Do You Have to Identify as Male or Female When Getting Car Insurance?
How to navigate driver’s licenses and auto insurance
Depending on which state you live in, you may not have to identify as male or female to get car insurance. Gender-neutral identity laws are relatively new, though, and the insurance industry hasn’t fully progressed in standardizing the way it addresses gender. If you’re unsure about how a nonbinary identity might affect your car insurance, we’re here to help you sort out a few of the details.
- Most insurers ask for your gender to calculate your rates. Research indicates that, in general, males are more likely to drive under the influence, get into car accidents and, specifically, get into serious car accidents. But opponents say individual behavior is a better indicator of risk than a person’s gender.
- The gender marker you choose for your driver’s license varies by state. 17 states and the District of Columbia offer the X gender marker for drivers licenses. In other states, license applicants must choose a female or male marker.
- Some states are changing the way insurers factor gender into premiums. Oregon requires car insurance companies to provide rates specifically for their customers who select the X gender marker identity. California has banned gender-based car insurance rating altogether.
- Changing your gender marker may or may not impact your car insurance rate. Insurers use many rating factors when determining your car insurance premium. Some drivers may experience a rate increase after changing their gender marker, while others might enjoy a premium decrease, according to the NCTE.
Your Driver’s License Gender Is Where to Start
In most states, a driver’s license application gives you two gender choices, “F” for female or “M” for male. What you mark must match the gender you select for your car insurance, which is why it’s important to understand how to change your driver’s license gender first.
The traditional F and M gender markers don’t always work for transgender and nonbinary drivers. All states have administrative procedures in place for transgender motorists to change the gender on their driver’s license, but some provide an easier process than others.
For example, Alabama requires transgender drivers to submit an amended birth certificate or a written statement from a surgeon verifying gender reassignment surgery, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE). In Arkansas, you can change your driver’s license gender by submitting a request to the state’s Office of Driver Services, without presenting further documentation. To do this, though, you’ll need to change your birth certificate, which requires a court order.
Much of what your experience will be like depends on the state in which you live. The Balance spoke by email with a driver who identifies as male and went through the process of changing his gender in North Carolina.
“I was able to change my gender on my driver’s license, Social Security card, and passport,” said the driver, who asked The Balance to identify him as “Wyatt.” “I have a letter from my therapist stating that my gender is male. That was all that was required to change my gender in North Carolina. Of course, I can only speak for myself. I have heard other trans folk having more difficulty navigating the name/gender change process.”
Nonbinary motorists can face a bigger challenge selecting a gender marker on their driver’s license because they don’t identify as female or male. Thankfully, a growing number of states are making it easier for nonbinary drivers to apply the proper gender marker to their driver’s licenses.
States That Provide a Nonbinary Option for a Driver’s License
As of September 2020, 19 states and the District of Columbia offer a nonbinary option for driver’s license applicants:
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
The gender-neutral option—signified with an “X” gender marker on identification documents—is designed to reduce ambiguity for nonbinary people but the X doesn’t carry the same legal definition everywhere, NCTE Deputy Executive Director for Policy and Action Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen told The Balance in a phone interview.
“The first thing you should know is that the exact definition of the ‘X’ on a driver’s license actually varies. Some of the states with the X option classify the X as nonbinary. But other states classify the X as ‘decline to state’ or ‘other,’” Heng-Lehtinen said. “So, in those states, you could hypothetically select the X if you don’t want to disclose.”
Gender Markers and Car Insurance Policies
Once you change your gender marker on your driver’s license, you can make the change with your car insurance provider. Geico made the procedure simple for Wyatt.
“The process to change my gender on my insurance was to send them a picture of my updated driver’s license and a certified copy of my name change from the state of North Carolina,” he said.
Since the insurance industry is so highly regulated by state codes, insurers that sell auto insurance in states that offer the nonbinary X gender marker on driver’s licenses are supposed to comply by adding the option to insurance applications.
However, the gender-neutral laws in the handful of states that have them are still relatively new, so it’s possible some providers haven’t updated their forms yet.
“I’m not sure if all the insurance companies in all the states have adopted it, but it’s because it takes a long time to make the change,” Heng-Lehtinen said. “It takes a while to move the levers of an insurance company, just like any other institution.”
