You’re in the market for a new car or truck. You know what you’re looking for – and have a good idea of what it will cost you.
But have you explored the price of insuring it?
Often auto insurance is treated as an afterthought in the vehicle-buying process. Once the deal is cut for the vehicle, a call is made to an insurance agent. It’s only then that you learn of the premium costs.
Sometimes it can be an unwelcome surprise. A wide range of factors go into determining insurance pricing for different vehicles. If you don’t do some homework you could be in for some sticker shock.
A better path? Being proactive in understanding how insurance companies establish pricing for insurance premiums. Here are several of the key factors at play:
Vehicle safety ratings are determined through tests and evaluations by the auto industry and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Insurance companies supplement that information by collecting large amounts of data from customer claims. Safer vehicles are often less expensive to insure, and insurers often offer discounts to customers driving safer cars. Meanwhile, some insurers increase premiums for cars that have poor safety records and are more susceptible to damage or occupant injury.
Insurance companies carefully track data on vehicles to determine which makes and models are more prone to mechanical or safety issues.
The longer an insurance company insures a type or model of car, the more data it has to determine fair pricing. If the vehicle has built a solid track record over several years, odds are it will insure at a reasonable rate, and stay stable over time. Conversely, vehicles with poor safety history or those that are a favorite target for thieves will be costlier to insure.
Information about the cars that are cheapest to maintain and service can also be a good indicator of the most-affordable cars to insure. Vehicles that have lower reliability ratings can be a warning light of potentially higher insurance costs, because insurance companies takes the data about maintenance and service of specific models into consideration when determining premium rates.
Your track record on the road can have a direct impact on your wallet when it comes to insurance. Insurance companies have found that past performance often does foretell future results. If you’ve had speeding tickets or accidents, or other violations within the last few years, your auto insurance rate may be higher than if you have a spotless driving record.
Are you a road warrior, or a homebody? The difference will show up in your premium rates. Someone who drives only a few miles a week will likely pay less for auto insurance than someone who covers hundreds of miles most weeks. It just makes sense, the more time on the road increases the chances of being involved in a crash or sustaining damage to your car.
You may think smaller car, smaller insurance premium. But not so fast. In an accident, larger vehicles tend to fare better – and keep occupants safer – than smaller vehicles. That can translate to lower premiums for a larger vehicle.
If your car has an alarm, a tracking device to help police recover it, or another theft deterrent, it's less attractive to thieves, and less expensive to insure, too.
Research has shown that good credit is connected to good driving – and vice versa. Certain credit information can be predictive of future insurance claims. When permissible, many insurance companies use credit history to help determine the cost of car insurance. The bottom line: Good credit can have a positive impact on the cost of your car insurance.
Crash rates are higher for all drivers under age 25, especially single males. Insurance prices in most states reflect these differences. If you're a student, you might also be in line for a discount. Most car insurers provide discounts to student-drivers who take driver-safety training and start building a safe driving record.
Generally, due to higher rates of vandalism, theft, and crashes, urban drivers pay more for car insurance than do those in small towns or rural areas. You likely can’t easily change where you live, but if you do live in a high insurance area make sure to pay close attention to the other factors that you can control.
It’s no fun getting an unexpected surprise about insurance costs after you have settled on the car or truck of your dreams. By doing some homework upfront about potential auto insurance rates, you can make an informed decision to make sure you have the right car at the right price of owning it.