From the Other Side of the Desk: 8 Things Your Auto Insurer Knows About You

As with other insurance products, the pricing of automobile insurance depends upon the risk that the insurer will have to pay for damage to your vehicle or damage or injury to someone due to the operation of a vehicle. Other losses may include theft and even natural disasters.

And insurance application will ask you about where you live, your driving record, your vehicle and your household. In reality, the auto insurer either knows or can readily obtain these facts without asking you. Here are eight of the things your auto insurer knows or will know about you.

Driving Record

Not surprisingly, your auto insurer can and does access your driving history in each state where you have or had a driver’s license.

The driving record lists tickets for violations such as speeding, disobeying stop signs and lights, impaired driving, and unsafe or improper movements. Some of these tickets arise from automobile crashes in which you were involved or are at fault. Your driving history will also include crashes that have been reported to law enforcement or the motor vehicle agency, even if you didn’t get cited.

Status of Your License

Using the driving record, your auto insurer will know if you have your driver’s license. If it has been suspended or revoked, the record will state that fact, the reason, and when the revocation or suspension starts or ends.

Not all revocations or suspensions result directly from the operation of a vehicle. For example, you might have one for not showing up in court on a ticket or not paying off a ticket that otherwise would not cause a loss of your license.

To that end, your auto insurer may even know if you have failed to pay child support. In a number of states, failing to meet your child support obligations constitutes a ground for license suspension or revocation. For certain insurers, the faults in financial obligations such as child support may reflect a risk that you will not pay your premium in a timely fashion.

Claims History

Remember that your automobile insurance covers more than the cost of defending an automobile crash lawsuit or paying out the damages to an injured driver. You also have coverage for collisions or even damage that results from something other than a collision. For instance, comprehensive coverage may include a tree falling on the vehicle, someone scratching it or a windshield crack from a flying rock.

With services such as the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (C.L.U.E.), an auto insurer will know your claims history. This includes claims you have made with other insurance companies on your automobile.

A report that shows many claims on your auto insurance tends to scare away auto insurance companies. This translate to either higher rates, higher deductibles, or even the company’s refusal to ensure you or the vehicle.

Your Credit History

By pulling your credit report, your automobile insurance company will see how you handle credit and determine the chances that you will default on premiums. This default risk represents one factor in your overall insurance score.

Credit reports list a number of negative events. Bankruptcies, foreclosures and judgments stand as the most prominent of items that lower credit scores and credit-based insurance scores.

The insurer will also know details about your handling of credit and finances that don’t reach the public domain. In this category lie late payments to your credit card companies, lenders such as mortgage companies and vehicle finance companies, utility companies and landlords. You also get low credit-based insurance scores if delinquent accounts fall into the hands of collection agencies.

Credit scores also take into account how much you owe relative to credit limits (the credit utilization ratio), the age of your credit accounts and your history of opening new credit. As such, our auto insurer knows when you max out on one or multiple credit cards and whether you’re opening new cards. These behaviors may signal to the insurer that you’re relying too much on credit for monthly expenses or that you’re facing cash flow or other financial problems.

How Much You Drive — And Where

Thanks to GPS and telemetric technology, automobile insurance can track their drivers. An attorney, whether representing the injured person or the motorist alleged to have caused the injuries, will request this information during lawsuit if one is filed.

Ostensibly, the offer of discounts leads drivers to volunteer to be tracked and demonstrate their safe driving. Insurers used negative data from the tracking to up premiums and deductibles or otherwise take adverse action against their customers. As then, insurers presently do not demand that their insured drivers be tracked.

If you volunteer for the tracking program, your insurer can learn how many miles you drive in a particular period. If you log around 12,000 to 13,000 miles per year, the insurer will treat you as a “normal” driver. Above-normal usage normally leads (all other things equal) to higher rates, while discounts may go to those who drive under the average. You can see the logic: the more you drive, the greater your chances of being in a wreck.

The Way You Drive

Tracking also lets the insurer know whether you’re speeding, disobeying red lights or making unsafe movements. These “real-time” or recorded instances can cost you more in insurance, even if you avoid tickets for these driving behaviors.

The device records your vehicle’s speed at various locations. GPS determines the speed limit at those points. By relatively simple comparisons of the information, the underwriter knows the frequency and extent of your speeding. The tracking also detects the level of lane-switching, a practice that ups the chances of a crash.

Where You Have Lived

Your prior residences also fall within the realm of the insurers’ knowledge. Credit reports from the bureaus will list your previous addresses for perhaps numerous years. This is due to public records and addresses you have listed on insurance or credit applications, to name a few sources.

Where you have lived help the insurance companies verify whether you’re the person referenced in a particular credit, claims or driving history report. Insurers also learn whether you have a stable residence or finances. Numerous addresses in a short period of time may signal that you’ve had trouble paying rent or finding a long-term residence.

Your Household and Other Potential Drivers

You might consider only yourself the driver of a vehicle and, as such, rely on your on clean record for favorable rates.

Yet, auto insurers may deem others in your household potential drivers of the vehicle. The companies can learn who else lives with you through cross-references of driver’s license databases, public records such as criminal reports, and the like. With this information, the insurance company is interested in finding those you have not listed who may use your car and present a greater risk to the company.

When you apply for automobile insurance, you’ll find it best to accurately answer the questions. The company already knows or can get much of the information. Also, when you know what the insurer knows or can know, you’ll appreciate better what goes into insurance underwriting and how you can save money on premiums.