Just because you’re single, divorced or widowed doesn’t seem like a very good reason for your auto insurance company to charge you more. Unfortunately, a new study says some auto insurers are doing just that. It comes as no surprise that auto insurance rates can vary wildly based on factors such as a driver’s sex and age, how many accidents they’ve had, the type of car being insured, where that car is located, and so on. But, being single, divorced, or widowed?
Apparently, if you fall into any of these three categories, your insurance company may be using your current status against you and charging you more – a lot more. The practice, which is being labeled “unfair”, came to light in a recent study and the Consumer Federation of America is seeking action as a result of the findings.
The CFA researched how an individual’s marital status impacted pricing by most of the major auto insurers in the country, and found that four of the six largest insurance companies studied increased premiums for women whose husbands had died by an average of 20 percent. At the top of the list was Geico, peaking at 29 percent, while the two insurers that varied their rates the least were Nationwide at 3 percent and State Farm – whose rates did not vary at all based on marital status.
According to the study, premium increases go beyond widowed females. As a matter of fact, at most major companies, rates for single, separated, and divorced drivers – regardless of sex – are almost always higher than those for married drivers.
Farmers led the pack with an increase of 22 percent, showing the largest average hike in price for those individuals not married.
The study involved six insurers: Geico, Farmers, Progressive, Nationwide, Liberty Mutual and State Farm. At the time of the research, Allstate was not included, due to a website redesign that made comparisons difficult. Testing was conducted in 10 cities ranging from Minneapolis to Tampa to states like California and Oregon, across various driver age groups.
Although the study stated that age mattered little in regards to marital status, where you happen to live did. For example, in Louisville, Geico quoted a premium of $650 per year for a married individual, but if that same person was widowed, the rate would jump to $1,302 – and up to $1,864 for someone that was separated. And, while State Farm did not vary its rates whatsoever based on marital status, the total premium in Louisville was still relatively high at $1,248.
However, of all the cities tested, Oakland, California varied the least, with Geico quoting $388 annually for a married individual and a slightly higher $478 for single, separated or divorced drivers. In this case, there was no premium imposed by Geico for a widower, but Progressive and Farmers weren’t so kind – with Farmers imposing a $530 hike in price.
In general, the main reason Oakland varied less is because California law mandates insurers give precedence to aspects such as driving record, miles driven and years of experience, stating factors such as marital status cannot impact premiums as greatly.
The theory that says married individuals will be more responsible and cautious behind the wheel is an old one. According to Loretta Worters, vice president of communications for the Insurance Information Institute, a married person’s increased risk aversion is evident in their driving record, noting fewer accidents and tickets as proof.
That said, the CFA contends that there’s insignificant data to support this claim, and that this is merely further evidence that insurers are using related factors simply to increase profitability. Still, it’s common practice for auto insurance companies to offer discounts to married couples, which may appear as an “unfair” advantage for someone who might be single, separated or divorced.