A funny thing happened last spring when the coronavirus pandemic precipitated shutdowns across the country: With so many fewer people driving to work, there were fewer car accidents. In some states, the number of accidents dropped by as much as half, according to a recent analysis by the Consumer Federation of America, which was significant enough for insurance companies to start refunding their customers' premiums.
Overall, auto insurance rates fell 4% from 2019 to 2020, according to insurance comparison site The Zebra. That drop is an anomaly. Rates have increased almost 25% in the last decade, according to the same analysis, and the company predicts they will continue rising in the future.
The average annual car insurance premium in the U.S. this year is $1,483, according to The Zebra, but the range among states varies widely, from a low of $926 in Ohio to a high of $2,535 in Michigan.
Location is the biggest factor that will determine the cost of your car insurance premium, but a myriad of other factors can affect the price of your policy, including your age, your driving record, your credit score, and even your gender. Nationwide, women pay slightly more than men, according to The Zebra's analysis.
The Zebra analyzed more than 83 million car insurance rates between September and December 2020 and used a consistent driver profile for its analysis: a 30-year-old single male in a 2016 Honda Accord with good driving history and full coverage.
Video by Stephen Parkhurst
Whether you're indeed driving less because of the pandemic or you just want to take advantage of residual 2020 discounts, these tips might lower your premium the next time you renew your car insurance policy.
- Ask your insurer about discounts. When insurers first started doling out rebates in the spring, many of them did it automatically, meaning that policy holders didn't need to do anything. But 1 year later, that might have changed. Call to find out what discounts you might be eligible for.
- Consider changing your coverage options. Ask about switching to a "pay-per-mile" or "usage-based" policy, under which drivers pay more based on their mileage than they do under traditional plans. If you're still driving a lot less than you were before the pandemic — because you no longer commute to work or you just don't go out as much — you could save big. Drivers who clocked 20,000 miles a year paid 6% more for insurance than those who drove 7,500 miles, according to recent figures from WalletHub.
- Shop around. Experts say you should shop around for auto insurance annually. That's a good financial to-do to tackle while you're home: Drivers who reshopped their policies saved more than $400, according to a 2017 NerdWallet analysis.
- Park inside. Speaking of being home, did you recently clean out your garage? Parking your car inside lowers the risk that it could be damaged or stolen, and as a result could make it cheaper to insure.
Even if you're not using your car, don't cancel your policy — that coverage gap could end up costing you more down the road. Insurers take "continuous coverage" into account when setting rates, Nicole Beck, a licensed insurance agent and director of communications at The Zebra, told Grow last year.
"It's tempting to cancel your coverage right now," Beck said, "but you'll see a 7%-12% increase in price" when you go to reinstate your policy.
This story has been updated to clarify a data source.
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