car insurance rates.