You don’t have to pay a lot of money for your car insurance coverage. Although rates in Maryland aren’t cheap for most consumers, especially if you have more than one vehicle and/or teenage drivers in your household, affordable prices can be found. Understanding the factors that impact premiums make the shopping process easier, and help you lower your cost. It will also allow you to switch companies (if applicable) and get a better deal.
The Best Shopping Tips
Compare rates from multiple companies. There is a tremendous variance in prices from the Top-10 carriers. Rates can often change, and the type of car you drive, and where you reside, can increase or decrease your premium by as much as 50%. Remember that all price quotes are free. Also, some carriers specialize in high-risk situations, while other carriers are most competitive in niche markets, such as antique vehicles or households with superior credit scores. Typically, within minutes, you can review premiums from several carriers.
Check deductibles – Of course higher deductibles will always lower your cost. But sometimes the difference will be much more than you realize. In many situations, you could raise your deductible, have an at-fault accident every other year, and still come out ahead. With older vehicles, it won’t make as big of a difference. But for any car or truck that is less than three years old, the savings between a $200 deductible and a $500 deductible can be substantial. The difference between a $100 deductible and $50 deductible will be negligible. $1,000 and $2,000 deductibles for luxury vehicles has become more popular.
Classic or antique vehicles often are covered as a “stated value” and deductibles may not apply. If you own a car or truck that is 25 years or older, and the market value is appreciating, a special type of policy may be more suitable. Although an appraisal may be required, and a limitation on miles driven will apply, you’ll be very happy with the coverage and premium. And if the vehicle is totaled, you will know in advance the amount of reimbursement you will be receiving. Every five years, a new appraisal should be obtained.
Rely on professional unbiased information – With more than three decades of experience helping consumers, I’m confident our website passes the test. But the internet is full of potholes and danger signs when you’re searching for better insurance rates. Many websites are not reliable, factual, US-based, or all three! And if you are ever asked to provide personal financial data, immediately exit the website. Also, just as importantly, our website does not gather or keep any personal or financial data about visitors.
Utilize the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) and DOI (Department of Insurance) websites. They offer free unbiased information about carriers, pricing, and several other helpful topics. Throughout this website, you will find several direct links that provide current information that may reduce your premium. Loss ratios, market shares, and recent rate filings are available for consumers.
Update coverage – Liability limits should be periodically increased to keep pace with inflation. Policies that were originally issued with state-minimum limits should be raised to the next level. Collision and comprehensive deductibles should be increased if historically there are very few at-fault accidents. Deductibles can always be changed to fit the type of cars and drivers in the household.
Discounts Make A Huge Difference
Understand discounts and how they can help you – Not all discounts are created the same, and each company handles them differently. Once you understand the ones you will qualify for, it will make the shopping process easier. Also, verification may be required for certain discounts, but not for others. Occasionally, additional documentation may need to be provided, especially college or high-school grade transcripts for a good-student discount.
For example, if you are the parents of a student, the “good student” and “student away” discounts will reduce your premium. Since youthful operator rates are the highest, these are two discounts you don’t want to ignore. If you’re not sure if you are receiving them, check your next declarations page when it is received. Also, keep current when forwarding your son or daughter’s good grades to the carrier. Often, graduate school may continue to qualify for the discount.
Beware of fraudulent insurers – Although very unlikely, there are bogus companies that are specifically created to fool the public and create the illusion they are a legitimate insurance carrier. We always painstakingly check that the companies we use are fully licensed in Maryland to do business. Typically, we only use the top-rated carriers for quoting. If you require additional data, there are many reputable research sources we can provide. A.M. Best and Standard & Poors ratings are easily available, along with DOI reports. “Complaint ratios” will show you which carriers receive the most consumer complaints.
Never pay for a quote – There are actually several websites that require an upfront “fee” to shop different carriers for you and provide online prices. This practice is unscrupulous, and probably barely legal. Naturally, you should never pay for quotes. They always should be free! And if you are ever asked to pay an administrative or application fee, take your business elsewhere. Any request to provide your personal banking or credit card information should be ignored.
Several discounts that are not often utilized include:
Employer or membership – Your employer may offer a 5%-15% premium reduction with an option to payroll-deduct the cost of coverage. Also, credit unions, Chamber of Commerce, Sams Club, and Costco may offer reductions to members. Credit cards occasionally feature attractive features.
Policy renewal – Depending upon the number of years you have been continuously covered with a carrier, a renewal discount may be applied one or more times. For example, increasing discounts may be offered at the 5, 10, and 20-year anniversaries.
Driver Education Courses – Completion of courses may provide small but permanent premium reductions. Senior discounts may be larger with additional course options offered. AARP and other Senior services can provide a list of approved vendors. Younger drivers with limited experience can often benefit from courses.
What Impacts My Rate?
Age – Naturally, drivers under 21 will pay higher premiums. The lowest prices are found within the 50-70 range, although the 30-50 range is usually one of the lowest-cost age brackets. Persons over the age of 85 will be closely scrutinized for possible medical conditions, and you should never change carriers (at that age). If over age 75 with an at-fault accident within the last 36 months, stay with your existing company, regardless of rate increases.
