Shouldn't it be all about how you drive, where you live, and where you drive, that determines what your insurance rates will be?
Unfortunately, many insurance companies want to know your credit rating too. They think that's a predictive factor in what's likely to happen in the future. And now, a study from the Consumer Federation of America says your education leve or lack of a college education might work against you, and your job could work against you too... no matter how safely you drive!
The Consumer Federation of America blasted insurance companies that use education and occupation to set rates for auto coverage, calling it an “unfair and discriminatory” way to price their policies.
Based on its analysis of the country’s top 10 insurance companies, CFA found price quotes that were as much as 40 percent higher for drivers with less education and lower-job status.
“Lower - and moderate-income people should not be required to pay more, based on factors like education and occupation that have nothing at all to do with driving risk,” said J. Robert Hunter, CFA’s director of insurance. “These higher premiums are an important reason why many low and moderate income Americans drive uninsured.”
Insurance expert Herb Weisbaum reported that CFA went online to get price quotes for two hypothetical customers: a factory worker with a high school diploma and a plant supervisor with a college degree.
Both were the same in every other way: a 30-year old single woman who rents in a moderate-income neighborhood, drives a 2003 Honda Civic, had no accidents or moving violations in the last 10 years and who went without insurance coverage for the past 15 days.
The price-shopping took place in May and June with attempts to get quotes from the 10 largest insurance companies for the minimum required liability coverage in 10 major urban areas: Atlanta, Louisville, Chicago, Houston, Denver, Phoenix, Oakland, Seattle, Baltimore and Hartford.
CFA found that five of the companies – American Family, Farmers, GEICO, Liberty Mutual and Progressive – apparently consider education and occupation when setting rates:
•The GEICO quote for the factory worker with only a high school education was significantly higher than the plant supervisor with a college degree: 45 percent more per year in Seattle ($870 vs. $599), 40% percent more in Hartford ($1,299 vs. $926), 33 percent more in Oakland ($922 vs. $693), 23 percent more in Louisville ($2,200 vs. $1,791), 21 percent more in Chicago ($1,013 vs. $840), and 20 percent more in Baltimore ($1,971 vs. $1,647).
•Progressive also quoted higher annual premiums for the factory worker: 33 percent more in Baltimore ($1,818 vs. $1,362), 14 percent more in Houston ($1,406 vs. $1,236), 9 percent more in Louisville ($2,390 vs. $2,185), 9 percent more in Denver ($995 vs. $911) and 8 percent more in Oakland ($736 vs. $684).
•Liberty Mutual’s website would not even provide a rate quote for a high school graduate in five cities – Atlanta, Louisville, Chicago, Denver, and Seattle – but it would give a quote for a college graduate.
“Auto insurers charge high premiums for minimal coverage to most working people, even those with perfect driving records,” said Stephen Brobeck, CFA’s executive director. “Many lower-income workers are faced with the choice of paying these high, and often unaffordable rates, or breaking the law by driving without insurance.”
CFA estimates that one-quarter to one-third of drivers with household incomes of less than $36,000 are uninsured.
GEICO would not comment on the report, referring us to the Insurance Information Institute, an industry trade group. Liberty Mutual did not respond to a request for comment. Progressive e-mailed a statement.
“We work to price each driver’s policy as accurately as possible using multiple rating factors, which sometimes include non-driving factors that have been proven to be predictive of a person’s likelihood of being involved in a crash,” Progressive spokesman Jeff Sibel said.
If you think your driving record is a good one and that your insurance company is charging you too much, maybe it's time to let them know you're aware of this study. Maybe it's time to shop around!