Bad credit risk, bad driver?
This is a good year for drivers in California. Way back when in 1988, Proposition 103 received more than enough support from voters to pass. Basically, voters wanted car insurers to set rates based on the driver's record and the number of miles driven. Three years ago, the Commissioner for Insurance introduced new rules prohibiting the use of ZIP codes as the primary factor for determining car insurance rates. These rules came into force July 14. This is one battle won for consumers' rights. The war goes on. Zip codes remain a dominant factor in other states. Similarly, insurers also check out your credit score. Almost every company seems to think that people with low credit score make bad drivers.
So what's going on? Well, it's all about how to define risk. All the factors go into the melting pot. How old you are, where you work, where you live, whether you own or rent your home, whether you own the car outright or have a car loan, what make and model of car, and so on. This personal information is included in your credit history. It gives the companies a snapshot of who you are. Is it fair to look at this information? Unfortunately, yes. Just as a loan company wants to know more about you before making the offer of a loan, car insurance companies want a better idea of whether you take care of your financial affairs before agreeing to pay out if you get in a traffic accident.
The first step in setting the auto insurance rate is whether you qualify for any discounts. For example, most companies offer discounts if you can pay an annual premium rather than by monthly or half-yearly installments. Then comes the math work. There are statistical methods to determine the risk of you getting in an accident. If you're a late payer who gets into trouble with liens and mortgages on your property, if you rent rather than own, you may not take as much care of your property as others. Add in lack of consistency in employment and multiple lines of credit getting close their the maximums, and you're considered a higher risk driver. It may not feel fair. It probably isn't completely fair. But that's the way insurance credit scoring works.
So, before you go online for your next car insurance quotes, check out your credit score and, if necessary, repair the score. The Fair Credit Reporting Act gives you the right to get free copies of your credit reports. Use that right and get your credit score into shape before getting quotes.