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Fewer miles = less risk

Des Toups

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CarInsurance.com

Low-mileage discountsThe number of miles you drive directly affects the risk you pose to your insurance company. The more miles, the higher the risk -- and the more expensive your rates.

For example, here’s what a 40-year-old male commuting to work in a 2013 Subaru BRZ Premium in Oakland, Calif., would pay for full coverage at various mileage levels:

  • 7,000 miles: $2,060
  • 12,000 miles: $2,161
  • 15,000 miles: $2,275
  • 25,000 miles: $2,589

Your car insurance might reflect some kind of discount off standard rates below 10,000 miles, and if you drive less than 7,000, you should expect a fairly substantial break.

More than 84 percent of drivers who submitted car insurance quote requests through our online comparison tool over an 18-month period reported annual mileage of 12,000 miles a year or less. About 18 percent reported annual mileage of 7,000 miles or less.

How everyone else drives

Based on more than 345,000 recent insurance quote requests, our data show that annual mileage hits its peak among younger drivers and declines steadily. Annual mileage by age range:

  • 16 to 24: 11,800
  • 25 to 34: 11,526
  • 35 to 44: 11,462
  • 45 to 54: 11,091
  • 55 to 64: 10,606
  • 65 and over: 9,575

Women reported higher annual mileage than men did, 11,448 versus 11,110. That holds true for every age bracket but is especially pronounced among the ages most likely to have small children at home.

Age rangeWomenMen
16 to 24 11,851 11,754
25 to 34 11,710 11,362
35 to 44 11,636 11,306
45 to 54 11,199 11,005
55 to 64 10,792 10,484
65 and over 9,628 9,549

For the four most recent model years, 2010 through 2013, Mini and Smart owners reported the lowest annual average mileage at 10,682 and 10,721, respectively. Buick and Cadillac owners reported the highest at 13,260 and 12,769.

As cars get older, they tend to be driven less. Here is the average reported mileage by model year going back to 1990:

YearMilesYearMilesYearMiles
1990 10,328 1998 10,796 2006 11,635
1991 10,297 1999 10,815 2007 11,820
1992 10,646 2000 10,842 2008 11,910
1993 10,602 2001 10,886 2009 11,917
1994 10,477 2002 11,009 2010 11,851
1995 10,547 2003 11,054 2011 11,660
1996 10,555 2004 11,342 2012 11,597
1997 10,502 2005 11,466 2013 11,959

It’s not just the miles; it’s how the miles are racked up. Certain types of use mean a vehicle is on the road more often or at more dangerous times, which is why your insurance company asks how you intend to use it. This is what average mileage looks like by usage classification.

  • Artisan: 13,455
  • Business calls: 13,563
  • Clergyman: 13,435
  • Delivery: 15,199
  • Farm or ranch: 10,066
  • Government: 16,355
  • Pleasure: 9,290
  • School: 10,931
  • To/from work: 11,977

How to get a low-mileage discount

Any discount you get for low mileage depends largely on your insurance company, says CarInsurance.com consumer analyst Penny Gusner.

“The discount is typically 5 to 15 percent, and at some companies the discounts start at 10,000 miles, and others at 7,500 miles,” she says, noting that the discounts usually apply to collision and liability coverages. “You may not see a line item on your policy that says ‘low mileage discount’ because many companies adjust your base rates, so you may  have to ask your agent or company to make sure your premium reflects any change.”

Some companies may require verification of your mileage. That could come from several sources: a form that you fill out; a photo you take and mail in; or service and emissions records.

If you drive an exceptionally small number of miles -- safely -- pay-as-you-drive insurance might save you even more. Insurers such as Progressive send you a device that plugs into your car and reports odometer readings and driving habits, then calculate a discount that can reach 40 or 50 percent in some rare cases.

And, if you’re driving that little, you likely qualify for a host of other discounts as well, Gusner says. Check out CarInsurance.com’s Guide to Discounts.

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