Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Paying more car insurance to drive fewer miles

My car insurance is going up $10 for the next six months.

It's not a bad deal. We're still only paying $370 to cover two claims-free, suburban-driven compacts. I don't know what to think of what we're getting for the money. We've been driving a lot less on our now tighter budget. Mrs. Ktnomics is using her 70 mpg Vespa more when the weather is nice.

The insurance company said, when it told us the new premium, that our bail bond coverage is higher, we get more money to replacement income if we need to take time off work to testify in court, and it will pay higher first-aid costs if someone is injured in our accident. I've never used any of those things in the 47 years I've been licensed.

Turns out that a lot of us are paying more to drive less, though Insurance Information Institute statistics show the amounts vary widely. So far this year, State Farm, the nation's largest auto insurer, has increased rates in 25 states and trimmed them in 12 for an overall average increase of 1.2 percent. And the Missouri and Kansas hikes, 3.8 percent and 2.2 percent respectively, are mild compared to what some competitors are posting, said spokesperson Tamara O'Connor in Kansas City.

Insurance companies say claims experience drives the changes. Vehicle repair costs, medical bills, lawsuits and everything else that my now $370 helps cover are creeping higher. Others say the recession is a force too. Insurers reportedly worry they'll get burned by pent-up claims demand as the economy improves.

Some may worry they'll be scorched by consumers too. We're getting pickier about what we buy. New on-line competitors are grabbing market share from traditional agents. And one group of industry watchers, at Marketscout.com, suggests that some traditional agents' competitive elbows are getting sharper too.

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles offered some of the best advice for consumers 40 years ago. Who knew?

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