why do car insurance rates vary so much by state?

So you've moved to a new state and it's time to review all the typical items on your post-move-in checklist: Change your address (check). Get a new drivers license (check). Update your car insurance policy with your new locale (check). Bet you're glad that's out of the way … but wait — why is your auto insurance premium different now?

does changing states mean changing rates?

Moving to a different state doesn't necessarily spell different car insurance rates, but there's still a possibility you could see a change in your premium — whether that means paying more or less than you did before.

A multitude of factors play into why auto insurance rates vary from location to location. Here are some of the most common.

The accident rate where you live

Think of it this way: you're more likely to be involved in an accident in New York as opposed to Wyoming due to population density. Simply put, more people within a geographical area generally means more cars on the road (and, potentially, more accidents and more claims).

It works both ways, however. If you were to move from New York to Wyoming, there's a chance you'd see your auto insurance premium go down.

State-required coverages and limits

Depending on the state you live in, the amount of mandatory coverage you're required to carry varies. So if you live in a state that requires $50,000 per person in bodily injury liability, you could see a higher premium than someone who lives in a state that only requires $15,000 per person in bodily injury liability.

Other states mandate even more extensive protections such as personal injury protection (PIP), which could impact auto insurance rates.

Property crime rates

If you move to a state where your ride is more likely to be stolen or vandalized, you're probably going to pay more for coverage.

Case in point: Washington, DC, saw nearly 5,000 property crimes per 100,000 residents in 2012 — the highest rate in the country — according to info from the FBI and local police. This could mean DC drivers often have to pay more for car insurance than people in many other areas.

Of course, other factors like population density and more extensive state-mandated coverages (among others) also affect what DC residents pay for protection. But you can safely bet that higher property crime rates pose an increased financial risk to the insurer, therefore causing an uptick in premium in most cases.

Wildlife and weather

Being away from the hustle and bustle of more densely populated areas may have its perks, but they sometimes come at a price. Take West Virginia, for example, where residents are more likely to experience a collision with a deer than in any other state in the country.

Large amounts of claims usually drive up the cost of comprehensive coverage — which can help pay for animal-related collisions, as well as theft, weather-related damage, and more. This, combined with West Virginia's notoriously inclement weather, could affect auto insurance premiums for drivers in the Mountain State.

location isn’t everything

As you've probably gathered at this point, the amount of monetary risk your insurer has to take on in any particular location directly affects what you pay for coverage in that location.

But don't fret if you live in a bustling city or an area with a higher average property crime rate. There are a ton of other factors that help determine your auto insurance rates — like your car's make and model, your driving record, and your insurance history, to name a few.

You can check out some rating factors in your neck of the woods, as well as required and optional coverages, money-saving discounts, and more, by searching for your state on our coverage map.

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