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How are car insurance premiums calculated?

In short, an insurance company looks at your complete driving profile to determine what kind of client you will be for them. Your driving profile is made up of several factors. Some you can control, like making sure you have a good driving record or driving a car that is less expensive to insure. But for everything else, it can get a little complicated. So think of this as your guide to all the insurance questions you meant to ask but never got around to.

In this article, you'll get these questions answered:

The amount you'll pay for insurance is calculated by a variety of factors about you and your vehicle.

These factors, gathered together in a driving profile, are the bedrock of your insurance premium. The better you appear to an insurance company (i.e., the less risky you appear) the lower your premium will be.

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Insurance is state regulated and at the mercy of state laws. 

If your state requires your base minimum coverage to be high, you will be required to match and sometimes exceed what your state requires. This is why, for example, insurance in Michigan is so expensive. Through the state DMV, Michigan regulations require high insurance limits, which put pressure on insurance companies to charge higher rates to their customers.
More granularly, your insurance is calculated on a zip code basis. So, if there are a lot of bad drivers in your area, your rate could be higher than state average because insurance companies charge accordingly for local coverage.

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Your age, gender, marital status, homeowner status, education, and credit score tells your insurance company a whole lot about you. In essence, it tells them what kind of risk you pose to them. 

Statistically, a younger driver (16 to 19-year-olds) is more likely to be in an accident or receive a citation. Just like in a zip code with a high number of car accidents, the age-to-accident correlation causes insurance companies to view new drivers as risks, and thus they charge higher premiums for younger drivers. Conversely, if you are married, a homeowner, have a PhD, and have a good credit score, you are very likely to get a decently-priced insurance quote. This is because insurance companies look at well-educated homeowners with good credit as good candidates for insurance because they tend to file fewer claims. Plus, when they do file a claim, it tends to be a smaller amount.

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Insurance companies not only want to see that you have an insurance history, but that you have a good history. 

Unless you’re a brand new driver, a lack of an insurance history is a red flag to an insurance company, making you seem like a risk to insure. Moreover, if you have a long history of only having the bare minimum of coverage, insurance companies can also view you as a liability.

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To put it simply, your insurance company assumes a portion of financial responsibility for your vehicle when you sign your policy. 

On average, vehicles with high MSRP (manufacturer's suggested retail price) such as Mercedes-Benz models or BMWs are more expensive to insure than something like a CR-V. This is due to their foreign-made, more expensive parts that are capable of higher performances. So, if you own a high-performance vehicle, you should expect your premium to be reflective of the added potential expense to an insurance company.

Still got questions?

Here at The Zebra, we look at things like where you live, your occupation, your insurance history, how you drive, and what kind of car you drive to find you the perfect coverage. 

We look because car insurance companies are looking too. We use real estimates with our car insurance calculator so you can shop over 200 different companies at once. Our goal is to match you with the best insurance coverage in your area, coverage that reflects both your financial needs and expectations. A number of comparisons we offer, more than 24x your average insurance agent, comes in handy if you’re in the mood for some savings—which we hope you are! We've found that the more insurance companies you visit and receive rates with, the more savings and better coverage you’ll be able to find. So, if you want to find the best coverage for your money, look no further than The Zebra's car insurance calculator. So let us help you out—by using our insurance calculator, you can compare hundreds of different companies at once in order to make sure you're getting the best rate. And you don't even have to leave your couch.

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