Factors Affecting Car Insurance Rates

What factors influence car insurance rates? Read on to review the rating factors that comprise insurance policy pricing, or enter your ZIP to compare rates.

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What factors are most important for car insurance rates?

A rating factor is an individual characteristic of a customer used to price car insurance premiums. Put simply, the less risky your rating factors are, the cheaper your car insurance policy will be. Some auto insurance rating factors — such as driving record or vehicle type — have relatively sizeable impacts on car insurance costs. Others — like gender or marital status — are less important.

Below are the 15 rating factors most often used by car insurance companies, along with some associated costs by insurer.


1. Age

Age is a very significant rating factor, especially for young drivers. Between the most expensive insurance premiums — paid by teen drivers — and the most affordable — paid by 50-year-olds — is a cost gap of over $5,500 per year. Insurance companies view teen drivers as very risky and potentially expensive clients to insure. Data show that teen drivers drive more recklessly and get into more accidents than do drivers in any other age group.

Insurance provider6-month premium — 16-year-old6-month premium — 50-year-old
Liberty Mutual$5,268$693
State Farm$2,040$608


At what age do car insurance rates go down?

Age becomes a less important rating factor at the age of 20, and even less impactful at the age of 25. Auto insurance premiums reach their low point in a driver's mid-50s before rising for older drivers aged 70-plus. Learn more about car insurance premiums by age.


2. Driving history

This rating factor is straightforward. Car insurance companies see a driver's past as an accurate predictor of their future performance. A history of tickets or violations will inflate the cost of current and future insurance premiums. The below data show how a speeding ticket (speeding 16 to 20 miles per hour over the limit), a DUI, and a reckless driving charge may impact insurance premiums.

Average Premiums by Violation.png


3. Credit score

Credit is a major — but often overlooked — rating factor. Data shows drivers with poor credit file more claims than do drivers with better credit. And when they do file claims, they are generally more expensive than claims from drivers with good credit. The difference in car insurance rates between drivers with the lowest level of credit and the highest is over $1,500 annually. This comes out to a $784 increase for a six-month policy or $130 a month.

Insurance provider6-month premium — Very Poor Credit

6-month premium — Great Credit

Liberty Mutual$1,921$705
State Farm$1,435$527


In the above table, "worst credit" is defined as a credit rating between 300 and 579. A "best credit" rating sits between 800 and 580.


4. Years of driving experience

This rating factor is simple. The more experience you have behind the wheel, the less likely you are to make the mistakes that lead to violations and claims. For an insurance company, this means you’re less risky as a client. Drivers with many years of experience typically enjoy lower insurance prices than do newer drivers. Learn more about finding affordable car insurance as a new driver.


5. Location

Location functions as a rating factor on two levels: state and zip code. Car insurance is regulated at the state level and subject to each state's regulations. For example, Michigan, a no-fault state, requires all drivers to carry unlimited Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage by law. This makes car insurance expensive because the costs of PIP coverage and “unlimited" coverage are passed to insurers. Car insurance rates in Michigan are greater than $2,000 per year more expensive than in Ohio, just one state over.

Car insurance is also priced by location at a more granular level. Car insurance is priced by ZIP code to help insurance companies adjust for the external rating factors associated with each area. Insurance costs are higher in locales with more drivers. ZIP codes prone to floods, wildfires, crimes such as vandalism or theft, or other risks also face higher rates. In many cases, those in rural areas pay less in car insurance premiums than do their urban counterparts.


6. Gender

Another lesser-known risk factor, gender primarily impacts rates for young drivers. On average, a male teen driver pays $754 more per year in auto insurance premiums than does a female teen driver. Again, this is because car insurance companies see young male drivers as more likely to take risks than their female counterparts. The relatively safe driving habits of young female drivers result in their earning lower rates than teenage male drivers, on average.


Gender and age group6-Month premium
Female teen driver$2,446
Male teen driver$2,823


7. Insurance history

Unless you are a brand new driver, insurance companies see a lack of continuous coverage as an indicator of higher risk. In an insurance company's estimation, if you were licensed but didn't have insurance, you may have been driving while uninsured. The below data show the difference between drivers with no previous coverage and five years of consecutive coverage: $182 per year.

Average Premiums by Insurance History.png


8. Annual mileage

Annual mileage has a major bearing on insurance premiums — mainly in California. The national difference in annual premium for drivers who travel fewer than 7,500 miles per year versus those who drive 15,000-plus miles annually is $92. But in California, this difference is nearly 32% — or $557 per year. Below are the US averages by mileage driven and insurance company.

