PARKERSBURG - Usually being at the top of a list is a good thing, but West Virginians in the market for auto insurance are not happy about being ranked high for car insurance premiums they pay compared to other states.
According to a 2012 CarInsuranceQuotes.com survey, Michigan residents paid out a median price of $4,409 annually for car insurance, which the survey says is about 8 percent of their income. Listed second is Louisiana, with customers paying out $2,912 for an annual premium, 5.5 percent of their income. Next on the list is Kentucky, with the median annual cost at $2,292, 4.5 percent of income followed by West Virginia with a median annual policy payout listed at $2,074, which, according to the survey, is 4.2 percent of income going to car insurance.
The least expensive state listed was Massachusetts with an annual median rate of $1,128, which is 1.4 percent of income paid for car insurance, according to the survey.
Dan McPherson, a State Farm Insurance Co. agent in Parkersburg, has been in the business for 38 years. He said there are a lot of variables that go into determining rates.
"One of several factors, in the case of auto insurance, is age. Teen-age drivers have the worst driving records (statistically; ages between 16-21 have more accidents and problems than any other of the age groups," McPherson said, noting gender is also a factor. Teen boys are at the top of the list. "Although that gap with the girls is closing in the last few years," he said.
The customer's driving record is also a factor, as well as the number of accidents, and citations.
"Where you live is also a factor, and the type of vehicle you drive, in the case of comprehensive and collision. The liability and medical is derived from the individual themselves," McPherson explained.
Insurance companies usually offer some options to help reduce rates for teens, in the case of State Farm, for example, there are good student discounts, driver's education discounts and an additional discount if the teen participates in the Steer Clear Program.
McPherson said there are a number of other options available to help customers reduce their auto insurance costs.
"As an individual, the longer they drive without an accident or citation, there are discounts if you have homeowners as well with the same company. We also offer discounts for vehicle use, number of miles driven in a year, to and from work, who is the primary driver, whether the teen is just an occasional or primary operator," McPherson said. "Other factors include the amount of coverage. There is a state minimum."
The state of West Virginia does require auto insurance. The minimum for liability is $20,000 a person, $40,000 for accident and $10,000 for property damage. There is a penalty for not having insurance.
McPherson said he recommends everyone sit down with their insurance agent or company and review their policies annually to assure they have adequate coverage and make sure they are taking advantage of of all available discounts.
To reduce the number of miles driven, consider joining a car or van pool, riding a bike or taking public transportation to work. If you reduce your total annual driving mileage enough, you may lower your premiums.
"The coverage and deductible you choose all play a role in your premium. If you are looking at ways to cut your premium they can consider increasing their deductible," said Amy Preddy, State Farm media specialist.
That also means you may be responsible for a larger sum upfront payment if you file a claim.
"Just consider the cost, that it's worth it," McPherson noted. "You are taking some risk, if you have a collision and you have to pay upfront, it's not right for everyone, but it is an option."
Generally, insurance costs more for vehicles susceptible to damage, occupant injury, or theft, and insurance will cost less for those that fare better than the norm. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety offers online picks each year.
Some insurers even provide discounts for certain professions.
Uninsured drivers cause higher premiums because they didn't pay their share for accidents they caused. According to the Insurance Research Council, an estimated 24 percent of drivers are uninsured in Oklahoma and Florida. Maine and Massachusetts have the lowest rate of uninsured drivers, about 4.5 percent.