Nashville insurance insight: auto insurance rates are rising, and here’s why

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I have two main goals as a Nashville insurance broker: keeping my clients adequately covered, and doing so at the best rate possible.

I do have to admit, though, that those rates, specifically on the auto insurance front, keep getting tougher to keep down.

Quick and dirty data: Over about a decade, average auto insurance costs in the U.S. steadily and consistently rose — over the past few years, it’s been around 2 to 3 percent a year. That might seem like a small percentage, but it adds up — in 2006, the average annual car insurance expenditure was close to $800; by 2015, it was closer to $900.

That broader trend has been true in most states, including Tennessee — only Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia saw average car insurance premium drop recently.

When the U.S. trend moves in an upward direction, your personal rates may (and in a lot of cases, will) follow.

The logical next question is usually, “Why?”

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Car insurance providers (and all insurance providers, really) are in a constant process of balancing losses and expenses with written premiums. Obvious thing: When losses begin to exceed those premiums, rates increase to restore the balance.

It’s how the insurance business works, and, ultimately, just math. That’s where this steady rise has its roots.

Every year since 2007, losses across the auto insurance spectrum have exceeded premiums, often by a huge number. (In 2015, it was $7.5 billion, up from $3.3 billion in 2014.)

This is a broader trend, but it funnels down to your provider and often to your policy. And it comes from two things, in particular: The number of claims keeps rising, and the cost of each of those claims keeps rising alongside it.

Specifics: over the past few years, collision frequency rose more than 7 percent, and insurance claim severity jumped more than 8 percent. More often, more expensive: more rising rates.

What’s contributing to car insurance rate increases

We’re on the road more

Federal Highway Administration data shows that, after a few-years dip between 2008 and 2011, American drivers have hit the road hard over the past few years, with miles driven jumping up each year, particularly in the most recent ones.

When you match charts of claims frequency with miles driven, they’re a pretty tight match, which feels logical. The more we’re on the road, the more chance we have of an accident.

Why we’re driving more is a lot more complex, but studies show that higher employment and cheaper gas feed into it. We’re driving more for work, and for play.


Modern technology is distracting us

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This is a huge issue, and one that we’d all benefit from paying close attention to. Our hyper-connected lives are hard to disconnect from, and a staggering number of drivers are neglecting to take a break when they’re behind the wheel.

Numbers that paint the picture:

— The most recent data from The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (from 2014) noted that 431,000 people were injured and more than 3,000 killed in distracted driving accidents.

— A mind-boggling 74 percent of respondents in a National Safety Council survey admitted to using social media while driving.


Claims are costing more

The claim severity increase of the past few years is significant, but the cost of the average claim has been rising consistently for decades, and doing so faster than inflation.

Experts offer a bunch of different thoughts as to why we’re seeing a continuing, and now accelerating rise in cost. Some data points to rising speed limits as a contributor to more severe accidents and more severe claims.

But a lot of it seems to come down to something neither drivers or insurers can control: the cost of car repairs and medical costs keep rising too.

What you can do to lower your car insurance rates

The larger trend may be out of our control, but there are still things we can do to whittle down car insurance rates, from making use of the positive sides of the tech revolution (like telematics, tech tools that track your driving and help safe drivers save) to making smart shopping choices.

I wrote a blog post on different ways to save on car insurance, with lots of ideas worth exploring. But as always, I’m more than happy to do the legwork for you, shopping for car insurance coverage and discounts that fit what you need.

Call or email Tucker Coverage if you have any questions, or need help. If you want to get started, fill out this quick form to grab an online auto insurance quote, and I’ll get to work.