Average Premiums by Annual Mileage.png

For more information on how annual mileage affects car insurance rates, see the related articles below.


9. Marital status

Marital status has a minor effect on auto insurance rates. Historical data show married drivers share driving duties, filing fewer individual claims. The difference between car insurance rates for married, divorced, single, and widowed drivers is minimal.


10. Claims history

Every single insurance company views a long claims history as a red flag. Included in your claims history is any insurance claim you file — and any claim filed against you. If your insurance company pays out a claim, you should expect your rate to increase. Below are estimated rates from popular insurance companies across the US after an at-fault accident.


Insurance providerNone6-month premium after at-fault accident
Liberty Mutual$823$1,179
State Farm$656$808


11. Coverage level

The more coverage you carry, the more expensive your premiums will be. The cost difference between the lowest levels of car insurance coverage and the highest can add up to more than $1,000 annually. The reason for this is simple: if you carry more coverage, your insurance company is obligated to pay out to meet a higher coverage limit.

Premiums by Coverage Level.png

See our guides to car insurance deductible amounts below:


12. Vehicle

Insurance rates on a brand new sports car will be more expensive than premiums for an old Civic. If a vehicle costs more to replace, the insurance company will charge you more each month to cover these potential costs (via collision and comprehensive coverage). Find car insurance rates by vehicle type.


13. Vehicle ownership status

Car insurance companies categorize car ownership in three ways: owned, leased, and financed. Premiums vary by ownership status.

For more information, see our guides to each of these stages:


14. Discount options

Auto insurance discounts depend on your location and insurance company, and many are reflections of your individual rating factors. If you’re a homeowner, pay your insurance premium upfront, or have a clean driving record, you might qualify for a discount. Below are some common discounts.


15. Insurance company

The biggest factor in determining auto insurance costs is the insurance company you decide to go with. Rates vary substantially from company to company and while there are other factors that comprise your driving profile, you could be paying too much for car insurance simply because your current company is too expensive. Let the Zebra help you gather quotes from as many companies as possible using your individual rating profile to find the best possible rate for you.

Find an affordable car insurance policy today!

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Methodology and disclaimer

Our full methodology is available in The Zebra's State of Insurance report.

Disclaimer: every state is subject to specific legislation and every carrier has its own policies. Our car insurance prices come from composites of the most common factors and are not reflective of every state or carrier.



Recent Questions:

How do I help my father lower his rate if I'm on his policy and have accidents?

One thing to keep in mind is that accidents occurring more than 5 years in the past should have no impact on your current insurance rates, so you are definitely outside of that window. Concerning your speeding ticket, if you have not yet been to court then it most likely has not been added to your driving record, meaning you shouldn't be penalized for the violation if you purchase insurance coverage before your court date.
Sep 22, 2017 Tenafly, NJ

Will a DWI in Canada affect my U.S. insurance rates?

If it is never tagged onto your license from the United States then reports will never show it. No company in the U.S.
Jan 14, 2021 Derby, VT

At what age does car insurance decrease?

While your insurance premium is calculated by a lot of variables, your age and driving experience/history are big factors. If you're a young driver, you can expect your age to impact your rate until you're 25.
Mar 11, 2018 New York, NY

How much could my rate go up after a small fender bender?

Page 58 of our State of Car Insurance Report shows that an accident in California has an average impact of an additional $899 in premium per year. These numbers are averages and there are other factors at play, but that should provide a ballpark figure as to what you can expect.
Nov 8, 2016 Sherman Oaks, CA

Ava Lynch
Ava LynchSenior Analyst

Ava worked in the insurance industry as an agent for four-plus years.

Ava currently provides insights and data analysis as one of The Zebra's property and casualty insurance experts. Her work has been featured in publications such as U.S. News & World Report, GasBuddy, Car and Driver, and Yahoo! Finance.

About The Zebra

The Zebra is not an insurance company. We publish data-backed, expert-reviewed resources to help consumers make more informed insurance decisions.

  • The Zebra’s insurance content is written and reviewed for accuracy by licensed insurance agents.

  • The Zebra’s insurance content is not subject to review or alteration by insurance companies or partners.

  • The Zebra’s editorial team operates independently of the company’s partnerships and commercialization interests, publishing unbiased information for consumer benefit.

  • The auto insurance rates published on The Zebra’s pages are based on a comprehensive analysis of car insurance pricing data, evaluating more than 83 million insurance rates from across the United States.