About Car Insurance Classifications

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Besides home insurance, car insurance is another expense that most consumers face each year. But unlike home insurance which is based largely on your personal address, auto insurance is determined by a number of factors, including what classifications are applied to you. Thus, your insurance costs may be based mostly on factors you have no control over or what insurers use to rate and underwrite consumers.

Lets take a look at car insurance classifications and how you can find the coverage that is right for you.

Insurance Verbiage

Please know that the language auto insurers use may be slightly different, which can make it difficult to compare policy estimates. Insurers seek to classify consumers to determine risk and for underwriting purposes.

Under personal auto insurance, you may hear of preferred class and non-preferred class or standard and non-standard classifications. Beyond these classifications there are tiers that are based on a number of personal factors, what we will examine next.

Rate Classifications

Auto insurers look at ways to further differentiate drivers. There are some restrictions on how insurers can do this with various states limiting such determinations. For instance, insurers may not discriminate against certain drivers based solely on moral character, a past criminal record or a physical disability. Your religion, creed, gender, ancestry, marital status and job occupation usually will not keep you from obtaining insurance.

Car insurance companies can set rates based on your age, gender and marital status. For instance, if you are 19-year-old single male, you will typically pay more for insurance than a similar aged female. Moreover, your rates will be higher than a driver who is married and in his or her 30s.

Where you live is an important factor in determining your insurance rates. Generally, you will pay more for insurance if you live in the city than in the country. Further, your insurance rates may be determined based on your zip code or even your neighborhood.

Vehicle Choice

Another classification for insurers is your choice of vehicle. Insurers have a very good idea what your car will cost them if repairs are needed. Indeed, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates new vehicles those models that score higher in crash testing can incur a lower insurance rate than those that score lower. If your car is rated a top safety pick by the IIHS, expect to receive favorable insurance coverage.

Other factors insurers use are based on your cars engine size and performance, its overall value, the availably of replacement parts and its group or body style. For instance, plan to pay more for insurance if you buy a luxury car or a sporty coupe than you would for a standard sedan with a four cylinder engine.

Usage and Prior Coverage

How often you drive will have a huge bearing on your insurance costs. The more often you drive, the higher your coverage. You may need to present your vehicle to an insurance agent to review its condition as well as the miles on the odometer.

Insurers will also look at your prior coverage. Cancellation for nonpayment of premiums and your claim history can work against you. That information is readily shared between insurers.

Insurance Underwriting

The safest drivers can expect to receive best rates, individuals with clean driving records for the past three to five years. Nonstandard underwriting is for higher risk drivers including those under age 25 and drivers with multiple tickets, driving infractions or a poor payment premium history. Insurance approval for such drivers is more difficult to obtain and can be more costly too.

If you are not sure what you stand with your insurance company, your agent can help. Although the division points between classifications are not uniform across insurers, you can get a very good idea where you stand by understanding what risk factors apply to you.


State of Wisconsin: Consumers Guide to Auto Insurance http://oci.wi.gov/pub_list/pi-057.pdf

Forbes: How Does Your Car Insurance Company Classify Your Ride? http://www.forbes.com/sites/moneywisewomen/2012/01/31/how-does-your-car-insurance-company-classify-your-ride/

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