There are all sorts of myths and ideas out there about what exactly affects car insurance rates. There are the obvious things like income, history of speeding tickets and how long you have been driving. There are also those seemingly unrelated things like the color of your car, where you went to college and who your favorite sports team is. I made that last one up but I could see how being a New York Knicks fan could make me an angry and distracted driver.
Because state insurance laws vary and insurance companies don’t really reveal how they come up with rates, it’s hard to find out what exactly matters. But there is one factor that plays a role in how much you will pay for auto insurance, and that is your credit history. Yes, your auto insurance company cares if you pay your credit card bills on time.
“Credit Based Insurance Score”
According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, auto insurance companies use a something called a credit based insurance score as a factor in deciding how much to charge an individual for car insurance. Because insurance companies are run by vampires who hide in the shadows, it is not known what exactly goes into this score and how much it can affect your insurance rate, but it is safe to assume that your FICO credit score is a big factor.
Now what in the world does your credit score have to do with driving a car? One can only guess as to why exactly insurance companies value your credit score, but any factor that affects insurance rates usually comes down to one thing: money. As in the insurance company wants to make as much money as possible while giving you as little as possible. If you look at it from the insurance companies perspective, a perfect customer is one who pays their bill on time every month and never files a claim. You could then come to the conclusion that someone who has poor credit is not “responsible” so they will be late on paying their bills and likely be a reckless driver. It sounds a little far fetched, but insurance companies do lots and lots of research and it’s reasonable to think they have found some research that shows drivers with poor credit make more claims than those with good credit.
Is it unfair?
Some argue that taking into account someone’s credit score to determine auto insurance rates is unfair. I agree somewhat, because there are many reasons that someone could have poor credit that have nothing to do with irresponsibility or recklessness. People with egregious medical bills that have no way to pay them are just one example. Another example is someone who has been a victim of fraud and has had their credit dinged in the process.
Immigrants are also affected unfairly by this. They usually have little to no credit history when entering the country, so even if they are the most responsible person in the universe, having insufficient credit history can affect them. Indeed, there are some states (Massachusetts, Hawaii and California) that have banned auto insurance companies from using a credit based insurance score. So there is some sentiment out there which feels this is an unfair practice, but most states do allow it so I don’t see it going away anytime soon.
If you live in a state which allows this practice, you need to make sure your credit score is pristine. There are many many reasons to have a great credit score, and this is just one more reason to add to the list. Having a good credit score gives you a chance to have lower auto insurance rates, an expense every driver will have for the rest of their lives. Even a savings of $10 a month can have a profound effect on how much you spend on auto insurance over a lifetime. So do what you can to keep that credit score high because it can help you in more ways than one.