D.C. area among metro areas with least expensive car insurance

WASHINGTON — In a region where everything from gas to groceries seems more expensive, one thing is ranking among the least expensive in the nation: car insurance.

The D.C./Arlington/Baltimore area has the 10th least expensive car insurance in the country, according to research from the online insurance company, InsuranceQuotes.com.

In the D.C. area, car insurance costs 6 percent less than the national average. The average cost of car insurance nationwide was $797, according to National Association of Insurance Commissioners data from 2011 — the most recent year the data was available.

The D.C. area’s ranking came as a surprise to the researchers — especially after the nation’s capital ranked as the second most expensive state for car insurance in a 2011 NAIC survey.

The reason for the discrepancy in the rankings is because D.C. was ranked as a state in the NAIC survey and a metro area in the recent InsuranceQuotes.com survey, says Philip Barlow, associate commissioner of insurance for the D.C. Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking.

“Where D.C. always ranks high is when studies compare our rates to other states. But the District isn’t really comparable to other states,” Barlow said to InsuranceQuotes.com.

“Washington, D.C., is the only jurisdiction in the country that’s entirely urban, so when you look at what drivers here pay for auto insurance compared to other states, it gives a misleading impression.”

For example, New York City residents pay a higher premium than drivers in other parts of the state. When studies examine the entire state, the rural areas of New York balance out the higher costs for those in New York City.

“Auto insurance is where you find the biggest difference between urban and rural rates, but we have no rural areas to balance us out. So whenever there’s a state-by-state comparison we just expect to always be right at the top,” Barlow said to InsuranceQuotes.com.

“I’m not surprised that when you look at our rates against the backdrop of other urban regions we come out somewhere in the middle.”

When it comes to nationwide car insurance rates, the most expensive can be found in Detroit while the least expensive is in Charlotte, North Carolina, according to InsuranceQuotes.com.

Detroit drivers pay 165 percent more than the national average. One reason for the Motor City’s costs is because Michigan is “the only state where car insurance includes unlimited personal injury protection,” says InsuranceQuotes.com Senior Analyst Laura Adams.

“Also, Detroit has a very high percentage of uninsured motorists — as high as 50 percent by some estimates. That unfortunately raises rates for those who do have car insurance,” Adams says.

Below is the list of the metro areas with the highest car insurance rates followed by the percentage above the nation’s average cost:

  1. Detroit (165 percent)
  2. New York (36 percent)
  3. Miami (34 percent)
  4. Los Angeles (25 percent)
  5. Atlanta (17 percent)
  6. Sacramento, California (16 percent)
  7. San Jose/San Francisco (10 percent)
  8. Philadelphia (10 percent)
  9. Houston, Texas (10 percent)
  10. Tampa, Florida (9 percent)
  11. San Diego, California (2 percent)
  12. Boston (2 percent)
  13. Dallas (1 percent)

Below is the list of the metro areas with the lowest car insurance rates followed by the percentage below the nation’s average cost:

  1. Portland, Oregon (-1 percent)
  2. Minneapolis (-5 percent)
  3. D.C./Arlington/Baltimore (-6 percent)
  4. Seattle (-10 percent)
  5. Orlando, Florida (-10 percent)
  6. Phoenix, Arizona (-10 percent)
  7. Denver (-12 percent)
  8. Chicago (-16 percent)
  9. St. Louis (-18 percent)
  10. Pittsburgh (-24 percent)
  11. Cleveland (-31 percent)
  12. Charlotte, North Carolina (-43 percent)

InsuranceQuotes.com gathered its data with averages that are based on a driver with a bachelor’s degree who drives 15,000 miles a year and who has had no breaks in coverage, a $500 collision and comprehensive deductible, state minimum liability coverage and full Personal Injury Protection coverage.

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