Low-mileage drivers pay the same for insurance

Corilyn Shropshire
Chicago Tribune
View Comments

When it comes to how much you pay for car insurance, being married and having good credit often matters more than how much or how well you drive, according to a new study.

The research, released this week by the Consumer Federation of America, found that major auto insurers provide little or no discounts to low-mileage drivers, even though they tend to have a lower accident risk.

The study looked at basic liability coverage at major insurers, including Farmers, Progressive, Geico, State Farm and Allstate. Drivers in 12 major U.S. cities were examined as part of the study, including Chicago, Atlanta, Baltimore, Cleveland, Houston, Minneapolis and Oklahoma City. Detroit was not part of the study.

The study found that on average, motorists save only $30 per year — or 1.6 percent of their insurance premiums, on average — for every 5,000 fewer miles driven each year.

The only exception was in California, where state law requires insurers to give a driver’s annual mileage the second-most weight in determining premiums, according to the federation.

At Farmers and Progressive, motorists outside of California received no discount at all for driving 2,500 miles or less annually. In fact, they paid the same rate whether they drove 2,500 miles annually or 22,500 annually. “You can drive 2,500 fewer miles per year and pay the same premium for your liability coverage,” said Doug Heller, an insurance consultant at the federation.

However, locally based providers Allstate and State Farm provided some discounts for low-mileage drivers in Chicago.

At Allstate, the insurance premium for a motorist with an annual mileage of 2,500 is nearly 19 percent lower than what drivers with 7,500 annual miles are charged.

At State Farm, Chicago low-mileage drivers paid 10 percent less than those with an annual mileage of 12,500 or more. At Geico, low-mileage drivers paid, on average, 5 percent less than high-mileage drivers in Chicago.

When insurance companies diminish the impact of mileage in their pricing methods, lower-mileage drivers are punished by having to overpay for coverage, according to the study.

While Farmers and Progressive offered no discounts for low-mileage drivers, locally based Allstate and State Farm offered modest discounts across all markets of 2.9 percent and 3.2 percent respectively. Geico, also included in the study, showed an average 1.3 percent annual reduction for low-mileage drivers in the cities studied, according to the federation.

Facts such as credit scores and having a blue-collar job don’t send risk signals to insurers, Heller said.

But “people do get that how far you drive is a very fair (measure of risk),” according to Heller.

If you are a low-mileage driver, “It’s always a good idea to shop around, because there’s probably a better deal for you,” he said.

View Comments