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Factors influencing auto insurance rates

Insurance companies and industry groups are saying the recall of more than 8 million Toyota cars and trucks shouldn't have an impact on insurance rates. The price of auto insurance is determined by many factors, and isn't limited to just the model you drive, the cost to fix it and its overall safety record.
The Insurance Information Institute, a trade group for the insurance industry, said the average driver pays about $850 a year in insurance. Your bill can be influenced by several factors:
The more accidents and serious traffic violations you have, the more you'll pay. You may also pay more if you haven't been insured for a number of years.
The more miles you drive, the more chance for accidents, the more you'll pay. If you drive less than 10,000 miles a year, you will pay less. Some companies will give discounts to policyholders who carpool.
Insurance companies look at local trends, such as the number of accidents, car thefts and lawsuits, as well as the cost of medical care and car repair.
Mature drivers generally have fewer accidents than less experienced drivers, particularly teenagers. So insurers usually charge more if teenagers or young people below age 25 drive your car.
Cars that cost more, have high theft rates, cost more to repair or have poor safety records cost more to insure.
Some insurance companies use credit scores as a factor in insurance rates. Credit-based insurance scores are based on information like payment history, bankruptcies, collections, outstanding debt and length of credit history. Regular, on-time credit card and mortgage payments affect a score positively, while late payments affect a score negatively.
The larger your policy, the more you'll pay. However, you may qualify for discounts. Some insurance companies offer discounts if you have your homeowners and auto insurance policies with them, for example.


States with Highest Car Insurance Prices

For most drivers, the all-time most resented vehicle expense is not gas, oil changes or even those triple-digit transmission repairs, but auto insurance.

Every six months to a year, drivers voluntarily or, in some states are required to, play Premium Poker: the high-stakes game in which you bet your driving fortunes against the car insurance companies, all of which have better hands than you do.

Even in these days of almost universal nationwide mandatory coverage, about 15 percent of motorists drive uninsured, according to Insurance Research Council estimates. "The problem of uninsured motorists persists," said Elizabeth A. Sprinkel, IRC senior vice resident. "Responsible drivers who purchase insurance end up paying for injuries caused by uninsured drivers."

Other unofficial estimates of uninsured drivers, which include illegal aliens, the underage, elderly, medically unfit and disqualified individuals who are driving, put the total at a much higher level than the quoted 15 percent. An even more frightening recent GMAC study found that one in six licensed drivers currently on the road are unfit to drive. It is estimated that 600,000 drivers in New Jersey alone are hitting the roads without car insurance. However, they (the car insurance agencies) know that sooner or later the odds catch up with nearly everyone, and your chances of making it through your driving years without a major automotive incident are outstandingly rare. Last year there were there were 5,930,182 police-reported motor vehicle traffic crashes, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, resulting in an average of one fatality every 12 minutes (every 31 minutes in alcohol-related crashes), an injury every 12 seconds, and 4,181,000 cases of property damage.

Even more sobering, is the U.S. Department of Transportation's estimate that an additional 10,000,000 crashes go unreported, many because the drivers have no car insurance and just as many because the drivers are trying to avoid a possible increase in their car insurance prices due to the accident.

So what makes up the cost of your car insurance prices? There are four basic standards:

•Who you are: age, occupation, marital status, geographic location, medical condition.
•What you drive: SUV, sports car, minivan, luxury sedan, high performance model, truck.
•How you drive: tickets, DUIs, accidents, high mileage.
•Where you drive: high crime and crowded urban areas, suburban town, rural and wide open spaces.

There are multiple other factors punched into the cost calculator: is your vehicle financed so the cost can be recovered if totaled; what safety equipment does it have (side impact airbags and curtain airbags are much better); driver education courses taken; history of illnesses which could affect driving safety and that occupational information which shows some drivers (like professors and engineers have) as a sub-culture with much better driving records than, let's say, young, blonde celebrities and aging movie stars.

There can also be a credit check and another verification to see if you are one of the 36 million licensed Americans who have been judged unfit to drive in a study by GMAC, the 2007 Insurance National Drivers Test. That probe found that one in six current drivers could not pass a written DMV exam if taken today. The worst odds of running into one, or perhaps one of them running into you, are on the East Coast, while your chances of fewer encounters would be among the best-educated drivers in Idaho and Oregon.

With all of those factors stacked against your chances of continuing to drive without incident or accident, there are things you can do to lower your car insurance prices, like not driving drunk and giving up street-model NASCARs. Then again, there are those you can't control, like where you drive.

