Insurance

Insurance head to head: Meg vs. Toby

Who will pay more for auto insurance?

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In The Zebra’s recent State of Insurance research, we revealed the average rate in the U.S. for insurance was $1529. But I didn’t pay that amount. Chances are you didn’t either. 

There are so many factors that go into rating your insurance.

In this series, we’re looking at two made-up people and trying to figure out which would pay less for their auto insurance policies. It’s called “Insurance: Head to Head” and it’s the most fun you can have on the Internet while also thinking about insurance. 

Let’s bring in our first contestants.

Meg

Meg is a 32-year-old pharmaceutical rep from New Orleans, Louisiana. She’s single and lives in a rented house with her Shitzhu Mr. Waggles. Her credit score is Fair (and she’s working on getting it higher, Mom!). She rents her apartment and owns a green 2021 Kia Soul EX. She’s very proud of the fact that she’s never had an accident, although she did get a ticket for reckless driving last year. She doesn’t want to talk about it. 

Toby

At 19 years old, Toby is new to the world of driving, but unlike those other teen drivers he never tailgates or plays music at an obnoxious volume. He has a nearly perfect driving record except for one ticket for texting while driving. He lives with his parents and younger sister Skye in Mount Shasta, California. His credit score is Good. He owns (currently financing) a 2017 Honda Fit EX with a custom paint job that always smells vaguely like Taco Bell. 

But first…a word on rating factors!

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. Interestingly they often have nothing to do with your driving record and everything to do with who you are and where you drive. 

Now let’s look at some of the big rating factors and guess who will likely pay more based on each factor. We’ll examine each rating factor individually and then see how they all work together to determine a final rate. 

Round #1: Age

Let’s start with an easy one. Based purely on age, who will pay more for insurance: 32-year-old Meg or 19-year-old Toby?

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If you guessed Toby would pay more, you are, of course, right. Teen drivers pay the most of all age groups in every single state in the U.S. The average 19-year-old paid $3,391 for insurance last year, while the average 32-year-old paid less than half as much at $1,522. Meg wins this round. 

Round #2: Driving history

Who would pay more for the minor (and not-so-minor) blips on their record: texting Toby or reckless Meg?

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If you guessed that Meg loses this round, you’re right! Based on 2020 data, the average percent rate increase for texting while driving is 22% meaning the average person’s insurance would go up by $321 a year. By comparison, a reckless driving charge would increase the violator’s insurance by a whopping 61% or an increase of $906 a year.

 

 

Round #3: Credit score

Did you know that credit score is often a rating factor for insurance? In many places, insurance companies use this number to calculate premiums or even to deny a policy. How do you think it would affect our competitors Fair Meg and Good Toby?

Credit Score

 

Trick question! While normally credit is a factor in insurance, in this case it would only affect Meg, who would pay more than someone with a higher credit score. However, Toby lives in California which has outlawed credit as a rating factor so it’s impossible to compare the two without comparing the differences of where they live. We’ll get to that next…

Round #4: Location

Where you live can impact your insurance at both the state and local level. The state you live in controls how insurance is regulated (as you saw back in Round 3). Meanwhile your ZIP code (and how many weather events, car thefts, fires, etc there are there) will affect how much you pay at a more granular level. So who do you think will come out on top on this one: Meg in The Big Easy or Toby over in sunny California?

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Meg loses this round by a lot! According to our 2022 State of Insurance data Louisiana has some of the highest insurance premiums in the country and New Orleans is the most expensive city for drivers in the state with premiums averaging nearly $5,000. Meanwhile, California also experiences rates above the national average, but Mount Shasta is one of the more affordable cities to insure a car with premiums around $1,300.

Final round: Vehicle

Both the age and model of your vehicle will affect your insurance premium. Nationally, auto insurance drops about 5.1% on average with each additional year your vehicle ages. Additionally flashier cars often cost more to insure. Who do you think will pay more: Meg and her Kia or Toby and his Honda Fit?

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Meg loses this round! Meg’s brand new Kia would cost $1,615 to insure on average, while Toby’s 5-year-old Honda would cost on average around $1,378 so he just barely ekes out the win.

 

Other factors that affect insurance rates

These are far from the only rating factors that will affect our contestants. Other rating factors that are used to determine insurance (in many states) include behavioral factors like insurance history, claims history, coverage level, miles driven and more. There are also more personal rating factors like gender, martial status, occupation and more.

So who wins?

If we’re looking at strictly who came out on top in the most rounds for each isolated factor, then Toby wins because he would pay less in three out of the five rounds.

However, in the real world, you can’t just isolate just one factor because the insurance companies compare all factors as a whole and weight them differently in order to get a full picture of how much risk a particular driver might pose. 

Luckily, there’s a way to find out the winner. We ran each of our contestants through The Zebra’s easy-to-use car insurance comparison platform to find the best rates that the top insurance companies would offer to each. The results are in!

 

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The lowest rate Meg was offered was $278 a month, while Toby received a quote at $139 a month. By all measures, Toby is our winner! 

 

 

Want to see how you stack up against Toby and Meg? Enter your own details in and get quotes from top insurance companies in minutes.

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Susan MeyerSenior Editorial Manager

Susan is a licensed insurance agent and has worked as a writer and editor for over 10 years across a number of industries. She currently specializes in producing research-focused content for The Zebra's resource center on topics related to auto and home insurance, personal finance and smarter living in the 21st century.