Driving Record – The obvious choice. The more tickets and accidents you have, the higher the rate becomes. But conversely, long periods of time with no claims activity will be rewarded with lower rates. If more than three years, the reduction will be greater. Accumulation of “no claim” reward points is a concept that may be soon implemented. Accident-forgiveness for the first at-fault accident is a common perk for claim-free policyholders.
Where You Live – In all states, including Maryland, there will always be specific counties that cost more than others. Usually, high-theft/crime areas will be the most expensive. Quiet urban areas (many times) will have the lowest prices. For example, the best car insurance rates in Baltimore might still be higher than the worst prices in Chevy Chase. There can be tremendous variances from one are to the next.
Male Or Female – Although the Affordable Care Act eliminated gender-rating for health insurance, it does not apply to car insurance. Thus, males will cost more, until age 30. Then, there is very little or no difference. However, for persons under age 18, the male/female disparity in pricing is often substantial. A 16 year-old male can easily pay $400-$800 more per year than a female the same age. For Seniors, there is no significant difference in prices.
Usage Based – One of the newer reductions offered by several carriers. Nationwide’s “SmartRide” and Progressive’s “Snapshot” programs are two examples that study driving behavior through telematics devices that are installed in your vehicle. If you constantly speed, or roll through stop signs, your premium will not be helped. The data is collected to help determine which drivers are the safest, and which drivers have the highest propensity of having an at-fault accident.
Are You Married? – Yes, it does make a difference. Married drivers tend to be involved in less at-fault accidents, especially between the ages of 25 and 70. Each new research project that investigates this trends always confirms previous results. Even married Seniors in their 80s have better claim numbers that unmarried Seniors. No, this doesn’t mean you should get married as soon as you get your driver’s license!
Credit – Admittedly, this is a fairly controversial rating criteria. Should the amount of money you owe on your credit cards, or past borrowing history impact what you pay for car insurance? Many carriers believe it is relevant, and therefore utilize data from credit reports in their underwriting criteria. Credit scores higher than 700 typically generate a discount with selected carriers. A score above 800 will earn the highest available discount. Recent bankruptcies can have a negative impact on your premium, depending upon the carrier.
Reviewing your credit before you apply for coverage could save you money and time. If errors are present, they should be corrected before you submit an application for coverage. Consumers can check their credit report annually (without paying). Insurers can utilize information to lower premiums, but not increase them. A free credit report can be submitted to Equifax, Experian, or Trans Union.
Age And Make Of Vehicle – If you own a newer car, it will probably cost more to cover. If it’s a high-performance sports car, it may cost more. And of course, older vehicles that are worth less, and less susceptible to theft, will be cheaper to cover. The cost of repair (parts and hourly wages) will also impact rates. The composition of the outside of the vehicle may impact the cost of repair, and ultimately, the cost of your collision coverage. Vehicles with fiberglass exteriors may be surcharged.
Do You Have Prior Coverage? – If you have existing coverage, you have satisfied Maryland’s car insurance liability requirement and will pay a lower premium than someone without previous immediate coverage. If there is a small lapse, it’s possible you still may earn the lower rating. If there has been a lapse of 30 days or longer, unfortunately, you will pay more. Longer lapses may require a license reinstatement.
How Often And How Far You Drive – The typical retiree will pay a lower premium since the number of miles driven is less and the chance of having an at-fault accident or claim is reduced. Another factor that can help rates is if the number of vehicles exceeds the number of drivers. Since all vehicles can not be used simultaneously, one or more cars may be discounted. However, the “multi-car” discount will be lost if less than two vehicles are covered. Generally, the discount is between 10% and 20%.
Education – Several carriers discount their rates for customers that have college degrees. The discount is small, and many companies that previously offered the discount, now no longer offer it.
Home Ownership – Policyholders that own a home or condo may be eligible for a reduction. Typically, homeowners are considered more financially responsible than renters.
Selecting The Best Coverage
The “best” coverage may not necessarily be the cheapest. The consequences of under-insuring can be as costly as over-insuring. But regardless of which options you select, the state minimum liability limits required by Maryland law must be included. Periodically, these limits increase. High-risk drivers typically see the largest rate increases.
Currently the lowest allowed coverage is $30,000 per person, $60,000 per occurrence and $15,000 for property damage. PIP (personal injury protection) must be at least $2,500, and uninsured motorist protection also must be included at the 30/60/15 level. Collision and comprehensive benefits are only required by financial institutions when a vehicle is financed or used as collateral. NOTE: $15,000 (property damage) is insufficient, considering that most new vehicles on the road cost much more.
We highly recommend limits of at least $25,000 or $50,000. $100,000 (or higher) may be required if you have a personal umbrella (excess liability) policy. Corporate and business excess liability policies will require higher underlying coverage limits. Typically, the minimum required bodily injury (per person) limit is $250,000.
