Financial Advice

Widows Pay More for Car Insurance Than Married Women, Study Finds

It’s not like anyone would get married to save money on car insurance — especially when you consider how expensive weddings can be — but insurance premiums are almost always higher for single, separated or divorced drivers than premiums for married drivers, according to a study by the Consumer Federation of America.

The difference is especially notable among widowed drivers. Quotes from the six major U.S. insurers were an average of 14% higher for widows than for married drivers with otherwise similar profiles. The research used online insurance quotes from State Farm, GEICO, Farmers, Progressive, Nationwide and Liberty for the same driver profile in 10 cities.

The prices for state-mandated liability coverage are based on a driver who is a 30-year-old female who has been driving since age 16, has a high school degree, has no accidents or moving violations, works as a bank teller, rents in a ZIP code where the median income is $30,000, drives (and owns) a 2005 Honda Civic and most recently purchased insurance three years ago. By varying the marital status of this driver, CFA discovered that most insurance providers charge married drivers less than others.

State Farm’s rates did not vary by marital status, and Nationwide only sometimes gave widows higher quotes. The other four insurers quoted annual premiums at 20% more for widows than for married drivers. On average, GEICO hiked prices the most for widows (29%), followed by Farmers (22%), Progressive (19%) and Liberty (8%). Nationwide quoted widows at an average of 3% more than married drivers.

“Hiking rates on women whose husbands die seems both unfair and inhumane,” said Stephen Brobeck, CFA’s Executive Director, in a news release about the research. “Why don’t insurers instead emphasize driving-related factors such as accidents, traffic violations, and miles driven in their pricing?”

The report notes that in Oakland, Calif., one of the 10 cities used in the research, prices varied little by marital status, which the CFA attributes to a state law that “requires auto insurers to treat driving record, miles driven, and years experience as ‘mandatory’ and ‘primary’ factors in rate-setting.” Marital status is among a group of optional factors that cannot weigh as heavily on rates.

In some states, your credit score can have a significant impact on how much you pay for car insurance. Certain aspects of your credit history may indicate how likely you are to pay your insurance premiums, hence the impact on pricing. How much affect your credit has on your insurance costs varies by state, but it’s not factored in at all in California, Massachusetts or Hawaii. As for everyone living in the other 47 states and D.C., it’s yet another reason to aim for as good a credit score you can attain. As you work to improve or rebuild your credit, you can get your free credit scores on every 30 days to help you track your progress.

Do you think it’s fair that widows are charged higher car insurance rates than married drivers? Tell us in the comments below.

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This article by Christine DiGangi was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.