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When A Good Driver Marries A Bad One

"For better or for worse" includes car insurance.

Most couples will find cheaper rates after tying the knot because of multi-car and multi-policy discounts, and the fact that most insurance companies view married people as less risky than single drivers.

But some newlyweds might be better off saying "I don't" to a car insurance policy shared with a spouse who has too many moving violations, insurance claims and accidents. The spouse's lousy driving record will likely increase your insurance rates if you have a policy together.

"You're marrying their driving record too," says Cristofer Pereyra, a Farmers Insurance agent in Phoenix.

When both drivers have clean records, the savings are substantial. We compared rates for an Oklahoma City couple, both 29, driving a 2009 Jeep Grand Cherokee and a 2010 Toyota Matrix with full coverage on each.

Assuming they bought the cheapest policies we found, Jim would pay $1,544 a year to insure his Jeep, and Mary would pay $1,396 for her Toyota. But married they would pay just $2,014 for both cars -- more than $900 off their combined individual bills.

But if one of those drivers brings a spotty record to the marriage, all those savings can disappear. Adding three speeding tickets to Mary's record brings their joint car insurance bill to $2,876. And a DUI or other major violation on one spouse's record can mean neither qualifies for an insurer's standard policy and best rates.

What you're required to do

The first thing to do is tell your insurance company soon after getting married that you're living with, and married to, another driver, says Lynette Simmons Hoag, a Chicago lawyer who deals with auto insurance claims.

Most states and insurers require any licensed driver living in the same home as the insured driver to be covered under the same policy. That's because all the licensed drivers in the household have access to the car. (See " Who can drive your car?")

"The other person's driving record is going to affect your rates," consumer analyst Penny Gusner says. "And it's probably cheaper to have one policy."

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