Most vehicle insurers now use your credit score as one of many factors when determining your level of risk, and how much to charge you for insurance. Generally, the higher your credit score the more likely you are to be eligible for an insurer's best rates. If your credit score is low, you could get auto insurance quotes that are thousands of dollars higher than those given to consumers with high credit scores.
While some consumer advocacy groups object to the practice, insurance companies say research supports the use of credit scores as a predictor of potential risk. The practice is rooted in the idea that people who manage personal finances responsibly are more likely to be responsible in other areas as well - including behind the wheel.
If you plan to buy a car, apply for new insurance or just want to lower your auto insurance rate, here are some things you should know about vehicle insurance and credit scores:
* Most vehicle insurance companies do consider your credit score when determining your auto insurance quote. Don't forget, however, that your credit score is just one factor; your driving record, the type of vehicle you drive, where you live, how many miles you drive each year, your gender and age, even your education level are all other factors that insurance companies consider.
* A vehicle insurer looks at your credit score differently than the way a potential lender might. For example, an insurer is likely going to be more interested in how reliably you pay your bills than in how many different types of credit are on your credit report. Insurance companies try to use your financial reliability and sensibility, as reflected in your credit score, to predict how reliable and sensible you're likely to be as a driver and vehicle owner.
* Your credit score is a fluid number that changes. Whenever a change occurs in your credit report, your score can change - going up or down, depending upon the change and its impact on your finances. If your score has improved significantly since the last time you applied for auto insurance, it may be worth it to see if your improved score will qualify you for a better rate. The Motley Fool website recommends you check your credit score to see how it might be affecting your auto insurance rates.
* Checking your credit score is fast and easy, thanks to online resources like Freecreditscore.com. The website allows you to access a credit score when you enroll in credit monitoring membership. While this score is not the specific scoring model an auto insurer may look at when reviewing your policy application, it can help educate you about your credit standing. By monitoring your credit you'll be able to see how changes in your credit report can affect your score, and you'll receive credit score alerts whenever your score changes.
One of the main complaints consumer groups have made about the practice of using credit scores to set auto rates is that credit reports may contain errors. By monitoring your report regularly, you can help ensure it remains error-free and that your insurance company is looking at the most accurate possible snapshot of your credit history.