Charlotte Drivers Paying Less than Most in Nation for Auto Insurance ... for Now
According to a study this month by InsuranceQuotes.com, Charlotte had the least expensive auto insurance of the top 25 most populated metro areas in the United States. How well are Charlotte drivers doing? Insurance in the Charlotte area is 43 percent below the national average of about $800, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
That’s probably not a surprise to Charlotteans who have moved here from other states. North Carolina’s auto insurance rates have long been the lowest in the Southeast and among the lowest in the country.
The reason, says N.C. Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin, is the state’s unique structure for setting auto insurance rates. Currently, insurance companies doing business here must submit requests for a rate increase or decrease to the N.C. Rate Bureau. Goodwin reviews those requests and decides whether the rate hike is justified.
Most Charlotte drivers probably don’t know that the way their auto insurance rates are set almost changed dramatically this year. North Carolina legislators, with the backing of several national insurance companies, attempted this summer to eliminate the N.C. Rate Bureau, a state agency that puts a cap on what insurers can charge drivers here for coverage.
That effort narrowly failed, and there’s at least one indication that Charlotte drivers are benefiting from the road to insurance rates remaining unchanged.
Insurance companies and legislators who wanted to change the Rate Bureau structure this summer argued that reform would allow consumers to take advantage of more discount programs. Goodwin noted that insurers already offer more than 2,000 such discounts in the state, and he supported alternative legislation that would have allowed for even more.
For now, however, the N.C. Rate Bureau remains intact. There’s no way to predict for sure what would happen if change came, but when our neighbors in South Carolina abandoned a similar rate-setting structure in the 1990s, insurance rates went up an average of 23 percent.
But while the Rate Bureau seems to help keep coverage affordable, N.C. drivers can help themselves in other ways by being smart insurance shoppers, experts say.
First, do your research on prospective insurance agents, as you would any service provider. Check consumer reviews and ratings from Angie’s List and A.M. Best, a national rating service recommended by insurance commissioners. Also, ask friends in the area who they recommend – as well as who they don’t.
One important question to ask prospective agents: What happens to your rate if you get in an accident? Not all insurance companies treat accidents the same.
Find the right coverage
While it’s good to save money on your auto insurance, you shouldn’t unnecessarily sacrifice your coverage needs. Highly rated insurance providers agree that the least expensive insurance isn’t always the best insurance.
A good agent will help match your coverage to your driving experience and record. The Dept. Of Insurance offers a guide to the different types of insurance coverage available to N.C. drivers, including what the state requires drivers to have.