Why Did My Car Insurance Rates Increase?
Car insurance prices are on the increase in the U.S. as most policyholders are being forced to pay higher rates due to a number of factors.
Some causes of expensive car insurance are completely avoidable, like getting speeding tickets or having at-fault accidents, but even good drivers are having to pay more to insure their vehicles.
Since 2012, insurance rates have seen a steady increase every year, with a total increase of nearly 22% over a five-year period. This outpaced the consumer price index (CPI) by almost 17%.
State Farm, GEICO, Allstate, and Progressive are the largest auto insurers in America, and out of those four, only GEICO and Progressive have managed to earn a profit since 2010. State Farm has struggled the most, with losses increasing 35% while premiums only increased 26% during that same period.
The combined loss ratio for the industry, which in it’s simplest form is the amount of money paid out in claims and expenses compared to the premiums charged, was a whopping 107.1 in 2016. This means insurance companies paid out over 7% more in claims and expenses than they earned in policy premiums. 2017 results are not expected to be any better, as the first half of the year already had insurance companies showing large losses. A.M. Best forecasts a combined loss ratio of 106.9 for 2017.
The top ten largest insurance companies on average have not had a positive combined loss ratio (a value under 100) since 2010, when the average was 99.7%.
What is Causing Higher Car Insurance Rates?
There are a number of factors that are contributing to more expensive auto insurance, and A.M. Best points out a number of factors that are the primary causes.
- Increases in catastrophic losses due to weather. Floods, tornadoes, and hail have all taken their toll on car insurance rates, with insurance companies paying out more in comprehensive claims than they have in over a decade. Hurricane Irma in Florida and Harvey in Texas resulted in billions of dollars of catastrophic losses in the auto insurance market.
- Increases in the severity of accidents. Since 2011, the severity of car accidents has been trending upwards, with 2016 having the highest number of fatalities since 2007. The cost of medical expenses is up 12% since 2012, and states with no-fault insurance laws and mandatory PIP coverage like Michigan, Florida, and New York have taken the hardest hit.
- Increased frequency of accidents. Drivers are on the road more now that gas prices have decreased from historical highs. This alone is contributing to more accidents, but when you combine higher miles driven with more driver distractions, it results in significantly more auto accidents.
- Higher vehicle repair costs. New models tend to be safer than older models, but with the increased safety features comes higher repair costs. The cost to repair sensors, cameras, LED lights, and other electronic components has caused the average repair bill to increase almost $300 in just five years.
- Reduction in investment income. Insurance companies have traditionally relied on interest from investments to offset underwriting losses. With interest rates at historical lows, they no longer have that cushion to fall back on.
What to Expect Going Forward
The auto insurance industry is in a position where rates will continue to trend upward at an even more rapid pace than in the past. Until profits rise, insurance companies have no choice other than to pass the increased costs on to policyholders.
After the disasterous hurricane season of 2017, along with continued low investment returns, insurance companies will see another banner year for losses. Drivers will continue to see rate increases across the board, which is not good news for those who are trying to cut costs and save money.
How to Keep Car Insurance Rates Down
Despite the gloom and doom, there are some things that drivers can do to help keep their car insurance costs in check.
- Drive safe and avoid any extra surcharges from violations or at-fault accidents
- Consider raising your physical damage deductibles
- Drop full coverage on older vehicles
- Remove unnecessary add-on coverages
- Take advantage of all possible discounts
- Shop around once a year to find cheaper car insurance
Drivers have many options if their car insurance rates are getting too expensive. There are steps you can take to reduce the cost of your existing policy, or you can shop around and see if other companies offer better rates. Until insurance companies return to profitability, we will continue to see rate increases, and now is a great time to do a rate comparison to see if your current policy is overpriced compared to other companies.
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