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Rich Likely To Pay Less For Car Insurance

By Becky Yerak, Chicago Tribune
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Jan. 28--Auto insurers frequently charged higher premiums to safe -- though low- or moderate-income -- drivers than they did higher-income drivers who recently caused an accident, according to a new study by the Consumer Federation of America.

In two-thirds of 60 cases studied, the good drivers were charged higher prices based mainly on such factors as education and occupation, said the nonprofit.

The federation, which believes that prices should hinge on how safely and how far one drives, priced policies in 12 cities, including Chicago, using the Websites of State Farm, Allstate, Geico, Farmers and Progressive.

It compared premiums quoted to two hypothetical 30-year old women who each had driven for 10 years, lived on the same street in the same middle-income Zip code and sought minimum liability coverage required by that state. All but one state requires drivers to have insurance.

One was a single receptionist with a high school education who rents, has been without insurance coverage 45 days and has never had an accident or moving violation. The other was a married executive with a master's degree who owns a home, has had continuous insurance coverage and has had an at-fault accident with $800 of damage within the past three years.

There were significant differences, however, among the five major insurers. In every case Farmers, GEICO, and Progressive quoted the safe driver a higher premium than the driver causing an accident. In all 12 cities, the rates quoted by State Farm were the lowest or the second lowest.

Here's what the hypothetical receptionist and executive in Chicago would have been charged, respectively: Allstate, $1,358, $1,454; Geico, $632, $392; Progressive, $1,348, $946; and State Farm, $310, $650.

During a call with the media, the federation was asked what influence the lapse in coverage might have had on the receptionist's rates. They responded that it's more important to some insurers than others.

byerak@tribune.com -- Twitter: @beckyyerak

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