You know that you'll pay more for auto insurance if you have a driving record spotted with accidents and speeding tickets.
But your driving record is just one of the factors that go into determining how much you'll pay for auto insurance. And you have little to no control over many of these. Your gender, age, commute to work and neighborhood crime statistics all play a role in your auto insurance premium.
This is why you might pay more than your neighbor, cousin or sister for auto insurance, even if your driving record is no worse.
"The initial insurance rates are often fairly set and constant," says Bruce Kestenbaum, general manager of Elder Insurance Services in Tampa, Florida. "But it's the discounts and variables that can really change what you pay. You can get discounts for a lot of things. Some are based on steps you take, but others are based on who you are and where you live. That's where premiums can really fluctuate."
Want to know what really determines your premiums? Here are 6 key factors.
1. Where you live influences what you pay for auto insurance
Your state and county matter when insurers are setting premiums. But just as important is more specific information on where you live, according to Max Cron, marketing assistant with Superior Honda in Harvey, Louisiana.
How specific? Cron says that insurers pay close attention to your neighborhood and street address. The wrong address could result in higher auto premiums, he says.
"Auto insurance agencies might have higher rates for neighborhoods or streets that experience a higher number of accidents or even high numbers of car thefts or break-ins," Cron says.
2. Your occupation and your commute (sorry, road warriors)
Cron says that your occupation can equal higher or lower insurance premiums. If you spend much of your work day driving, your insurance rates will be higher. As Cron puts it, doctors will generally pay lower insurance premiums than will consumers who drive delivery trucks or who list Uber driver as their occupation.
You'll also pay a higher premium if you must slog through a long commute to your office each day. How much your rates will rise depends in part on where you live and work. But you can expect to pay higher rates the longer your commute to work takes, Cron says.
3. Your car (and whether it's safer or not)
Kestenbaum says that drivers can help themselves when it comes to lower rates by purchasing safer cars. They might also pay less by taking steps to make their existing cars safer.
Kestenbaum says that drivers can receive discounts for safety features such as anti-lock brakes or air bags. You can also lower your rates by equipping your car with anti-theft devices. This reduces the chance that thieves will target your vehicle for a break-in, and that lowers the odds that your insurer will have to pay out for broken windows or stoen cars.
See also: 5 tech innovations making cars safer
Motorists who drive newer model cars that score highly in crash-safety tests could earn lower insurance rates. If you instead choose a sportscar that performs poorly on safety tests, you might pay more for your insurance, according to the company.
4. Your gender (statistics don't discriminate)
You'll pay more: Your gender matters, too, when it comes to auto insurance. Cron says that men generally pay higher insurance premiums than do women.
Don't think of this as discrimination, Cron says. Insurance companies are relying purely on statistics here.
"This is very common, and is based completely on statistics. Compared side by side, women are safer drivers," Cron says. "Men are involved in more auto accidents and receive more driving violations."
5. Your age (it's tough for teens)
You'll generally pay more for auto insurance if you are younger. That's because you have less experience behind the wheel and are more likely to cause an accident that requires your insurer to make a big payout.
The drivers who tend to get hit with the highest auto insurance rates? Teens, and especially teen males.
Chris Long, CEO of Longevity Insurance Brokers in Denver, says that parents can help reduce the insurance hit they often take when their teen drivers first get on their insurance policies. The best way is to make sure that their teens get good grades. Long says that drivers under the age of 25 can often earn a discount by maintaining a "B" average or by scoring in the top 20 percent on certain standardized tests.
Teens can reduce their rates by taking a safe driving class, which many insurance carriers offer. They will pay less, too, if they drive an older car, Long says.
"If you can get a high-mileage car that also has safety features like theft protection, air bags and anti-lock brakes, then you will save a significant amount," Long says.
6. Your marital status (thank your spouse)
One of the benefits of marriage? Your auto insurance premiums might be lower. That's because statistics show that married drivers are less likely to cause accidents. They're safer insurance risks than are single drivers, and insurance companies reward them with lower rates.
See also: Teen wheels: Is that junker safe?