Nashville insurance insight: The future of car insurance

If I could see into the future… well, I’d probably be in pretty high demand in the insurance industry. Since I can’t, I rely on studies and data to try and understand trends, and pass information along to my clients.

One thing I get asked a lot lately: “Why does it seem like car insurance rates keep going up?” The short answer: Because car insurance rates keep going up.

From Forbes: “Since about 2012, rates to insure vehicles have gone up in all states and for all drivers, even including those with spotless driving records and no claims.”

I know that’s not fun and/or reassuring, but I think it’s worth at least knowing why things are trending in that direction, how we can work with it, and what we can expect from the future.


Why car insurance rates are rising, according to experts


It’s a deep well, but here are just a few of the most commonly cited reasons car insurance premiums have been on the rise:

1. We’re driving more

There’s always a trade-off. As gas prices have dipped and employment rates have shot up, we’ve been getting out more. More driving equals more risk, and more car insurance claims. Ultimately, that ends up in our rates. Here’s more from Consumer Reports.

2. Distracted driving is becoming an epidemic

Sobering CDC stats: In 2013, “nearly one in five crashes (18%) in which someone was injured involved distracted driving.” As distracted driving-related accidents rise, so do claims, and again, so do our rates.

“Every American is going to pay more because of the distracted driving epidemic," Robert Hartwig, co-director of the Center for Risk and Uncertainty Management at the University of South Carolina, told NBC News earlier this year. "That's because no fault can be attributed in an accident and also because many people who are distracted driving certainly aren't going to admit to it. So what winds up happening is these costs are imposed on the system overall. Everyone is a victim of distracted driving."

3. Claims are getting bigger

As claims frequency has gone up, so has the size of those claims. Experts nod to a variety of reasons, from the rise in medical costs to a steady rise in auto parts prices. But here’s a sense of how significant the rise has been:

“From 2005 to 2013, figures show the average cost per paid bodily injury liability claim increased 32 percent, from $11,738 to $15,506, according to the Insurance Research Council. In 2014 it had reached $16,600, up 7 percent over the 2013 average payout.”

4. Extreme weather takes its toll too

While weather-related claims are usually more on the home insurance front, tornadoes, hailstorms and other weather hit our cars, too. And as weather patterns get more severe, damage gets more prevalent, and claims follow suit. Data Forbes dug up showed that insurance companies are losing more in comprehensive car-insurance claims than they have in more than a decade.


Where do we go from here?


I can’t say how long this upward trend is going to last. But while we’re in it, I’d at least recommend softening the blow as much as you can, by driving safely and shopping smart.

Here’s a rundown of some of the ways you can save on insurance, here in Nashville and elsewhere. As for the smart shopping, I’m more than happy to help with that.

As we move forward, there are some indications that things might shift in the other direction.

Many people see high-tech innovation as a way for drivers to save, with things like “usage-based car insurance” — where tech tools track where/how you drive — becoming more prominent.

More connected options like that could mean solid discounts for safe drivers. Examples from a few companies I work with: Nationwide’s SmartRide Program can save safe drivers up to 40 percent; MetLife’s My Journey can go up to 30 based on your driving score.

Further down the road, there’s a sense that autonomous vehicles are going to bring big changes, not just to the roads, but to the insurance industry. (There’s no way they couldn’t, really.)

This piece in the Insurance Journal predicts that after 2026, as autonomous vehicles become more commonplace and roads become safer (in theory), auto insurance premiums should drop.

Feels pretty astounding that what felt like a sci-fi dream for so long is theoretically that close to being the norm. But then, as one of the insurers I work with so presciently said, “life comes at you fast.”