You have a stellar 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?
A 2015 study by the Consumer Federation of America found that in ten major cities, two-thirds of the major insurance companies increase rates on widows by an average of 20 percent -- which is a massive increase that could put a recently widowed individual into a pretty precarious financial situation. The study also found that premiums for single, separated, and divorced drivers were almost always higher than the premiums of their married peers with similar other characteristics and driving records, across several age brackets. The average difference between the quoted rates for these two groups was approximately 14.5 percent.
Why Do Married People Pay Less for Car Insurance?
It may feel incredibly unfair to the consumer that married people can get much lower rates for car insurance, but for many insurers, the decision makes perfect sense. Insurance companies always have profits and risks in mind, and often operate under the assumption that married people are safer drivers and get into fewer accidents. There is some research to back this up: a 2004 study found that unmarried people are twice as likely to have accidents that cause bodily harm than non-married people, even when taking age, sex, alcohol intake, driving exposure, the area of residence, body mass index, and occupational status into account. Eli Lehrer, president of the nonprofit research group The R Street Institute, says that’s because “marriage does make people more careful and responsible... it isn’t at all surprising that this translates into better driving behavior.”
But there is another reason that married people are attractive targets for insurers: they are much more likely to own a home (which requires home insurance) and to purchase life insurance. If insurance companies can convince a married person to buy car insurance from their company, it makes it even easier to convince them to bundle all of their insurance policies with that company and 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 get married, you should let your friends and family 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 additional discounts. Also, if you combine policies, you will likely save more money than if you each kept your individual policies -- and if you drive more than one car, you could even qualify for a multi-car discount.
What If I am Married to a Bad Driver?
Unfortunately, marrying someone with a bad driving record could impact you, too. You definitely should not merge policies, but 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 increase -- but just remember that they won’t be legally allowed to drive your vehicle, and won’t be covered if they do and cause any damage.
If I am Married, Does It Still Make Sense to Shop Around for Better Insurance Rates?
Rate shopping is a great idea, whether you are single or married. Instead of just googling “car insurance” and getting a quote from the first few search results that pop up, you should take the time to check as many insurance companies as you can; some experts recommend comparing a dozen or more companies. It will eat up some of your time for sure, but it’s almost guaranteed to save you a lot of money in the long run.
Is There Anything Else I Can Do?
Car insurance companies may not have your interests at heart, but a sympathetic 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 car insurance agent know so that he or she can do what they can to keep it from impacting your financial future.