You might think your car insurance provides the coverage you need at the best cost, but that may not be the case. It’s likely things have changed since you first signed up for your policy, and you may be overpaying.

While it’s possible that a large number of drivers are overpaying for their car insurance, this data suggests that the majority of us either aren’t aware or simply don’t care. If you are interested in learning what you could save by switching to a new policy, these 10 factors are what insurers use to determine your rates:

1. How much and what type of coverage you need

You probably have things you’d rather do than shop for car insurance, but industry experts say researching car insurance online is the best way to find a less expensive premium.

Many car insurance shoppers got a quote online, making it a popular way to find a new policy. Shopping for car insurance quotes online lets you compare quotes from a wide range of insurers. How insurers determine your particular risk varies, so using online tools lets you quickly and easily compare their different rates.

Insure.com’s consumer analyst Penny Gusner suggests reassessing your insurance premium at least once a year. However, “each renewal period (every six months) is preferred to make certain that you always have the cheapest insurance premium."

If a citation or crash falls off your driving record, it’s worth your time to research new policies. Major life changes like getting married, moving somewhere new, or adding another driver to your policy are other factors that could reduce your premiums. “These events make you more appealing to more insurers,” says Gusner.

Finding out what your state’s minimum car insurance insurance limits are before you start your research is a good idea. You should also think about your own ideal policy limits. Gusner suggests maintaining at least $100,000 per person, $300,000 per accident for bodily harm liability, and $50,000 for property damage liability. Insurance experts call this 100/300/50 coverage, and it covers the injuries and damage other people sustain if you cause an accident.

Comprehensive and collision insurance is also necessary if you want your car repaired in the event it’s hit by another driver or damaged by vandalism, fire, hitting an animal, or by natural events like flooding. In the event your car is stolen, comprehensive insurance will reimburse you for its value, minus your deductible. In terms of the deductible, which applies to collision and comprehensive claims, “$500 is a common choice, but you can save money if you go with a higher deductible, like $1,000," says Gusner.

2. Type of car

What you drive impacts your insurance premiums. Insurers analyze records for all claims associated with the particular vehicle you drive. If your car is popular with younger or older drivers, you may pay a higher rate. Performance-oriented cars also generally have higher insurance costs. Make sure you have your car’s vehicle identification number (VIN) when you’re applying for new coverage.

3. Age

Your age is a major factor in determining your premiums. Teenagers and the elderly are subject to especially high insurance costs because they are the most prone to risk behind the wheel. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has determined that the fatal crash rate for teen drivers is triple that of drivers over age 20. Meanwhile, fatal crash rates increase from age 75 onwards. These risks are justification for more expensive insurance.

4. Driving record

Insurers look closely at your driving history when determining your rates when you apply for coverage and for renewal. If you have a lot of tickets or accidents on your record, expect higher rates. Never attempt to falsify the facts on your application. If your insurance provider finds out you did, they will likely increase your rates and may go so far as to cancel your coverage.

5. Vehicle use

How and why you use your car affects your premiums. If you drive for commercial purposes, even for something minor like being a part-time ride share driver, you need to disclose this when you apply for coverage. If you don’t, your claim could be denied if you’re in an accident while you’re on the job. If you drive very frequently, or often very late at night, this could also push your premiums higher.

6. Credit score

With the vast majority of insurance providers using credit information as a factor in determining your rates, a low credit score will likely increase your insurance costs. This is because research has shown that drivers with poor credit tend to file higher claims, more frequently. If your credit score is low, the increase could be as high as 50 percent more than a driver with good credit.

7. Marital status

Drivers who are married get fewer tickets and are in less accidents than single drivers. Some insurers reduce the rates of drivers under the age of 25 if they get married. Married drivers also frequently combine their policies, which reduces premiums even further.

8. Licensed drivers

You need to state all licensed drivers living in your household when you apply for coverage, even if they never drive your vehicle. When your child obtains their driver's license, add them to your policy. Failure to do so could lead to a denied claim or cancelled coverage. Generally the exceptions to this are if your grown child or parent lives with you and has their own vehicle.

9. Claims history and prior insurance history

The insurance claims you’ve been involved in previously also impact your rates. It’s not only the ones you’re at fault for – even not-at-fault claims can increase their cost. At-fault claims always result in a surcharge, but comprehensive claims usually don’t. Still, the number of claims you make matter, and multiple claims of any kind in a short period of time will likely lead to a surcharge. This is because it indicates to your insurer that you’re a risky driver, and they may choose to increase your rates for up to three years. You are required to provide proof of insurance every time you apply for a new policy. It’s illegal to drive during a lapse of insurance coverage in most states, and lapses in coverage indicated by your proof of insurance will be concerning to insurance providers.

10. Address

Insurers have a lot of data about the claims activity in the area where you live and park your car. Things like population density and crime rates in your area are factors they take into account when calculating your premiums.

This article is adapted with approval from carinsurance.com: http://www.carinsurance.com/Articles/10-factors-that-affect-your-car-insurance-rates.aspx.

This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as 10 Things That Change Your Car Insurance Rates and was authored by Alex Leanse.


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