When we requested quotes from five major car insurance carriers—including Allstate, Amica, Nationwide, Progressive, and State Farm—we found inconsistencies in the way they address gender. First, we requested quotes for drivers in California and Minnesota, which extend motorists the X gender option when applying for a driver’s license. Amica and Progressive’s gender options included female, male, and nonbinary, while Allstate, Nationwide, and State Farm only offered female and male options in those two states.
We also requested quotes for a driver in Tennessee, which doesn’t offer the X gender marker option for driver’s licenses. None of the five providers offered us the X gender marker option for our Tennessee auto owner.
Nonbinary people living in states that don’t offer the X gender marker must choose between the F and M markers, which Heng-Lehtinen considers a flaw in the insurance industry.
“There really isn’t any consistency yet (in the industry), which is why the best solution is to make everything gender-neutral,” said Heng-Lehtinen.
How Are States and Insurers Addressing Rates for Nonbinary Drivers?
A couple of states are tackling not just how nonbinary people can identify themselves with insurers, but how that affects—or doesn't affect—rates.
In April 2018, the Oregon Division of Financial Regulation issued a bulletin that requires auto insurance companies who use gender to calculate rates to provide the X gender marker on their insurance applications.
The directive required insurers to submit new rates for drivers who identify their gender with the X marker on their driver’s license, which the state defines as a “non-specified” gender. Furthermore, the bulletin noted that insurers that don’t use gender as a rating factor will be considered “unfairly discriminatory” if they do not offer an “X” option.
California went a step further by banning the use of gender-based car insurance rating altogether. In January 2019, then-California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones announced the Gender Non-Discrimination in Automobile Insurance Rating Regulation, which prohibits insurers of private automobiles from using gender as a rating factor.
In June 2020, current California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara announced a new auto insurance comparison tool that reflects gender-neutral rates provided by 51 carriers.
According to the California Department of Insurance Estimates, a male motorist who drives an average number of annual miles and has a good driving record could save an average of $115 annually because of the non-gender rating regulation. However, female drivers with the same profile could face an average annual rate increase of around $53.
But keep in mind that California and Oregon are outliers. While 19 states and Washington, D.C. offer the nonbinary gender option, most have not addressed the disparity in gender-based car insurance rating.
Insurance companies may make these changes begrudgingly, but Heng-Lehtinen cheered the progress.
“At the end of the day, that’s a fairer system,” he said. “It’s absolutely the prerogative of insurance companies to charge riskier drivers more than safer drivers. By making rating gender-neutral, it keeps the focus on risk. It changes rates from being a very blunt instrument to a surgical one.”
Do Car Insurance Rates Increase If You Change Your Gender?
It’s hard to say whether changing your gender marker will affect your car insurance rate. Providers apply many factors when setting rates, including your annual mileage, credit rating, your driving record, and location.
“We have heard that, anecdotally, rates will go in either direction,” said Heng-Lehtinen. “When someone changes their driver’s license, it’s a natural point (at) which to notify the insurance company. If the rate changes then and there, you know it’s because of their gender (since) nothing else changed.”
In general, though, car insurance providers tend to charge males higher premiums because they are more likely to get into car accidents (including accidents while driving under the influence), according to the Insurance Information Institute. Consequently, car insurance companies charge male drivers higher rates to mitigate the increased risk of accidents.
National Center for Transgender Equality. “How Trans-Friendly is Then Driver’s License Gender Change Policy in Your State?” Accessed Sept. 29, 2020.
Oregon Division of Financial Responsibility. “Action Required by Oregon Auto Insurers.” Accessed Sept. 29, 2020.
California Department of Insurance. “Commissioner Issues Regulations Prohibiting Gender Discrimination in Automobile Insurance Rates.” Accessed Sept. 29, 2020.
California Department of Insurance. "Department of Insurance Updates Auto Premium Comparisons With Gender-Neutral Rates." Accessed Sept. 29, 2020.
Insurance Information Institute. “What Determines the Price of an Auto Insurance Policy?” Accessed Sept. 29, 2020.