There are two options when selecting your PIP benefits. “Limited” PIP does not cover yourself or any member of the family age 16 or older. Specifically-listed drivers also are not covered. Other passengers are not impacted, and the savings is about 35%-45% compared to “Full” PIP. The more comprehensive PIP option covers yourself, family members that reside with you, passengers and pedestrians with no limitations.
Although, as previously noted, “full coverage” (collision and comprehensive) benefits are not required by law, they often represent the most expensive portion of your premium. By increasing your deductibles, substantial savings could result. However, the increased risk may or may not be worth the savings. The presence of youthful drivers in the household will increase the chances of paying multiple deductibles within a short period.
For example, if raising the deductibles from $250 to $500 results in savings of $300 per year on your policy, the increased risk makes financial sense since you’re unlikely to have an at-fault accident each year. However, if raising deductibles from $500 to $1,000 results in savings of just $100 per year, your “break-even” point has drastically changed. $2,500 options should only be considered if you are willing to potentially lose $5,000 of savings with two quick accidents.
Each household situation is different and must be studied on an individual basis. Also, a larger deductible means higher out-of-pocket expenses must be quickly paid. If liquid assets are not available, once again, it may not be the best choice. (This Consumer Guide For MD Car Insurance) may help) However, you can change deductibles at any time, assuming it does not impact a pending physical damage or liability claim. If you expect to sell your vehicle within the next three months, do not remove collision or comprehensive benefits.
Additional Information – Questions That Should Be Asked
While it would take up too much space to cover them all, we have provided many of the questions that should be asked.
Is substitution transportation (rental) covered if I have an accident? And what about damage incurred?
Are towing and jump starts included? If covered, what is the maximum payout?
Are drivers that reside in my household covered? Are there any restrictions?
Am I covered driving outside of the country? Are there counties that are excluded?
What is the “complaint ratio” for the company (calculated by Department of Insurance)?
How often do rates increase? Can you provide a history of increases from the last 60 months?
Can drivers outside of the household remain on the policy? If so, what are the restrictions?
Will the first at-fault accident be chargeable? If so, how much is the surcharge?
Which Companies Have The Least Expensive Prices?
Of course, rates will be substantially different, depending on many factors. Company A might be the cheapest option for a single person with two moving violations living in Baltimore, but the most expensive option for a retired couple with a perfect record living in Annapolis or Ocean City! That’s why we encourage everyone to view our free quotes so you view a more personalized comparison.
Regardless…Shown below are the companies that typically offer very competitive prices in most ares of the state. The list is in alphabetical order.
Naturally, different cities are not likely to have identical prices, and in specific areas, certain carriers will be more competitive. For example, although Farmers has solid pricing in College Park and Laurel, in Bethesda, Gaithersburg, and Silver Spring, PURE often has the lowest rates. Also, specific companies may offer attractive high-risk rates, but below-average prices for preferred drivers with no moving violations or at-fault accidents on their MVR report.
What About Motorcycles, RVs and Trailers, ATVs, Boats, and Antique/Classic Vehicles?
Not every carrier offers specialty coverage. However, we have listed below some of the reputable companies that can issue a policy for some of your unique situations:
Motorcycles/Scooters – Geico, GMAC, Liberty Mutual, Nationwide, Progressive, State Auto, State Farm, USAA and Zurich.
RVs/Trailers – AIG, Allstate, Chubb, Cincinnati, Erie, Geico, Hartford, Liberty Mutual, State Auto, State Farm, Traverlers, and USAA.
ATV – Allstate, Amica, Erie, GMAC, Liberty Mutual, Nationwide, State Farm, Travelers and Zurich.
Boats And Watercraft – Allstate, Erie, Liberty Mutual, Markel, Nationwide, Progressive, State Farm, Travelers, Unitrin, and Zurich.
Collector/Antique – AIG, Amica, Cincinnati, Erie, Geico, Hartford, Liberty Mutual, State Farm, Travelers, and USAA.
Your Car Is Totaled
Typically, if your vehicle is declared a total loss, within 10 days you will receive a written offer from your carrier. The cost of repair must exceed the actual cash value (acv) for the offer to be extended. Otherwise, you are entitled to have your vehicle repaired and restored to its prior condition. If safety is a concern, this should be immediately discussed with your insurer. NOTE: If your vehicle is stolen, your carrier is given 30 days to provide a “fair” offer.
Based on recent surveys and research (N-Wallet) of all major insurers, the lowest prices are found in the following areas: Williamsport, Thurmont, Fairplay, Queenstown, Trappe, Emmitsburg, Adamstown, Vienna, Boonsboro, and Ocean City. However, many other factors can influence rates, including availability of discounts and safety devices on vehicles. Also, every three months, new calculations are completed and results change.
A recent national study concluded that Maryland has the lowest projected rate increase for vehicle owners following a $2,000 bodily injury claim. The average rate hike is 22%, which, of course, will gradually decrease and totally disappear following 2-5 years of no reportable incidences. The worst states, with increases above 50%, were California, New Jersey, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Massachusetts.