Of course if you decide to move in order to lower auto insurance costs, here are some actual numbers to juggle:

The national average annual outlay for liability coverage alone was projected to be $847 for 2007, according to the Insurance Information Institute. The estimate was based on combined stats of the institute and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, an organization which assists state regulators. It does not include collision or comprehensive coverage.

Car insurance figures like those can be misleading. For example, consider the highway robbery for drivers in major urban areas. According to Insurance.com, drivers in Detroit, Philadelphia, Newark, New York and Los Angeles were paying, from $5,984 to $3,303 a year, in that order as of February 2006, for $100/300/50* liability, $500 deductible each for collision and comprehensive and $100/300* for uninsured. These multi-thousand-dollar car insurance prices are due, to higher density of traffic, increased likelihood of theft or vandalism and greater incidence of fraudulent claims, according to insurers.

The good news about auto insurance costs is that despite the increasing costs of medical care and vehicle repair plus cumulative weather-related damage such as the Katrina disaster, car insurance experts have anticipated a drop in rates. The Insurance Information Institute forecast a drop of 0.5 percent in 2007, once again, for liability coverage alone. That would be the first decrease since 1999.

Making state-by state comparisons is trickier, however, as the official Insurance Information Institute premium charts are only as recent as 2004; the highest car insurance price for that year was $1,221.08 in New Jersey, the lowest, $579.95 in Iowa.

Below are the most up-to-date state figures from the Mid-Year Auto Insurance Pricing Report by Insurance.com. It's based on car insurance quotes given to consumers by participating auto insurance companies in the 47 states where Insurance.com operates, plus the aggregate profile of consumers who shop using their Web site.

The cost of getting caught driving without auto insurance can vary from state to state, depending on the percentage of drivers who are uninsured in that state. In Massachusetts, residents can be charged anywhere from $500 to $5,000 in fines and receive a one-year jail sentence. In Florida, Louisiana, Connecticut and New Jersey, drivers operating a vehicle without the state required minimum will have their vehicles impounded, which can cost thousands depending on how long it takes to recover the vehicle.

Finally, even though there remain two states –New Hampshire and Wisconsin -- which do not require motorists to carry liability insurance, all 50 have some auto insurance requirement about. In many states, motorists can't register a car without showing proof of liability insurance. In others, they don't ask for proof of car insurance until drivers have accidents or tickets on their records.


Auto Insurance Rates in 2010, Will They Go Up Again?

Don't think that just because you've been a long term, loyal client that you'll be protected from rising pa auto insurance rates in 2010. The indicators show many companies are scrambling to cover their losses by jacking up the rates again. If you're anything like the rest of us it may just be the last rate increase that gets passed off to another loyal client.

The days of clients sitting back and absorbing rate increases are coming to an end...well at least a major slowdown. There was a time that pa auto insurance companies could just raise the rates and we all took it in stride. Or at the least, our agent explained away the inflation, cost of repairs, etc and we drank the Kool-aid like a kid on a hot summer day. The days of following blindly as our agents lead the way are beginning to get old.

Pennsylvania auto insurance rates took a dip during the last five years as the heat of a soft market got some competitors fighting for new business. Unfortunately, the price for grabbing "market share" at artificially low prices almost always comes back to bite the insurance company. Many of the largest companies in the industry got caught up in the race to grab more new business. Other, more traditional companies stayed conservative and kept rates at a level that would not damage their financial status if investments went "south". Guess what...investments did go south and they've pretty much stayed there. This bad news effectively killed the idea of taking "investment income" and using it to offset huge losses from underpricing the product. What's this all mean to you and I...you guessed it... higher rates are coming soon.

Now you need to get your shopping list ready so you can find the company who can bail you out of this mess. Certainly you'll be online doing some price comparisons but do you really want to take advice from a computer? Is your online advisor a six month veteran of the insurance business? These are only a few items that would concern me if I were doing some shopping online. Get your current policy out and be sure that you are comparing "apples to apples" when you get a pa auto insurance quote. Now you've got to sort through the "paid advertisers" and find a provider who is ranked high on their own merit. Once you've located a reliable source who is a proven expert in Pennsylvania auto insurance you can get down to business.

It's very important to remember that many Pennsylvania auto insurance companies use different methods of determining auto insurance rates. Some companies are using a model that puts a huge emphasis on your credit rating, of course that can be good or that can be bad..depending on your circumstances. Other carriers put an emphasis on open accounts in conjunction with other scoring methods. These alone are very good reasons you should be checking with agents/sources that represent more than one insurance company. This way you can ensure that you have someone who is looking out for you and knows they need to remain competitive in order to earn your trust.