insure logo

Why you can trust

quality icon

Quality Verified

At, we are committed to providing the timely, accurate and expert information consumers need to make smart insurance decisions. All our content is written and reviewed by industry professionals and insurance experts. Our team carefully vets our rate data to ensure we only provide reliable and up-to-date insurance pricing. We follow the highest editorial standards. Our content is based solely on objective research and data gathering. We maintain strict editorial independence to ensure unbiased coverage of the insurance industry.

When you’re buying auto insurance, a range of unexpected factors can impact your rates. For instance, you’re probably aware that insuring a sports car will cost more than a mid-sized sedan. But other factors, like like your location, credit history, gender, and even marital status, play a role in determining your car insurance rates.

However, each insurer judges each of these factors differently, so it’s important to shop around to get the right policy.

Read on to learn more about everything that goes into determining auto insurance premium.

1. Your reports

Insurance companies don’t operate on the honor system when you tell them how long your commute is, or whether you’ve gotten any speeding tickets. Typically, the carrier will pull reports on your mileage, vehicle registration and undisclosed drivers who live with you. The insurance company will also check to see whether you’re a homeowner and what insurance company you currently use.

The reports are used to calculate your insurance score, which is similar to a credit score. 

2. Your vehicle’s ISO rating.

The  International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has a Vehicle Series Rating program that assigns a symbol to each vehicle within a vehicle series, which is defined by characteristics such as make, model and safety ratings. Insurers use these ratings to set premiums for a specific type of car based on the loss history of that vehicle. 

The higher the ISO rating, the greater the risk for the insurance company, which translates into a higher premium for you. There are ratings for the physical damage, liability and medical portions of a car insurance policy. You’ve probably never seen your car’s ISO rating, but the insurance underwriter can easily see where your vehicle falls on the list.

Not all insurers use ISO symbols to set rates, so it’s important to shop around.

3. Traffic violations

Not all traffic tickets are equal. Some types of tickets won’t affect your rates — typically parking, equipment and other non-moving offenses.

However, some offenses trigger insurance points. The points are added up to determine how much your rates will rise. You can ask your car insurance company for a copy of its surcharge schedule, but you may still need an agent to decipher it for you.

4. Filing a claim

Car insurance companies have strict rules about when surcharges are applied after an accident or claim, and they vary by insurer. The type of claim also plays a role. For instance, a bodily injury claim may hike rates more than a property damage claim. Talk to your insurance agent about your situation.

5. Multiple accidents

Too many accidents or claims within a certain period of time will lead to higher rates, or non-renewal. Violations could include a DUI, license suspension or revocation, multiple traffic offenses, a conviction for leaving the scene of an accident, or insurance fraud.

6. Letting your car insurance policy lapse

Paying your car insurance premiums on time is crucial to keeping your costs down. In fact, if you let your insurance coverage lapse, you might lose your driving privileges and then have to pay a fine to reinstate them. This amount varies by state, but in some places, it can amount to hundreds — or even thousands — of dollars. 

In addition, when you go to reinstate your insurance coverage, you may pay dearly thanks to the lapse. A lapse of 30 days can cause your rates to rise by 9% on average, a 60-day lapse can boost your rates by 13% and a lapse of longer than that can cause your costs to soar by nearly 50%, according to 

How to get lower premiums

Car insurance discounts aren’t always spelled out on a company’s website, but agents know what is offered. Your agent can tell you if your insurer offers a discount for taking a driver improvement course, or if you get price breaks when your child goes off to college, if you renew early and if you go paperless, just to name a few.

Your agent can also tell you which safety features on a vehicle earn you a discount, whether your insurer offers a discount for bundling your insurance plans — such as home and car — and what the mileage threshold is for getting a low-mileage discount.

Some car insurance companies also offer discounts for certain occupations and affiliations, but it’s hard for policyholders to get a complete list. Your agent should have such a list and seeing it can help you discover if you’re missing out on a discount, or if you can gain a price break easily by joining a listed organization.

Agents won’t always offer this information unless asked, so make sure to check in.