The only time most of us think about our car insurance is when there is bad news, like a ticket or an accident. When you're young, single and incident-prone, rates only seem to go one way: up. There is a flip side. Tickets fall off your record, and so do accidents. You'll get older, you'll move to a better neighborhood. All of these events will affect your car insurance rates - in a good way. We compared rates among four insurers --Esurance, Progressive, Safeco and 21 st Century - for Jeff, a hypothetical hipster in Seattle. Let's see what happens to insurance rates as life happens to Jeff.
You pay a bundle for car insurance
Jeff is 23, single, rents an apartment in Seattle, drives a paid-off 2011 Audi A3, commutes five days a week and puts about 12,000 miles a year on his car. He carries coverage levels of 50/100/50 liability and a $500 deductible on comprehensive and collision. Jeff starts out with a spotty record that includes a recent accident with $20,000 in total claims. Insurers hate claims. We're showing a range of rates to demonstrate how differently insurance companies do the math, but in every case, the numbers can be scary. Jeff's starting annual car insurance quotes: $3,206 to $6,198
You keep your nose clean
Accidents, tickets and claims will jack up your rate, in most cases for at least a few years. "Minor violations will factor into your insurance rate for three years, while major violations can impact your premium for five to 10 years," says Tom Santamorena with Minto & Wilkie Insurance Agency in San Rafael, California. But the more time that has passed since the infraction or claim, the better off you are. A year later, with the accident still on his record but no new incidents, Jeff sees his rates drop significantly.