Car insurance rates are on the rise. The cost of car insurance rose over 15% in the first half of 2023 compared to the year prior, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And more than half of Americans said they’ve noticed an increase in their own car insurance rate in the past year, according to a recent NerdWallet survey. If you’re like them, you’re probably wondering: “Why is my car insurance so high?”
Unfortunately, there’s no single answer. Many factors influence the price you pay for auto insurance. Some might seem obvious, like having a recent speeding ticket on record. But others may be less apparent, like your marital status or ZIP code.
Here’s an example of how insurance rates can change. The dark green bar in the chart below shows the average yearly rate for a 35-year-old driver with no recent traffic violations and good credit. The light green bars demonstrate how average rates rise after getting a DUI, causing an accident and more.
There are five main reasons your car insurance might be expensive:
Why your car insurance is so high
These are the five most likely reasons your car insurance rate might be high right now, along with some tips on what you can do to lower your bill. (Some states ban the use of one or more of these factors in insurance pricing, so they may not all apply where you live.)
1. Your personal characteristics
Young, inexperienced drivers are more likely than older drivers to get in a fatal accident. As a result, insurance companies generally charge higher rates for drivers in their 20s, according to NerdWallet’s most recent rate analysis.
In most states, insurers can charge different rates for male and female drivers. This often means young men are charged higher rates than young women. The price gap between men and women decreases dramatically by age 30, although it never disappears entirely. A handful of states — including California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, North Carolina and Pennsylvania — don’t allow insurers to differentiate by gender.
A note on the term “gender”
Most large auto insurance companies have lower rates for married drivers than for those who are single, separated, divorced or widowed.
Drivers with college degrees generally pay less for car insurance. Insurers say highly educated people tend to file fewer claims. However, using education levels in setting prices has come under fire in recent years, and some states are moving away from allowing this practice.
Location is one of the primary factors affecting your car insurance rates. Average premiums vary dramatically by state because each state has different regulations. Rates also vary significantly by ZIP code and neighborhood. For instance, rural drivers pay less than those in cities, where vandalism, theft and crashes are more common.
Drivers with certain occupations pay higher rates because they’re more likely than others to file insurance claims, according to some insurers. But consumer advocates have challenged the use of occupation in setting car insurance rates. Some states have banned it or are considering a ban.
In many states, insurance companies use credit-based insurance scores, which are different from your regular credit score, to set prices. Your credit score is typically a good indicator of your credit-based insurance score.
On average, a 35-year-old good driver with poor credit pays over 60% more for full coverage car insurance than an equivalent driver with good credit, a NerdWallet analysis found. Critics have questioned the validity of using credit history to determine a driver’s car insurance rate.
California, Hawaii, Massachusetts and Michigan don’t allow insurers to use credit when determining car insurance rates.
Some companies give homeowners a price break on car insurance, even if they don’t buy homeowners coverage through the same insurer. Many offer discounts if you bundle multiple policies, such as homeowners and auto insurance, with the same company.
2. How you drive
If you’ve had at-fault accidents, traffic tickets or violations like a DUI, you’ll pay more for car insurance than a driver with a clean record. For example, a 35-year-old driver with good credit and a DUI on their record will pay more than double what a similar driver with a clean record pays for minimum coverage, NerdWallet’s analysis found. In some cases, you might need a company that specializes in insuring high-risk drivers.
Low-mileage drivers often get cheaper car insurance, because less time on the road means fewer opportunities for an accident. Low-mileage drivers may also save by choosing pay-per-mile insurance, which tracks how many miles they drive to set premiums.
Keeping your car in a garage is less risky than parking it on the street, and your insurance rates may reflect this.
Years of driving experience
If you started driving at 23, you’ll probably pay more for car insurance at 25 than someone your age who’s been driving since 16. Your rates are likely to decline as you get more experience behind the wheel.
3. Your vehicle
Car make and model
Your rates are based in part on the claims your insurer has seen from other people who drive the same model as the car you’re insuring. Sports cars often have high insurance rates, for example, in part because insurers are more likely to pay out large claims from speeding drivers.
Insurance companies also consider factors like how much a vehicle will cost to repair, how popular it is with car thieves and how likely it is to damage another car in an accident. For example, insurance for electric cars tends to cost more due to their higher price tags and specialized parts.
