You have a perfect driving record, a great job, steady income, stellar credit, and are ready to shop around for car insurance. While all of these factors will help you get a low rate, there’s one more seemingly irrelevant factor that could make a big difference in your insurance premiums: Are you single, married, widowed, or divorced?
Find out how and why the answer to this question could affect the price you pay for car insurance, and what, if anything, you can do about it.
A 2015 study by the Consumer Federation of America found that in 10 major cities, two-thirds of the major insurance companies increase rates on widows by an average of 20%. This is a massive price hike that could put a new widow in a pretty tough spot. Even the smallest jolt in a tight budget can create a series of effects that disrupt a person's finances on a larger scale. The study also found that premiums for single, separated, and divorced drivers were almost always higher than the premiums of their married peers, across many age brackets. This is in spite of the fact that the groups were alike in all other traits and driving records. The average difference between the quoted rates for these two groups was roughly 14%.
Why Do Married People Pay Less for Car Insurance?
It may feel highly unfair or even biased that married people can get much lower rates for car insurance, but from the insurer's point of view it makes perfect sense. Insurance companies always have profits and risks in mind, and they set rates based on real data. They assume, from data they gather, that married people are safer drivers and get into fewer accidents. There is some research to back this up: a 2004 study found that single people are twice as likely to have accidents that cause bodily harm than married people, even when taking age, gender, alcohol intake, comfort with driving (or the number of years they've had a license), where they live, body mass index, and job status into account. Eli Lehrer, president of the research group, The R Street Institute, says that since “marriage does make people more careful and responsible... so it isn’t at all surprising that this translates into better driving behavior.”
But there is one more reason that married people are good targets for insurers: they tend to spend more money than their single peers. Married people are much more likely to own a home than single people, which means they need home insurance at a higher rate. They may even be bringing in a dual income stream. If they have children, there are more people to cover (read: more to pay for), and though single people have children too, it is more simple to predict the needs of the classic family model. People with loved ones to take care of are more likely to purchase life insurance as well, to protect their spouse and children in the future. If insurance companies can convince a married person to buy their car insurance, they're that much closer to selling them add-ons, and to convince them to pursue all of their coverage needs with that company, and maybe bundle to save even more.
The chart below shows the average car insurance discounts available to married couples by state.
Does Having Multiple Drivers on a Single Policy Impact the Price I Will Pay?
In short, yes—especially if you are married. Once you decide to wed, you should let your friends and loved ones know first, but once you have tied the knot, your next call should be to your insurance agent. Getting married can mean that you are newly qualified for extra discounts. Also, if you combine or bundle policies, you can save more money than if you and your spouse each kept your own.
What If My Spouse Is a Bad Driver?
Unfortunately, tying the knot with someone who has a bad driving record could impact you, too. If this is the case, you should think twice before you merge policies. Even if you keep your own, your rate could increase because you now have a high-risk driver in your household. If your spouse’s driving record is terrible, listing them as an excluded driver on your policy could save you the price increase. But if you go this route and exclude your spouse from coverage, just keep in mind that by law they won’t be allowed to drive your vehicle. If something bad happens while they are behind the wheel, and your car suffers damage, it won't be covered, and you may also see a higher price hike in your premiums due to the fact that you broke the terms of the contract.
If I am Married, Does It Still Make Sense to Shop Around for Better Rates?
Rate shopping is always a great idea, whether you are single or married. Instead of just searching for “car insurance” and getting a quote from the first few search results that pop up, you should take the time to dig deeper, and check as many companies as you can. Some experts advise comparing five or more companies before you choose. There are also many sources of consumer review content and unbiased ratings online. These are worth a visit when you're shopping for better rates. Thorough research will eat up some of your time for sure, but it’s almost certain to save you a lot of money in the long run.
You can learn a lot about a company by reading what current and former clients have to say about it. Just be sure that if you read reviews it's from a trusted source, and take the public critics with a grain of salt.
What Else Can I Do?
Car insurance companies as a whole, and their profit motive, may not have your best interests at heart, but a good and honest agent can go a long way toward helping you figure out how to get the best rates. If you become widowed or divorced, let your agent know. Chances are they will be willing to help with a payment plan, or other feature that prevents major price hikes. Even saving a small amount of money each month may be enough to keep your budget on track, which can have a big impact on your finances in the long run.