(WSPA) – Do you know when your car insurance policy renews?

If you do, it could actually save you money. That is one of several little-known factors that can affect the cost of your car insurance.  

In this 7NEWS Consumer Exclusive, we explain why, plus highlight some other little-known factors that can impact your rate so you know what to look for and how to save more on car insurance.

Married or single

When Nancy Allison lost her husband, James, in 2022, the Blacksburg woman called her car insurance company to let them know.  When she got her next bill, she says she was shocked.

“It had gone from $768 to $905. I’m screaming mad. I’m angry because I feel like if you are insuring two people that’s one thing but if you’re insuring one is that not logical that the price would be lower, the cost would be lower?” Allison said.

Max Fain, with Carolina’s Choice Insurance, said marital status is one of the lesser-known criteria that can really affect your rate.  

“Single is a higher rate than married… Actuaries will tell you that single people drive worse than married people. They don’t have someone in the car with them,” according to Fain.

It is a logic that Allison, who has a perfect driving record, said is just plain unfair.  

“I lost my husband so the insurance company raised my rates,” Allison, who felt it was an extra blow after the death of a man who had been her spouse for 57 years, said. 

Common factors impacting your rate

Many drivers are familiar with the more well-known criteria that can impact your premium:

  • age: teenage and older drivers tend to pay more
  • type of vehicle: often the more expensive, the more costly the insurance
  • driving record: safe drivers almost always get discounts, but traffic tickets can make your rate jump

Multi-car discounts and bundling auto and home or renters insurance can also drive the price down. 

ZIP Code?

When it comes to where you live, most of us realize the state or even the county can impact our rate, but our zip code?  

Insurance agents said even people who move within the same county to a new zip can end up with a very different rate.

Dropping a car

Just like the loss of a second driver, the loss of a multi-car discount can work against you.

“So in some strange cases we’ve actually had a customer drop a car and their rate go up, So it was cheaper for two than it was for one,” Fain said. 

Why the overall increase?

However you look at it, rates are on the rise across the country.  

Fain said by far the biggest driving force behind a recent surge in insurance rates overall is the skyrocketing cost of repairs from supply chain issues, to more expensive parts on high-tech cars like bumpers with sensors.  

Even windshields repairs, which by South Carolina law must be a zero deductible, have jumped from a few hundred five years ago to more than 2,000 thanks to new safety technology.  

Another reason for the climbing rates is an increase in high-speed, high-impact crashes, caused by distracted driving.  

More drivers are looking at their cell phones as a crash happens, which means they never even put on the brakes.  

That leads to more damage to property and bodily injury.  

Another issue in states like South Carolina, Fain said, is the number of uninsured and underinsured drivers.  

The Palmetto state only requires 25/50/25 limits of liability which drives up underinsured claims, so if someone hits your car, worth $40,000, and it is a total loss, they have state-required insurance of 25/50/25, which means the person who hit you has $25,000 in coverage for injuries, $10,000 short and $25,000 for repairs to your car, $15,000 short.  

This triggers your insurance company to dip into the underinsured portion of your policy provided you have chosen that coverage.  

Overall, you get your car fixed and your bills paid, but your company, which has no responsibility, has paid for a significant part of your claim.

Now, let’s say you are injured and need a hospital visit and some follow-up that costs $58,000.

Their coverage limit for bodily injury is only $50,000 so your insurance would also be stuck paying the overage.  

“All of this causes the prices to increase for all customers,” according to Fain.

Tracking apps can drop rates

An app on your phone can be one way to help reduce the cost.  

Many insurance companies offer mobile tracking apps that can reduce your rate by up to 30% if you don’t use your phone while driving and watch the speed limit.  

Just look in the app store for your insurance company’s app to see if they offer this option, but beware, if you don’t drive carefully, the app may work against you.

Little-known way to reduce your rate

Perhaps the strangest way of all to save is taking advantage of a little-known discount that has to do with the timing of when we compare shops.

Fain explains, “so, if I renew March 1, and I look on February 28, my rate is going to be higher than it if I look on February 1. They give you a discount for looking for insurance sooner.  I can’t tell you why that is, but I can tell you that’s one of the quirky little discounts that almost every insurance company gives,” Fain, who works with a dozen or more insurance companies, said.  

Allison said thought she was also being proactive when she called her insurance company telling them her husband was no longer needed on the policy.

“They thanked me for calling and letting them know and they assured me they would take care of it and they did by charging me more, so I took care of them.  I dropped them,” she said with a smile.

Now, Allison said she is paying hundreds less, putting the breaks on rising insurance by shopping around.