You pay one amount for car insurance, your spouse pays another, and your neighbor pays still another amount. What gives? Most insurance companies look at a number of key factors to calculate how much you'll end up paying for your car insurance.
Taking a closer look at seven of these factors that affect your car insurance premiums can clear things up — and some of them also come with bonus suggestions for keeping the costs down.
Your policy and deductibles
It's a given that you will choose your car insurance deductible and decide whether to add additional coverage that isn't necessarily required by the laws in your state. The specifics of your policy and deductibles play a major role in your monthly payment.
Generally, choosing a higher deductible means a lower monthly payment; choosing a lower deductible means a higher monthly payment. Additional coverage gives you added insurance protection, depending on the claim, but will also add to your monthly costs.
Also, consider that many insurers will offer discounts if you use them for multiple products, such as auto and home insurance.
What you drive
Car insurance providers often develop vehicle safety ratings by collecting a large amount of data from customer claims and analyzing industry safety reports, and they offer discounts to customers who drive safer vehicles.
The opposite can apply for dangerous, flashy rides. Some insurers increase premiums for cars more susceptible to damage, occupant injury, or theft, and they lower rates for those that fare better than the norm on those measures.
Driving vehicles that rate highly in terms of driver protection and passenger protection, like recent model year Toyota 4Runners, mean discounts on insurance. And while two-door Honda Civics are one of the country's most popular vehicles, their lower-than-average safety ratings and desirability to car thieves make them more expensive to insure.
So before you head down to the dealership, do some research. Does the vehicle that has caught your eye have strong safety ratings? Is this specific model often stolen? Knowing the answers to a few simple questions can go a long way in keeping your rates low.
How often, and how far, you drive
People who use their car for business and long-distance commuting normally pay more than those who drive less. The more miles you drive in a year, the higher the chances of a crash - regardless of how safe a driver you are.
Consider joining a car or van pool, riding your bike, or taking public transportation to work. If you reduce your total annual driving mileage enough, you may lower your premiums.
Also, you can take a look at our Driving Tips for Saving Gas article for more ideas of how to cut down on your driving costs.
Where you live
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.
Your driving record
Drivers who cause crashes generally must pay more than those who have gone crash-free for several years.
If you've been crash-free for a long period of time, don't get complacent. Remain vigilant and maintain your good driving habits.
And even though you can't rewrite your driving history, having a crash on your record can be an important reminder always to drive with caution and care. As time goes on, the effect of past crashes on your premiums will decrease.
Your credit history
It has been shown certain credit information can be predictive of future insurance claims. Where applicable, many insurance companies use credit history to help determine the cost of car insurance. Maintaining good credit can have a positive impact on the cost of your car insurance.
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 maintain good grades.
Speaking of discounts
In some states, younger drivers are also able to take driver safety courses that will lower premiums. Overall, it doesn't hurt — and might very well help — to ask about discounts. State Farm offers Steer Clear® program for teenagers and Drive Safe & Save™. Other typical discounts include those for good students, insuring multiple vehicles, crash-free driving, and more.
Note: Car insurance premiums are determined based on state-approved rating factors.