From the old fiction about red cars costing more to insure, to the one about rates dropping when you turn 25, to the idea that "full coverage" means you get a new car after a crash, myths about car insurance abound. And they're easy enough to take at face value -- until you look at the facts. Not falling for these eight insurance fables could save you some cash.
1. "Full coverage" will get me a new car if I crash. Your auto repair shop may thank you for having collision and comprehensive coverage, because they'll get paid by your insurer for fixing your car. But however you define "full" coverage, it won't equate to you getting a new car after you crash. Insurance is meant to put you back to where you were, not improve upon it, so you won't be getting a better car than you had.
If your car insurance agent tells you that you have "full coverage", ask what that entails. It could include liability, property damage and rental reimbursement, says Shane Fischer, an attorney in Winter Park, Fla. "Unfortunately, most people who claim to have 'full coverage' are people of modest incomes who buy the cheapest policy their state legally allows," he says. "This can leave them without uninsured motorist coverage if they're a victim of a hit and run, without a rental car if theirs is damaged in a crash or personally responsible for thousands in medical bills if they don't have enough liability coverage."
Full coverage isn't an insurance term agents use, says Adam Lyons, CEO of The Zebra, a digital auto insurance agency. Collision insurance covers damage to your vehicle in an accident. Comprehensive covers non-accident damage, such as from theft and fire. If you want medical coverage and other protections, you'll have to spell that out for your agent, Lyons says.
2. My rates will go up if I get a traffic ticket. Not always, says Matthew Neely, owner of Eco Insurance Group in Las Vegas. A client who has six speeding tickets in the past three years hasn't had his rate go up, he notes.
Here's how it works, Neely says: Some companies only ask for a record of an applicant's driving history when he or she first sign up for a policy. Motor Vehicle Reports cost $3 to $28, depending on the state. "These charges can get very expensive for insurance companies, so a lot of the time the carrier will randomly select households and run the MVRs," he says. "If you are lucky enough, the insurance company will not find out about your speeding habit. However, if you let your insurance lapse, get into an accident or change insurance carriers, the carrier will run the MVR."
3. Thieves prefer new or fancy cars. Not true, points out Lyons. Of the 10 most frequently stolen cars, the most stolen in 2012 was the 1996 Honda Accord, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. You might have the latest and fanciest car, but a 1996 Accord is preferable for catalytic converters and other parts that are more in demand. To protect your car against theft, get comprehensive insurance.
4. My red car will cost more to insure. False. Insurers don't care what color your car is and they don't ask for that information. Police might spot a speeding red car quicker than a white one, but an insurer factors in other aspects of your car, such as model, make, year and engine size.
5. The longer you are with an insurance company, the lower your rate will be. This is half true, Neely says. Longevity discounts are sometimes offered to policyholders, but it doesn't shelter them from increased costs, he says. "Most of the time, the moment you make a claim, this discount will disappear, and it does not guarantee your rate will not increase," Neely says.
6. My credit score has nothing to do with my car insurance rate. In most cases it's the biggest factor of determine your rate, right after your driving record, Neely says. Studies have shown that individuals with good credit get in fewer accidents, he says, though insurers in California, Hawaii and Massachusetts can's use credit as a rating factor.
7. No fault means I am not at fault. In most states "no fault" simply means that each insurance company involved pays for their respective policyholders injury-related bills, regardless of who is at fault, Neely says. This helps keep the overall cost of car insurance down.
8. Rates drop at age 25. Rating factors vary by state, but in North Carolina, the myth is wrong because age isn't a factor in pricing, says Jonathan Peele, president of Coastline Insurance Associates of North Carolina. Instead, insurers use the years of experience to determine the rate. Once the driver has more than three years of driving experience, the insurer can't surcharge the premium, he says. Less experienced drivers are charged more for car insurance because they have a higher risk.