Rent, taxes, the price for a gallon of milk — all of these are cost-of-living factors that change depending on where you live. There are plenty of calculators online that help you compare your living expenses once you’ve moved from one city to another, but what about your car insurance?
To help answer this, we studied how location impacts auto insurance rates for drivers age 23 to 35, using pricing information from the biggest insurers in every state, provided by Quadrant Information Services, the leading industry authority on insurance rates.
We also looked at the top U.S. cities millennials are moving to (according to the National Association of Realtors), mapped that information to the Quadrant-provided car insurance data, and asked three experts why location matters when insurance companies calculate risk and what you can do to keep your rate down.
Car Insurance Rates by City
Millennials are moving at a much higher rate than previous generations did. A new study from Zillow indicated that 45.3% of people aged 25 to 34 have lived in their homes for less than two years, compared to 33.8% of the same cohort in 1960.
And when millennials do move, affordability and job availability are key. That’s why cities like Salt Lake City, Grand Rapids, and Omaha are topping the charts of most-sought-after cities for millennials, according to the National Association of Realtors.
The following rates are sample sets meant only for general comparison. Your own premium will vary. Learn how we tested rates by location in the methodology section at the bottom of the page.
Cities selected from “Most Popular Areas for Millennials: Where They Move and Stay” report by the National Association of Realtors.
How Moving Affects Your Car Insurance
Location — even down to the ZIP code — is a major factor when insurance companies determine your rate. This is all because of risk.
“Insurance companies will determine how ‘risky’ your area is by reviewing the frequency and cost of car insurance claims in your ZIP code,” says Daniel Jelley of Shaefer Insurance Agency. “Typically, from there they adjust your cost up or down depending on your driving record, the type of car you drive, your credit history, and your age, among other variables.”
Generally, moving from an urban area to a rural area will result in lower premiums, as less density often means a lesser chance of crime, car accidents, or other perils. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true — moving to a big city could translate to higher insurance costs.
Zhaneta Gechev, founder of One Stop Life Insurance, says that Las Vegas, Nevada, where her practice is based, has one of the highest insurance rates in the nation. She says that many customers who moved to Las Vegas saw their rates triple, even though they had the same records, vehicles, and policies as before. This variance is widespread, even at the street level. “For example, you could literally move across the street to a new ZIP code and see as much as a 20% difference in your auto insurance rates,” Gechev says.
The higher cost of living in a city isn’t a rule, though. Your rate also depends on your car usage and how many miles you drive, says Lev Barinskiy, CEO of SmartFinancial.com, an insurance policy comparison website based in Costa Mesa, California. “Keep that in mind if you live in a very rural area where you have to drive an hour to get to the local store. This is because the more you drive, the more at-risk you are of getting into an accident.”
How to Tell Your Insurance Company That You’re Moving
As soon as you move, you’ll need to inform your current car insurance company. You can do this either by calling your agent or your insurance company directly. Jelley says that it’s important to do this sooner than later, as you don’t want to run into any billing issues, like missed car insurance notifications, statements, and payment notices.
More importantly, though, “if you fail to inform your car insurance company about your move and you are in an accident, they may be able to deny claims due to misrepresentation about where you are now living and where your vehicle is garaged,” Jelley says.
Informing your car insurance company of your move may result in a rate change or even a policy rewrite if you have moved to a different state. But the risk of not telling your provider is greater, so make sure to keep it updated on major life moves.
How to Keep Your Car Insurance Rates Down
If you are planning a move you expect will raise your rates, it’s important to be cognizant of what areas are prone to car accidents, auto theft, and moving violations, Gechev says. Living in a neighborhood that is deemed “high-risk” by your insurance company could result in an increase in premiums.
Insurance companies consider the following factors when measuring risk within a location:
- Vehicle theft and vandalism
- Car accidents
- Claims filed
- Population density
- Where you park your car (e.g., garage, street, parking lot)
But those risk factors aren’t the only aspect of location you should take into account. Your daily commute, or lack thereof, also makes a big difference, as you’re more likely to get into a car accident if you’re in your car more often. Jelley suggests moving close to your place of work or school as a potential way to lower your rates.
Barinskiy says that you could also get a price break if you keep your car in a garage or lot instead of relying on street parking. Minimizing car use and taking advantage of public transit options could save you in the long run. “Some carriers offer considerable discounts to people who drive less than 7,500 or 5,000 miles a year,” he says.
If it’s looking like your car insurance rate will increase substantially, you could take this as an opportunity to shop around for a better rate. Check out our review of the best car insurance companies, as well as our car insurance buyer’s guide, for our tips on getting the best deals on your car insurance.
We worked with Quadrant Information Services to analyze data on credit-based auto insurance rates in all 50 states. Quadrant provides data on premiums using information insurers are required to file with state insurance departments. Rates are based on sample profiles created by Reviews.com for comparative purposes.
Pricing information shown here includes rates for drivers aged 23, 27, 31, and 35, both male and female, driving a 2017 Toyota Camry with annual mileage of 15,000. All profiles have a clean driving record and carry a minimum liability insurance policy.
We checked rates for the top four to 10 insurers in every state based on market share, with data coming from more than 34,000 ZIP codes across the U.S. These rates are a sample set meant for comparison only. Your own rates will vary.