• Car Sense

What Determines the Price of My Auto Insurance?

by Scott Westcott on

upset woman looks at bill while talking on phone

Maybe you’ve been there before. Something changed in your life – you bought a new car, moved into a new neighborhood or started a new job…then, one day, you notice what you pay for auto insurance changes. Why does that happen?

Ultimately, what ends up on your insurance bill depends largely on both what you drive and how you drive… as well as other things related to your overall life. While every insurer handles things a little differently, here are the most common things that affect the price of your auto premium.

Key factors related to what you drive:

Safety ratings
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. Meanwhile, some insurers increase premiums for cars that have poor safety records and are more susceptible to damage or occupant injury.

Related: These 15 cars earned the highest safety rating in 2018


Newer model or popular favorite?
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, a short track record, or those that are a favorite target for thieves will be costlier to insure.

Related: The one insurance add-on every new car needs

Cost of maintenance and repairs
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 take the data about maintenance and service of specific models into consideration when determining premium rates.

Size matters
You may think a smaller car means a 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.

Anti-theft devices
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.

Related: My car was broken into. What do I do now?

Key factors related to how you drive:

As we mentioned, it’s not just about the car, but also the driver. Here are some key ways how you drive can factor into insurance pricing.

Your driving history
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.

Related: Are you eligible for these 7 auto insurance discounts?

How much you drive
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.

Related: How to keep your high-mileage car running

Other factors to consider:

Your credit history
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.

Related: 6 reasons you’ll love having an insurance agent

Your age, sex, and marital status
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.

Related: Answers to common questions about insuring teen drivers

Where you live
One key factor that goes into insurance pricing is largely out of your control – at least in the short-term. That’s where you live. Generally, due to higher rates of vandalism, theft, and crashes, drivers in more densely populated areas may pay more for car insurance. If you do live in a higher cost insurance area, make sure to pay close attention to the other factors that you can control. An ERIE agent can help.

Doing your homework makes a difference
It’s no fun getting an unexpected surprise about insurance costs. By doing some homework upfront about potential auto insurance rates, you can make informed decisions and better understand why your rates go up or down.

Better yet? You don’t have to do it alone.

Erie Insurance agents are here to help you understand and navigate all the variables that impact your rates. Find a local ERIE agent in your neighborhood to understand what coverage you’re buying, why it matters and how it works.

What you drive and how you drive play a key role in determining auto insurance rates. /blog/what-determines-price-auto-insurance Erie Insurance Popular In Blog woman looks upset at sink full of dishes

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