Drivers at the bottom of the credit heap file 40-percent more claims than drivers at the top of the credit heap, according to a study by the Insurance Information Institute.
Consequently, having black marks on your credit report could really bump up your auto insurance rates.
A consumer with bad credit is going to pay 20- to 50-percent more in auto insurance premiums than a person who has good credit.
On the flip side, if you have sparkling credit you could land lower insurance rates by shopping around.
Here’s why. Most auto insurance companies, except the state of NJ NJPAIP Plan, use credit data when underwriting new customers. Far fewer, just 14 percent of the nation’s largest insurers, use credit data on contract renewals. And some states don’t allow this practice at all.
So if you’ve been with your auto insurer for a while, there’s a good chance your shiny credit record could land you a lower insurance rate at another company.
Not having car insurance in New Jersey can be inconvenient and expensive if you get caught driving without verifiable coverage.
Obviously, consumers with good credit are going to be in the best possible position.
“If you know you have good credit, you may want to shop around. Even with an accident, you could qualify as a preferred customer with some insurance companies.”
A study by the Casualty Actuarial Society shows that people with prior driving violations or accidents and good credit have much better loss ratios than people with clean driving records and a bad credit history.
An auto insurer prices policies based on a customer’s potential to file a future claim. So someone with a flawed driving record and clean credit record could actually end up paying less for auto insurance than someone with a spotless driving record and a spotty credit record.
Credit isn’t the main driver
Keep in mind, a credit record is just one of several factors that an auto insurer considers when pricing your policy. Other factors include your age, the type of car you drive, how many miles you drive and whether you live in an urban or rural area.
Just how big an impact your credit record has on your auto insurance bill varies based on the area you live in and the insurance company you choose.
Good credit at one company may not be a good insurance score at another company.
Insurance is regulated at the state level. Some states allow auto insurers to use credit data in the approval process. Others allow insurers to use credit data when determining what rate class a driver falls into. Some use it for both.
Insurance score secrets
Your insurance company doesn’t actually peek at your credit report. Instead, it receives an insurance score from a credit bureau based on the information in your credit record.
Fair, Isaac and Co. provides the credit bureaus with the formulas to crunch insurance scores. Some insurance companies have their own scoring models.
Like a credit score, an insurance score is based on information found in a consumer’s credit file. But the formulas used to arrive at the two types of scores are quite different.
“An insurance score is going to be less concerned with your propensity to take on new credit and more interested in how long you’ve been managing credit,” says Craig Watts, a spokesman for Fair, Isaac and Co.
“Insurance scores focus on issues of stability.”
Curious about your insurance score? Good luck finding out. Insurance companies aren’t required to tell, and few do.
Even if you could find out your insurance score, it might not be all that helpful. Yes, it could give you a sense of how a single auto insurer rates your credit record, but that’s it.
When it comes to insurance scores, there’s no uniform standard. So another insurance company, using another scoring model, could assign you a different insurance score and offer you vastly different rates.
The key thing to realize is your credit record does affect the cost of your auto insurance.
If you’re having credit problems, it’s best to stick with your current auto insurer until your credit record improves. If you must shop for a new auto policy, ask the insurer if they use credit data in their decision-making process. Not all insurance companies do.
You may be better off doing business with a company that doesn’t use credit data when underwriting new customers.
It’s also a good idea to check your credit report before shopping for auto insurance.
Sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures. But times must be desperate indeed if you have to pay triple-digit interest rates for a small, short-term loan, particularly when it means risking the loss of your car.
Unfortunately, a growing number of Americans who find themselves in a financial bind are turning to car title loans, a source for quick money that could end up costing them their vehicle, often the most valuable thing they own.
Title loans are marketed as small emergency loans, with the customer handing over his or her car title and an extra set of keys as collateral. A typical car title loan has a triple-digit annual interest rate, requires payment within one month and is for much less than the value of the car.
Title loans trap borrowers in perpetual debt through unaffordable balloon payments, high interest costs and the threat of repossession.
Car title lenders generally require prospective borrowers to have free and clear title to the car before giving a loan. The lender then decides how much the consumer can borrow, based on the vehicle’s value. The loan-to-value ratio is rarely greater than 33 percent, making it a win-win situation for the lender if the borrower defaults.
Title loans usually carry an interest rate of about 25 percent for 30 days. And, if you can’t pay off the loan at the end of 30 days, it will roll over with the same interest rate. That works out to about 300 percent annually. A $500 loan on the first of the month turns into a $625 debt at the end of the month.
The possible loss of your car makes these loans dangerous. If you lose your car, everything else just cascades. “You can’t access your job or health care and, therefore, you fall behind on other bills, and it makes life almost impossible.”
Car title lending was introduced in the early 1990s as an alternative to payday loans and has been growing rapidly, according to a study by the Center for Responsible Spending and the Consumer Federation of America. The recently released study indicates that, while some states have started to pass laws protecting borrowers from predatory lending practices by placing restrictions on repossessions and capping interest rates, many states have no title lending laws.
Only 14 states have pending title lending legislation. The lack of laws and restrictions surrounding title loans has made it difficult to count just how much money these loan companies make and how many people are caught in that circle of debt.
It’s estimated that there are currently more than 15,000 title loan shops in the United States.
In some states, such as South Carolina, lenders can only flip a title loan six times. In other states, there are no laws that require the lender to reimburse the borrower for a car sold for more than what is owed on the original loan.
“We feel that if states allow this type of lending then they need to regulate it much better,” says Amy Quester, policy and litigation counsel for the Center for Responsible Lending. “There is a lot of variety from state to state regarding title lending. However, I think title lenders have been operating below the radar and lobbying for special treatment and exploited loopholes.”