Vehicles with extra features like lane sensors, backup cameras and high-end audio can cost more to repair — and therefore more to insure — than base models of the same vehicle. Moving to a higher trim level typically raises not just the price of the car but also the insurance premium.
Vehicles with a strong safety record and good safety equipment often qualify for discounts. On the other hand, some safety features can lead to higher premiums, because high-tech safety equipment can be expensive to repair or replace after an accident.
4. Your car insurance choices
If you’re looking at your declaration page and wondering why your car insurance rate is so high, a big reason might be the insurance company you chose. For example, drivers in Michigan can save thousands per year, on average, on full coverage by switching from the state’s most expensive insurers to the cheapest, according to our analysis.
And just because a company is cheapest in one state doesn’t mean it’s the cheapest across the country. That’s why it’s important to shop around and compare car insurance quotes to find the best car insurance rates for you.
Don’t choose an insurer based on rate information alone. Consider the company’s customer service, financial strength and complaint information as well. Read NerdWallet’s auto insurance reviews to learn more.
Failing to pay your car insurance bill or canceling your policy because you’re between vehicles can cost you. Coverage gaps can make you seem like a higher risk in the eyes of insurance companies, and they’ll often raise your rates in response — or even deny you coverage altogether. To avoid this, consider pausing or reducing your coverage if you can’t afford your current premium.
It’s no surprise that the more coverage you get, the more it will cost. We found that full coverage auto insurance costs more than three times as much, on average, as having the minimum required coverage. A full-coverage policy includes collision and comprehensive coverage, which pay to fix or replace your car after a variety of mishaps, like if you collide with other vehicles or animals, or if it’s stolen.
Add-ons like new car replacement coverage can boost the price, but the benefits may be worth it to you. That’s why it’s important to compare policies with the same coverage limits when you shop around.
Your deductible is the amount you pay out of pocket when your insurer pays for a claim. For example, if your insurance company approves $3,000 worth of repairs and your deductible is $500, your insurer will pay $2,500. Your insurance premiums will be lower if you choose a higher deductible, like $1,000, but the payout will be lower if you have an accident.
You might expect your car insurance company to reward your years of loyalty with discounts, and some do. But some insurers try to predict which customers are the least likely to switch insurers and squeeze more profit from them through rate increases. Some states have banned this practice, called price optimization. It’s a good idea to compare car insurance rates to make sure your loyalty isn’t costing you.
Don’t assume your insurance company automatically applies all the discounts for which you’re eligible. For example, your insurer won’t know your teen is getting good grades unless you provide proof and ask for a good student discount. Insurance companies have tons of discounts, and you may save money by reviewing them with your agent on a regular basis.
5. Economic factors
Rising costs from inflation don’t just impact people — they impact insurance companies, too. And the multi-year spike in car prices and repair costs means many insurers must increase rates to keep up with more expensive payouts.
Increase in claims
On top of having to pay more for an insurance claim, insurance companies are also receiving a greater number of claims. The recent uptick in traffic fatalities and financial losses from extreme weather events have caused many insurers to raise rates to cover costs.
How to save on car insurance
Shopping around with multiple insurance companies is the best way to make your car insurance less expensive. Many factors affect an insurance quote, and each company calculates the factors’ relative importance differently. So the cheapest insurer for your neighbor likely won’t be the cheapest for you.
Unless you compare prices, you won’t know which company offers someone in your situation the best rate. NerdWallet’s car insurance comparison tool can help.
Drive carefully. Your rates will be lower if you keep your record clear of accidents, speeding tickets and other violations.
Build your credit. In most states, building your credit by paying your credit card bills on time and paying off your debt can have a huge impact on your car insurance rates.
Choose your vehicle thoughtfully. When you buy a car, the sticker price and monthly payments aren’t the only costs to think about. Some models can be much less expensive to insure than others, so check rates before you buy.
Consider a higher deductible. If you can afford to pay a bit more out of your pocket after a claim, opting for a higher deductible will reduce your insurance rates. Then, if you don’t make a claim, you’re certain to come out ahead.
Ask for discounts. You might save money because of organizations you belong to, equipment on your car, setting up automatic payments or dozens of other factors.
Why is my car insurance so high?
What can I do to make my car insurance less expensive?
What factors influence your auto insurance rates?