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Bruce Sackrison

Bruce Sackrison is a Napa Valley Register columnist who will write about property and casualty insurance matters.

I’m often asked, “Bruce, why are my auto insurance rates so high?”

In fact, it may be the most common question I get.

Here’s why your rates may be very different than someone else’s:

Insurance companies consider many factors when deciding what your car insurance premium will be. It’s almost like a recipe, there are a number of unique ingredients and they are all measured differently.

Let’s look at a few of the ingredients that go into your car insurance premium:

1. California law and Proposition 103

Back in 1988, Proposition 103 required that insurance companies consider a few factors more heavily in the “rate-recipe” than other factors. This made our state fairer than many other states.

In California, three of the most important ingredients that determine your auto insurance premium are: your driving record, the number of miles you drive each year and the number of years of driving experience that you have.

Most importantly, it eliminated the use of your credit score in determining your premium.

2. Your driving record

This is the biggest factor in determining your premium. And it makes sense.

If you are a safe driver, with no tickets or accidents, you feel entitled to a lower premium than someone who has had more accidents and tickets. The insurance company agrees.

Safe drivers pay less.

And if you are a driver with a “not so great” driving record, the good news is you can change it!

Today is a good day to begin driving more carefully. If you do, you’ll see lower rates in a few years.

3. The number of miles you drive

The more miles you drive each year, there is more risk that you’ll be involved in an accident. So your rates reflect that. Carpooling, telecommuting or moving closer to work could lower your rates.

4. Age and driving experience

Of course, you can’t do much about this. However, it’s helpful to know this rating factor.

Why? Because if you are the parent of a younger driver, you can choose to have them drive the older and “safer” vehicle to help offset the “young adults pay more” ingredient. We’ll talk about choosing a vehicle next.

5. The vehicle you drive

A muscle car that goes really, really fast is going to cost more to insure than a minivan.

Most people know this.

But you may not know that insurance companies use a lot of historical data to predict what premium they need to charge for each vehicle.

Some of the factors that determine these rates are: cost to repair, likelihood of being in accident and odds of being stolen.

In short: Two similar looking cars may have very different insurance premiums.

What can you do?

I recommend that if your premiums are too high, call your local agent to discuss strategies that can help reduce your rates.

There are more factors than just these few that I’ve highlighted. Your agent is an ally that can help figure out the best recipe for low rates.

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Bruce Sackrison is an insurance property and casualty broker affiliated with Professional Insurance Associates. He can be reached at 707-931-0186 or