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Consumer advocate: Car insurance companies charging poor/moderate income people more

Car rear ended another car in Ann Arbor.
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
Fender bender.

A consumer advocate says many low to moderate income people pay much more for car insurance, even with the same driving record and zip code as wealthier people.

Bob Hunter is with the Consumer Federation of America.

He says major insurance companies use factors like marital status, education, occupation, and home ownership as proxies for income.

He says in general, people who are single, don't own a home, didn't go to college, and who work at blue collar jobs, have less money. 

"The people with the poorer economic categories were paying 59% more than people with the richer looking categories," says Hunter of his study of auto insurance premiums in 15 moderate-income cities across the U.S.

Hunter says the average difference in premiums is $681 a year.  "But we even had one case where the poor person paid $5,000 more!" he says.

The Insurance Information Institute says the factors do relate to a higher risk of accidents. 

The group says in California, where using factors like marital status and education level is prohibited, better drivers with lower risk are subsidizing the premiums of the riskier drivers.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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