Fewer Auto-Insurance Claims In 2010, Yet Premiums Are Rising

December 27, 2010
After average auto-insurance premiums for U.S. families have fallen for five straight years through 2009, they're back on the rise.

Premiums were up slightly in some parts of the country in 2010, and that goes against a host of indicators that you think would actually be lowering them. According to the New York Times, there's been little growth in how much we drive; unemployed drivers are using their cars less than before (likely less than they're still paying for in their premiums); and there's been a drop in the frequency of accidents. And while medical-care costs and car-repair expenses have risen, tort reform has limited the amount of accident-related legal expenses.

So why are premiums climbing?

One of them is a rise in the number of uninsured drivers. As some become unemployed, they've stopped paying their premiums but haven't stopped driving. According to one source, CNW Research, the percentage of uninsured drivers went from 17.4 percent in 2008 to 18.1 percent in 2009.

And at a time when more insurers are using credit scores to assess risk, unemployment and late bills might be hitting some families doubly.

However there might be an increasing number of programs, such as Progressive's Snapshot program, that allow you to trade a little privacy for a discount—if the insurer can verify that you're low-risk.

On a state-by-state basis, per-vehicle auto-insurance expenses, as a percentage of median income, are highest in Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, West Virginia, and New York, with the District of Columbia at the top of the list. The states with the lowest percentage of median income spent on auto insurance (per vehicle) include North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, and Wisconsin.

[New York Times]

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