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Ask Joanne

How marital status affects car insurance rates Add to ...

As a single guy, I find it unfair that married people get a break on car insurance, especially since I’m already paying more for being young. Why is this the case? – Jorge in Toronto

While some – not all – auto insurers consider marital status, rates are based on a combination of factors, including where you live, what you drive and whether you motor for work or pleasure. Above all, your driving history will determine your premium.

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It’s true that younger drivers usually pay more because they haven’t had a chance to build a clean record and earn claims-free driving discounts. As a younger male, regardless of your record, you’re probably taking a further hit. Unlike the European Union, where gender-based insurance premiums were recently outlawed, young males in Canada often pay more.

“Insurers don’t do anything unless the numbers support it. That’s why they pay actuaries,” says Pete Karageorgos, manager of consumer and industry relations, Ontario, at the Insurance Bureau of Canada. “And any rates they charge, any underwriting criteria, must all be approved. The data shows unequivocally that younger males have more claims, more accidents, so they’re a higher risk. The most recent Ontario Ministry of Transportation road safety report shows young drivers have more claims, and younger male drivers get into more accidents than younger females.”

If you steer clear of accidents and traffic tickets, when can you expect to be paying less for insurance?

“The first age bracket to cross over where you see a discount is 25. That’s the first step down, and then age plays a role, but not as much again until you hit 50 or 55,” says Tammy Ezer, a manager with InsuranceHotline.com.

So what does being married have to do with why a motorist might receive a break on insurance?

In 2012, InsuranceHotline.com polled Canadian drivers to uncover their pet peeves, and what they’re guilty of behind the wheel. When it comes to relationship status, the survey found that singles are twice as likely to get a ticket or get into an accident than those who are married. Common-law couples reported even fewer accidents than those who are wed.

“I think there’s a couple of things that come into play. Number one, you tend to be younger if you’re single – though not always, and when you’re getting married it tends to be a little bit later in life. And in general that means you have more experience driving, and if you have more experience you’re less likely to get into an accident,” says Ezer.

“I also think that when you talk about being married you tend to have children, and when you have kids in the car, you’re going to drive even that much more safely. We have stats that say they’re more likely to buckle up, less likely to get into accidents, and also more likely to obey the rules of the road because they’re setting a good example for their children.”

According to Ezer, not all insurers provide a rate break due to marital status. “It’s not necessarily a discount for being married. But with all else being equal, there are situations where the only difference being one driver is married and one is single, the rate will be cheaper for the married.

“It depends on the insurance company, so it’s not a hard-and-fast rule. Insurance companies look at their history to predict the future and how risky you are, and that’s how they rate and charge you. If their history indicates that people who are married are safer, you being married means you’re less risky – and cheaper.”

To secure the best rate, definitely shop around. Maintain a good driving record and, over time, you’ll pay less.

Send your automotive questions to globedrive@globeandmail.com

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