Car insurance rates by state, 2015 edition
Michigan has the most expensive car insurance rates in the nation for the second consecutive year, according to the 2015 Insure.com state-by-state comparison of auto insurance premiums.
The Great Lakes State has occupied the No. 1 or No. 2 spot in the five years that Insure.com has commissioned the annual study. Montana moved up four positions to No. 2, followed by Washington, D.C. at No. 3.
Maine has the least expensive car insurance rates, followed by Ohio and Idaho.
Ranking the states: Average car insurance premiums
|3||Washington, D.C.||$ 1,799|
|6||West Virginia||$ 1,716|
|8||Rhode Island||$ 1,656|
|10||New Jersey||$ 1,595|
|19||North Dakota||$ 1,377|
|National average||$ 1,311|
|28||New Mexico||$ 1,237|
|31||South Carolina||$ 1,210|
|32||South Dakota||$ 1,180|
|42||New York||$ 1,013|
|44||North Carolina||$ 986|
|47||New Hampshire||$ 905|
|Dollar figures shown are an average for the 20 best-selling 2015 models nationwide based on 2014 calendar year sales data.|
The study compiled rates from six large insurance carriers in 10 ZIP codes in every state. The rates were for the same full-coverage policy for the same driver -- a 40-year-old man with a clean driving record and good credit.
The study averaged rates for the 20 best-selling vehicles in the U.S., which last year represented about 40 percent of all vehicles sold. Each model was rated on its cheapest-to-insure trim level. (You can see rates for more than 1,500 models in Insure.com’s Most and Least Expensive Vehicles to Insure tool.) The vehicles included:
- Ford F-150 Platinum 4WD Supercrew
- Chevrolet Silverado 1500 LS 2WD Regular Cab
- Dodge Ram 1500 Tradesman Regular Cab
- Toyota Camry LE sedan
- Honda Accord LX sedan manual transmission
- Toyota Corolla L sedan
- Nissan Altima 2.5 sedan
- Honda CR-V LX 4WD SUV
- Honda Civic LX sedan manual transmission
- Ford Fusion S sedan
- Ford Escape S 2WD
- Chevrolet Cruze LS manual transmission
- Toyota RAV4 LE 4WD SUV
- Chevrolet Equinox LS 2WD SUV
- Hyundai Elantra SE sedan
- Ford Focus S sedan
- Hyundai Sonata SE sedan
- GMC Sierra 1500 2WD Regular Cab
- Ford Explorer 2WD SUV
- Toyota Prius Five hatchback
The apples-to-apples comparison differs from other research, such as the premium comparison by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. The NAIC figures reflect the average amount that residents spend toward car insurance, regardless of the amount of coverage they purchase or type of car they insure.
The national average premium for the full-coverage policy featured in the Insure.com study is $1,311 a year, with rates varying widely in states -- from $805 in Maine to $2,476 in Michigan.
Many factors influence the regional differences - state laws, local court systems, traffic, crime, competition among insurers and the percentage of insured drivers. Here's a look at states with the highest and lowest average rates.
No. 1: Michigan
Ask insurance agents why rates are high in Michigan, and conversation turns quickly to the state's unusual no-fault auto insurance system. Like other no-fault states, Michigan requires car owners to purchase personal injury protection insurance, which pays the medical bills of the policyholder and household members if they're injured in an accident. The coverage also pays for medical expenses of passengers who don't have PIP insurance.
But unlike other states, which require drivers to carry only a limited amount of PIP coverage, Michigan's no-fault auto insurance policies guarantee unlimited medical benefits. Insurers pay medical claims up to $530,000, and the nonprofit Michigan Catastrophic Claim Association covers medical costs exceeding that threshold. Car owners must pay an annual assessment to the association, currently $186 per vehicle. The fee is not included in the Insure.com premium study, yet Michigan still ranks as the most expensive state.
Some people simply can't afford the premiums, says Jeremy MacDonald, immediate past president of the Michigan Association of Professional Insurance Agents and president of the Mid-Michigan Agency in Alma.
"People will cut where they can," he says. "They have to sacrifice things they are likely to use, like collision insurance, to pay for things they aren't likely to use, (like unlimited PIP benefits)."
Rates are highest in Detroit, where some residents fudge addresses to get a break on rates.
Still others deal with high rates by signing up for insurance to register their cars and then dropping the coverage. Some agents sell seven-day policies, which technically fit the letter of the law, but are clearly designed to skirt the state's requirement for drivers to carry insurance, MacDonald says.
No. 2: Montana
Car insurance rates soar into the big sky in Montana, according to the Insure.com study, which calculated an average premium of $1,886.
