Factors that you can least control may have the greatest impact on your insurance costs. Your age, gender, and driving record are key factors that affect your insurance premium.
Single males under the age of 25 pay the highest rates. Statistics show they are involved in the most accidents, so insurance companies charge young men higher premiums than women of the same age. Married men, who statistically have fewer accidents, pay less than single men. A handful of states do not allow rates based on sex or age, but that prohibition has tended to result in higher rates for women, not lower rates for men.
If you are convicted of moving traffic violations or of causing an accident, your premiums will likely go up, no matter what your age. Drivers with clean records -- no tickets, no accidents -- pay the lowest rates.
Where you live also plays a big role in how much you pay. Urban areas, with their greater population densities and heavier traffic, get higher rates than rural areas. According to the Insurance Information Institute, the average insurance expenditure in mainly urban New Jersey -- traditionally the most expensive state -- in 2002 was more than double that of North Dakota, a rural state with the lowest average premiums. High costs in states such as Florida, Massachusetts and New York are attributed to growth in fraud and theft.
In most states, too, insurers set rates by zip codes. If you live in a major city like Chicago or Los Angeles, you will probably pay more than if you lived in a nearby suburb.