California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones at Granada Hills Charter High School

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones speaking at Granada Hills Charter High School in Los Angeles. Image source: Dept. of Insurance Twitter account

California drivers shouldn’t have to work hard to find out if they’re getting a good deal on car insurance. Each year, insurance companies open up their books for the state insurance commissioner, pointing out how rates reflect the car you drive, the neighborhood you live in, and the added price you’ll pay if you get caught speeding or cause a collision. The information is publicly accessible. So why is anyone still overpaying for insurance?

For starters, you might not know that the California Department of Insurance website has a rate comparison tool that you can use to generate sample insurance premiums from over 40 providers at a time. That’s a larger collection of quotes than you might find at auto insurance marketplace websites, like QuoteWizard or The Zebra, and you don’t have to share personal information to get it.

Although the Department of Insurance has a wealth of quality information, it’s all hidden behind a tedious interface that guides the user one slow step at a time to the results page and forces a full reset any time you want to change input variables. If you want to make an informed decision about auto insurance, it’s not enough to compare one or two sets of rate quotes. So many factors affect insurance rates. The biggest one is the choice of insurance company.

As you’ll see in the table below, some drivers may be spending two or three times as much as others for the same standard coverage. The table has 408 sample premiums showing the annual payments for insurance coverage for people in the San Jose area. We selected the San Jose area as a service to the community where we live, work, and drive.

Before you dive in, here are some of the questions that arose as we collected all this information. Continue reading for answers.

How are insurance rates affected by the neighborhood where you live?

Half of the rates we collected come from a South San Jose district adjacent to the Silver Creek Valley Country Club. Half come from more densely populated communities in East San Jose.

Is it safe to assume that the biggest insurance brands always offer competitive rates?

In addition to reporting on insurance rates, the California Department of Insurance also provides the public with an annual report on market share for insurance companies operating in the state. In 2016, State Farm was the leader with 14.2 percent of the market, followed by AAA with 8 percent, and Allstate with 7.6 percent.

How much of a rate increase should a driver expect to pay as a result of a traffic ticket or a collision caused by the driver?

By the same token, if a married couple is affected by a significant rate increase, would the spouses be able to save money by going out and getting separate insurance policies?

Here are some observations from the results.

Drivers in the affluent South San Jose neighborhood get lower rates than drivers in East San Jose.

The Chevy Silverado, the Ford F-150, and the Honda Accord can all be insured for less than $1,000 a year in South San Jose. In East San Jose, the lowest rate for a driver with the same vehicle and the same driving record can be $200 to $300 higher. East San Jose drivers also face an added cost for the Ford Mustang compared to the lowest rate for the Mustang in South San Jose.

Don’t assume that big brands offer competitive rates.

Because State Farm is the biggest auto insurance provider in California, as well as the biggest provider in the US, we included State Farm as a benchmark to compare with the lowest available rates. Although the Department of Insurance’s sample rates do not include discounts that may be included in a real price quote, the State Farm sample rates were significantly more expensive, sometimes 200 percent to 300 percent more. It’s always a good idea to compare quotes before signing an insurance contract.

Traffic violations can lead to a big rate increase, but it depends on the insurance company.

Look at the sample premiums for the Ford F-150. In South San Jose, someone who’s had a license for 6 to 8 years and drives less than 10,000 would see no rate increase from Everest National due to a traffic ticket or an at-fault collision. Meanwhile, a USAA customer would see a marginal increase, an extra $60 for a traffic ticket and an extra $200 for an at-fault collision. A State Farm customer would see a larger increase, $400 extra for a traffic ticket and $600 extra for an at-fault collision.

Married couples paying $3,000 to $4,000 a year for auto insurance could certainly find savings by switching to separate policies with premiums closer to $1,000 apiece. They also might be able to shop around for a less expensive policy for married couples.

 

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The table above reflects a small portion of the sample quotes on the California Department of Insurance website. Please visit the official rate comparison tool for sample price quotes from other communities around California. You can also search quotes based on additional vehicles, drivers with more or less driving experience, and more. However, the rate comparison tool in many instances does not provide sample quotes for female drivers or married couples with pickup trucks, such as the Ford F-150, or sports cars, such as the Ford Mustang. Also, the search criteria for married couples was limited to 9,000 to 16,000 miles of annual mileage, 13 years / 10 years of driving experience, and driving records with no violations or a spouse with one traffic ticket.

If you have been injured in an accident, contact our San Jose Personal Injury Lawyers today.

 

Matthew Hirsch

Matthew Hirsch is a regular contributor the GJEL Accident Attorneys blog.