Jump into the risk assessment pool

And learn what factors affect how much you pay for insurance

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Susan Meyer

Senior Editorial Manager

  • Licensed Insurance Agent — Property and Casualty

Susan is a licensed insurance agent and has worked as a writer and editor for over 10 years across a number of industries. She has worked at The Zebr…

When the summer heat really starts to sizzle, the best thing to do is spend as much time as possible in the nearest body of water. But did you know your favorite neighborhood pool can also serve an apt metaphor for why you pay what you do for car insurance

When it comes to car insurance, how much you pay and why can seem confusing. There are a number of rating factors that insurance companies use to determine how great a risk you will pose. Some of those are in your control, like what you drive and how you drive. 

But other times you might wonder: why do I pay so much more than my cousin in Tucson even though he’s a terrible driver?

The answer may be found here in our Risk Assessment Pool. For you see, where you live — the state, the city and even down to the specific neighborhood — plays a big part in your rates. Why? Because how likely you are to make an insurance claim also depends on the world around you from the weather to the roads and all the possible miscreants on them. 

So let’s dive right into the Risk Assessment Pool, check out who’s there and how they might affect you.

risk pool

Illustration by Katerina Mensikova


Can you find all of the following in the picture? You can view it larger here

  • zebra float
    1. Zebra float man

    This is you. Chilling innocently on your zebra float. You don’t have a perfect driving record, but it’s pretty darn close. You drive more defensively than a linebacker. You tuck your beloved (but not too flashy) car into its home in your locked garage every night. You work from home (or from the pool) so you don’t even drive that much. What’s the deal? Why aren’t your insurance premiums lower?

  • running kids
    2. Kids running

    Slow down! These kids left their walking feet at home, which can be dangerous for themselves and those around them. You’re familiar of course with how a speeding ticket on your record will raise your rate (and if you’re not, on average it’s anywhere from a 20 - 28% increase depending on how fast you were going). But even if you’re not the one with the lead foot, if you live in an area with lots of speed demons, you’re more likely to get in an accident. You may never know the exact numbers, but your insurance company will likely be factoring it in.

  • accident
    3. Fender bender

    Uh oh! Accidents happen, even on a lovely day like this one. Even if you’re not the one involved in the accident, if you live in an area where accidents are common, there’s a good chance your premiums will go up. After all, the more accidents near you, the higher the chance that you will eventually be part of one.

  • storm clouds
    4. Storm clouds

    There’s a storm brewing, and that’s bad news both for your day at the pool and your insurance rates. Major weather events like recurrent hurricanes, fires and floods in an area will drive the cost of insurance up. This is true for two reasons 1) A lot of people filing claims at the same time (such as after an extreme weather event), the more money the insurance company needs to pay them all back, and 2) The higher the insurance company rates the chances that such an event will happen in the same place in the future.

  • city
    5. City skyline

    Who doesn’t love summer in the city? The only downside is urban areas tend to have higher insurance premiums. Because they’re more congested, you and your vehicle are more likely to encounter more drivers, more traffic and more mayhem which leads to…more claims.

  • robber
    6. Sneaky robber

    Petty theft at the pool and motor vehicle thefts are all too common. In some places, like Washington state, they’re on the rise as much as 88%! If you live in a place with high rates of motor vehicle theft, you will see higher rates, especially if you drive a car that is a frequent target. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, full-size Chevy and Ford trucks and Honda Accords were the most frequently stolen vehicles of 2020 (the last year for which data is available).

  • cell phone
    7. Man on phone

    Being distracted at the pool is a recipe for a big splash. Being distracted on the road? That can lead to accidents and more insurance claims. So tell your friends and neighbors to keep their eyes on the road!

  • drinking
    8. People imbibing

    Glass bottles and pools don’t mix, and neither do open containers while you’re driving. If you live in an area where drinking and driving is common, that will likely affect your rate even if you keep your own partying safely at home.

  • vandalism
    9. Graffiti artist

    Public art or public nuisance? Regardless, no one likes to see their car be the object of someone’s creative pursuits. If you live in an area with higher rates of vandalism, this can affect your insurance rates.

  • slide
    10. Slide mischief

    The slide is busy today! The amount of traffic in your area will also impact the number of accidents and thus the number of claims. The higher the amount of congestion, the more likely accidents — like being rear-ended — are to happen.

  • lemonade
    11. Closed lemonade stand

    No one’s getting an ice-cold beverage any time soon. The sky-high price of lemons means little Becky's lemonade stand is closed until further notice. Global and local supply chain issues are also a reason for increasing insurance rates. After all, if the cost to repair your car is more expensive, the insurance companies’ operating costs go up.

  • sun screen
    12. Sunburned man

    Looks like someone left their sunblock at home! Insufficient insurance coverage can be equally painful. The average rate of uninsured drivers is 12.6%, but in some areas it's much higher. And if you live in an area with a greater percent of uninsured drivers, your insurance company will likely charge you more to make up for the greater likelihood of you getting in an accident where the at-fault driver is uninsured.

  • dog
    13. Best boy

    Look at that good boy! There's currently no known correlation between insurance premiums and labradors, but isn't he the cutest doggo?

  • lifeguard
    14. Lifeguard

    A lifeguard has one of the most important jobs at the pool. They enforce the rules and keep everyone safe. Every state has regulators whose job it is to make sure insurance companies are charging people and evaluating claims fairly and ultimately to protect American consumers. How strict or loose the regulations are in your state will impact how much you pay.