Montana has made the top 10 in previous years, but this is the first year it broke into the top three most expensive states.
A variety of factors may be at play, says Bob Biskupiak, CEO of the Independent insurance Agents of Montana. In efforts to bring insurers to the state, he says, he and others have heard carriers express caution about the state's court system.
"We're viewed by insurance companies as having a more liberal court," he says.
In addition Montana does not offer a large market for national companies, and the population is spread over a wide area, which may increase the cost of doing business.
Meanwhile, the Legislature has been slow to pass certain driver safety laws. State bills prohibiting texting while driving have failed. The state has a secondary, versus primary, seat belt law, meaning officers can't cite drivers for failing to wear seat belts unless they stop them for other offenses.
"From a professional insurance standpoint, we look at that and scratch our heads sometimes," Biskupiak says.
Montana has the highest car accident fatality rate in the country, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. In 2013, there were 22.6 deaths per 100,000 people, more than double the national average, and 1.96 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. The national average was 1.11 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles.
No. 3: Washington, D.C.
In most states insurance rates are highest in urban areas and lowest in small towns. The District of Columbia is one large, traffic-congested city, so rates are bound to be on the upper end.
"I've been here all my life, and the traffic has gotten so much worse in the last 20 years," says insurance agent Scott Hoffman of Howard and Hoffman Inc. and a board member of the Metropolitan Washington Association of Independent Insurance Agents.
Allstate ranked the nation's capital 198th out of 200 cities for safe driving in its 2014 Best Drivers report. The average driver in the district will experience a car accident every 5.1 years, compared with the national average of every 10 years, according to Allstate.
Hoffman says Washington is litigious, and juries tend to favor plaintiffs who sue insurance companies.
Another problem is that compared to states with a number of cities, the district is a small market.
"It doesn't lead to as much competition as other areas can get," says Hoffman, whose agency is licensed in 36 states. "Virginia is so much cheaper."
No. 49: Idaho
Idaho has the cheapest car insurance in the West. The average premium is less than half what you'd pay in Montana, according to the Insure.com study, and a few hundred dollars less than the average rate in Oregon.
The largely rural state doesn't have big-city problems that can jack up car insurance rates. And a larger-than-average share of drivers are insured in Idaho, compared to other states. Only about 7 percent of drivers are uninsured in Idaho, according to the Insurance Research Council, well under the nationwide average of roughly 13 percent.
A larger percentage of insured drivers helps keep premiums down for everyone who buys coverage.
No. 50: Ohio
Fierce competition leads to affordable rates in Ohio. According to the Ohio Insurance Institute, 671 auto insurance carriers do business there - more than in any other state except Illinois.
"It boils down to the climate for insurance. Ohio continues to be a strong advocate for its citizens and has a strong insurance department that stays on the forefront as times are changing," says Jeannine Giesler, president of the Professional Independent Agents Association of Ohio and COO of Diversified Insurance Service in Elmore. "It's possible to get from independent agents rates that are very competitive."
Ohio has consistently ranked as one of the least expensive states for car insurance since Insure.com began conducting its annual state-by-state premium comparison.
No. 51: Maine
The quiet, rural state doesn't have the problems that many other states battle, which helps keep rates down.
"We have few large urban areas so we have lower overall traffic problems, and we don't have hailstorms or tornadoes," says Jeffrey McDonnell, president of the Maine Insurance Agents Association and a principle of the Allen/Freeman/McDonnell Agency in Brewer.
The state also doesn't contend with a lot of uninsured drivers.
"We have one of the highest rates of insured drivers, so we have more people sharing the risk," he says.
Only Massachusetts has a higher rate of insured drivers, according to the Insurance Research Council. Fewer than 1 in 20 Maine drivers is uninsured, compared to the national average of 1 in 8.
Insure.com commissioned Quadrant Information Services to calculate auto insurance rates from six large carriers (Allstate, Farmers, GEICO, Nationwide, Progressive and State Farm) in 10 ZIP codes per state. Rates were compiled in January 2015.
We averaged rates in each state for the cheapest-to-insure 2015 model-year versions of America’s 20 best-selling vehicles and ranked each state by that average. Rates are for comparative purposes only within the same model year.
Rates are based on full coverage for a single, 40-year-old male who commutes 12 miles to work each day, with policy limits of 100/300/50 ($100,000 for injury liability for one person, $300,000 for all injuries and $50,000 for property damage in an accident) and a $500 deductible on collision and comprehensive coverage. The hypothetical driver has a clean record and good credit. The rate includes uninsured motorist coverage. Actual rates will depend on individual driver factors.
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