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What women need to know about car insurance

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The nation’s car insurance rates show a gender gap — and here’s why.

While it might sound counterintuitive, women and men can pay different rates for the same auto insurance coverage based on gender alone. That’s true through most of the US, anyway. Exceptions are Massachusetts, Hawaii and North Carolina, which prohibit a customer’s gender from affecting their rates.

So in 47 states, among the range of factors that affect price is gender, often resulting in cheaper car insurance for women than for men. Still, it’s easy for men and women alike to end up paying too much for car insurance.

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A few reasons behind the cost differential between men and women

Men commit about 70% to 80% of all drunk driving offenses reported in the US each year. In 2014 alone, three times as many men than women were arrested for drunk driving — 401,904 men versus 130,480 women.

These statistics support the bias that women are generally more cautious when driving, taking fewer risks than men behind the wheel. Women also tend to rack up fewer violations on their driving records than men do, and to be involved in fewer accidents overall.

Isn’t charging more for one gender sexual discrimination?

In short, no. Thanks to the power of statistics, insurance companies can justify using gender to calculate insurance rates without running afoul of discrimination laws.

Simply put, women are a statistically safer demographic to insure than men are. Along the same lines, college professors are safer to insure than journalists, and accountants are safer to insure than traveling salespeople. Generally, the safer you are to insure, the cheaper your rates will be.

Insurance providers are also able to consider factors like your credit score when determining your insurance rate. That can sound even more counterintuitive than using your gender — how does your credit score have anything to do with your driving? But once again, studies linking poor credit scores and elevated accident risk have allowed the industry to make this practice commonplace.

Learn more about the correlation between credit score and accident risk in the Federal Trade Commission’s July 2007 report to Congress. For an easier read about this study and the topic in general, take a look at the Insurance Information Institute’s guide to the issue.

Your gender and credit score affects your insurance rates in most states — but not all.

An insurer can’t legally factor your gender into your car insurance if you live in Hawaii, Massachusetts or North Carolina. And in California, Massachusetts and Hawaii, your credit score can’t be factored into your car insurance rates. So if you’re in either Hawaii or Massachusetts, neither your credit score nor gender is going to change what you pay for auto insurance.

What else plays into car insurance costs?

Your gender is far from the only factor affecting your rates. Insurers consider a whole host of elements when calculating what you should pay for your coverage.

  • Age. Young drivers under 25 and seniors generally pay more for car insurance. The insurance industry considers drivers under 25 — and especially male drivers under 25 — to be at higher risk for car accidents. Until about age 60 to 65, the older you are, the lower your car insurance rates tend to be.
  • Driving experience. Learners and younger drivers typically pay more, which often compounds the effect of age on premiums.
  • Type of car. Screaming down the highway in a red Corvette might sound like fun, but luxury and sports cars are almost always more costly to insure than sedans and minivans. Expensive cars are costlier to fix, which means higher expenses for insurance companies. Moreover, fast cars are associated with riskier driving behaviors, putting sports cars and their drivers at a higher risk for accidents.
  • Occupation. People who have long commutes or who drive around all day for work — say, outside sales representatives or real estate brokers — can expect higher premiums. However, many professionals who drive a lot do so in company cars, or at least under car insurance coverage through their employers to cover their mileage when they’re on the clock.
  • Marital status. Being married nearly always nets you a lower insurance rate than singletons, because insurers and banks consider married people to be more reliable and financially stable.
  • Location. Some neighborhoods and ZIP codes are at higher risk of theft, vandalism and other potential hazards, which incurs higher costs. Urban drivers are at higher risk for an accident than people who live far outside the city limits. Similarly, if one area is more prone to flooding or storms, it could affect your premiums.
  • Claims history. The more car insurance claims you’ve made in the past, the higher your premiums generally are.
  • Driving record. The more violations you have on your driving record, the more you can expect to pay for your car insurance. If you’re notorious for speeding, driving under the influence or instigating a drag race at every red light, your insurer will likely know about it and raise your rates accordingly.
  • Credit score. Like it or not, nearly all auto insurance providers use your credit score to help calculate your risk before arriving at a policy cost. This is because multiple independent studies indicate that if your credit score is low, you’re more likely to be involved in an accident. However, three states prohibit the use of credit to determine rates: California, Massachusetts and Hawaii.
  • Other drivers. Only designated people are approved to drive your car, and all of them affect the cost you’ll ultimately pay. Even the world’s safest driver will get a substantial price hike by listing a less conscientious driver on their policy.
  • Typical driving habits. Your typical distance driven, how often you get behind the wheel and where you drive all play a part in your car insurance prices.

Marriage affects your rates differently by gender too.

There’s actually another gender-related difference here — for a 20-year-old woman, the insurance rate drop after getting married could be as much as 28%. For 20-year-old married men, they’ll typically pay 25% less than their single counterparts.

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Compare top car insurance providers

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Car insurance through Liberty Mutual will give coverage options for almost any situation.
Root offers simple, affordable insurance that’s ideal for good drivers. Try the Root app for 2 weeks and see how much you could save. Available in 20 states.
Yes, cars under 1 year old & 15,000 miles
All states except AK, DE, HI, MT, NH, VT, WY
Esurance offers a modern online and mobile experience that helps you take your insurance on the go. Available in 42 states.
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Drive less than 30 miles a day? Save on the coverage you need with pay-per-mile insurance from Metromile. Get a low monthly rate then pay just a few cents per mile. Available in CA, IL, NJ, OR, PA, VA and WA.
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USAA offers affordable car insurance with highly rated customer service to millions of military members and their families. Only available to military members, veterans and affiliated military members.

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Should I go with a specialty women’s insurer?

Not in most cases. Laws prohibit insurers from barring a gender from its services, which means that if you find an insurer marketing itself for women only, it’s likely nothing more than a clever advertising gimmick.

Which insurers offer women-specific policies?

None. An insurer can’t offer policies to women only, because doing so would be considered gender discrimination. Some insurers market themselves specifically for women, but they also insure men. There is no functional difference between the coverage they can offer men and women.

What if my ID doesn’t match my gender identity?

How your insurance company evaluates your gender largely depends on how you’re represented on your ID. But the majority of states don’t make it easy to change the gender on your ID, often resulting in an unnecessarily complicated process.

Armed with your legal and medical forms, you might be able to speak directly to your insurer to talk about more affordable rates while you pursue changing the gender marking on your driver’s license.

Changing gender markings on forms of ID

Many US states now allow you to change your gender on your driver’s license, though the formal process (and frustration) varies by state. As of this writing, roughly 10 US states provide a clear process that accepts supporting documentation from a range of medical professionals. Another seven states allow the same process, though they may limit the medical professionals they accept documentation from.

Contact the National Center for Transgender Equality for your state’s policies or to learn more from an attorney who specializes in changes to government-issued ID.

Bottom line

If you’re a woman, it’s likely you’ll pay 10% to 15% less for your car insurance coverage than a man your age with a similar driving record will. To learn more about finding the lowest rates you’re eligible for, read our comprehensive guide to car insurance.

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Andy Frakes

Andy's background in journalism and experiences with endurance sports have left him hungry for challenges, and he finds plenty to conquer with the finder team. When he isn't writing the best car insurance articles on the Internet, he's probably out shooting photos, hunting for bargains in SoHo or eating breakfast food (yes, for the third time today).

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