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Independence Day: How breaking up affects car insurance

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CarInsurance.com

Young man waving flagThe breakup with your girlfriend is finally complete, and you're celebrating your own personal Independence Day with your buddies and some brews.

But if she was also listed on your auto insurance policy her departure could mean big changes for your car insurance premiums. Will you be celebrating with your own fireworks as the rates fall? Or will you be crying in your beer as they rise?

The only easy answer is: It depends.

"If the driver removed from the policy is a safe-driving superstar with a pristine driving record and the driver remaining is far below average, then rates can go up," says Lynne McChristian, Florida representative for the Insurance Information Institute.

On the other hand, if your girlfriend had her own collection of traffic tickets and your driving record is squeaky clean, you're most likely to see your car insurance rates decline, says Brandt Minnich, vice president of marketing at Mercury Insurance.

And if both of you have similar driving records, you'll probably see little change because of the split, Minnich says.

The most important factor that car insurance companies consider when setting rates is your driving record. If you want to keep your rates as low as possible, you need to keep your driving record as clean as possible.

But your driving record isn't the only thing that comes into play. Car insurers consider a whole host of other factors, and they assess risk differently, so it's wise to compare insurance companies to find the best rates, regardless of what's going on in your love life.

One of the big things they take into account is gender, and unfortunately for you, males typically pay more than females for the same type of auto insurance coverage.

Driving while male - risky business

Men generally drive more miles than women and are more likely to engage in risky behaviors, such as drinking and driving, speeding and not wearing seat belts, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. And men accounted for 71 percent of all motor vehicle crash deaths in 2012. That year, more than 33,000 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes.

Another factor your car insurance company will take into consideration when setting rates is your years of experience behind the wheel, Minnich says.

If you've been driving for a decade and your girlfriend has been driving for a couple of years, experience definitely weighs in your favor.

Because younger drivers tend to be more distracted and take more risks, they'll pay higher auto insurance rates. Even younger drivers who have a driving record with no black marks against it, if licensed for less than three years, will typically pay an inexperienced operator surcharge. That surcharge declines with age, and then is eliminated by the time the driver has reached age 25.

How credit and location impact car insurance rates

And while it may seem far removed from your record behind the wheel and your years of driving experience, auto insurance companies often will also take your credit score into consideration, McChristian says.

So if you're one of the millions of Americans who has filed for bankruptcy in the past few years, and your girlfriend has managed to maintain a credit score of 800, your car insurance rates could rise now that you're on your own.

The amount you pay for your premium also may be affected by the auto insurance discounts you received.

"There may have been some multi-car discounts provided, so having both a car and a driver removed from the policy would affect rates," McChristian says.

If you're a Geico customer, for example, you might have a discount of up to 25 percent on most of your types of auto insurance coverages if you've insured more than one vehicle. And Nationwide offers a Family Plan, so anyone who lives in the same household as you can receive the same discounts.

Another factor that influences your auto insurance rates is where you reside. So if you've moved into new digs since your split, your rates could easily change, McChristian says.

Just moving from one ZIP code to another in the same city could cause your rates to skyrocket or to sink, even though your driving record, insurance claim history and the vehicle you drive haven't changed.

When auto insurance companies set their rates, they look at the insurance claims rates in a geographic region. They'll take into account such things as the number of vehicles that are stolen in that area, the number of claims filed because of car burglaries, the number of vandalism reports, and even damage claims caused by a natural disaster such as a wildfire or a hurricane.

Considering all the uncertainty that comes from removing someone from your auto insurance policy, you might be reluctant to add them in the first place. But that carries its own set of risks.

Everyone who lives in your household or uses your car regularly should be added to your policy. If not, and they get in a wreck while driving your vehicle, your auto insurance company could deny your claim on the grounds you misrepresented who drove your vehicle, says Penny Gusner, consumer analyst for Insure.com.


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