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Study: Bad Credit Can Mean Higher Auto Insurance Rates

A new survey says consumers with poor credit scores often find they're charged considerably more for auto insurance those with good credit. (HillStreet/GettyImages)
A new survey says consumers with poor credit scores often find they're charged considerably more for auto insurance those with good credit. (HillStreet/GettyImages)
July 14, 2017

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – If you have a good driving record but think your car insurance is too high, a new survey says your credit score could be the problem.

A report by the online marketing firm WalletHub found five of the largest insurance companies that write auto policies use credit ratings as a factor in determining insurance premiums.

And the difference between good credit and bad can be substantial.

In Arkansas, a low credit score can increase premiums as much as 73 percent.

Jill Gonzalez, an analyst for WalletHub, explains low credit doesn't mean companies think a person is more likely to be in an accident.

"It has to do with, 'Do you have a history of paying your bills, and do you think that history will carry on when paying out your insurance premiums?'” she explains. “I think that's really where the mindset is here. I would say it's more of a cost risk than an actual driving risk."

The report shows the effect a credit score can have on the cost of an auto policy varies widely. Gonzalez says WalletHub found companies such as Farmers and Allstate weigh credit scores heavily in calculating premiums, while for GEICO and Progressive, low credit is much less of a factor.

She says costs also vary between states.

The survey found bad credit in New Jersey can raise rates as much as 100 percent, while in California, poor credit adds very little to the cost of a policy.

Some critics say using credit scores to rate policies can unfairly raise insurance rates for lower-income families and communities of color.

"Depending on where you live and who your provider is, people with no credit – so, those are people who may be recent grads, people who are simply unbanked, people with no credit – pay on average 65 percent more for car insurance than people with excellent credit do," Gonzalez explains.

Gonzalez adds avoiding accidents and tickets will do the most to keep insurance rates down. But paying bills on time can help, too.

"If you are currently shopping around for a new policy or a new provider, then actively be trying to improve your credit score at the same time, because chances are the more you improve it, the lower that premium will be," she advises.

Gonzalez says some companies are more transparent than others about how they use credit scores. Check the fine print on an insurer's website or call the company and ask it directly.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AR