Your Claim History Affects Your Car Insurance Rates

Why does your car insurance cost what it does? Your claim history might be why. Here's how your claim history can affect your auto rates.
Auto insurance claim form sitting on desk

Have you ever wondered why your car insurance rates are what they are? How insurance companies determine rates can seem confusing. There are several reasons why your rates could be as high or low as they are. These reasons are a variety of different factors that insurers use to determine your premiums.

Car insurance rate factors are small details about you or your track record. Some of these factors could be things that you can’t control, like your age or gender. They could also be your driving record, credit score, or even where you live.

Another factor that insurers consider is your car insurance claim history. They use this to assess whether or not you’re a risky customer to serve. Insurers look at how many claims you’ve had, as well as how often you file. Generally, insurers look back to the last three years on your claims record. Though, they can go back ten years or more in some cases. They do this by using the Claim Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE). This means that your claim history will carry over between companies.

This article will explain how your claim history plays a role in affecting your insurance rates. We’ll also tell you how insurance companies can go back and look at your record. This includes how far they go back and why that is. We’ll also give you advice on when you should or shouldn’t file a claim. Finally, we’ll help you figure out how to lower your rates if your claim history has made you a high-risk driver.

Why Claim History is a Rate Factor

Your claim history is a major factor that insurers consider when they choose your rates. This is because people with more claims cost insurers more money. This translates to higher rates.

If you have several claims on your record, you also pose a higher risk for insurance companies. Generally, a history that’s full of claims points to you filing even more later. Per Kelley Blue Book, drivers who’ve filed a claim (even just one) in the past are 42% more likely to have higher rates than those who haven’t.

How Companies Can See Your Claim History

It’s no secret that insurers look at your claim history. But how do they do it? They use the Claim Loss Underwriting Exchange by LexisNexis®, or CLUE, to review your history. The tool produces a CLUE report that displays information about you, such as:

  • Your name
  • Your date of birth
  • Insurance policy number
  • Loss type
  • Loss date
  • Property description
  • Info about the car or vehicle involved in the claim
  • How much the provider has paid to cover the property

CLUE reports will only show claims that your insurance provider reports. This includes claims where:

  • They pay out money to cover damages
  • Deny a claim
  • Open up a claim file

Note that simply contacting your insurer doesn’t count as a claim. A claim is when you formally file to have your insurer cover damages.

Insurers can get a report about you at any time. You may also obtain your own report if you want. This is so you can verify or review info about yourself to make sure it’s all correct. LexisNexis® offers a free report once each year that you can obtain on yourself.

When Will Insurers Look at Your CLUE Report?

Insurance companies will look at your CLUE report on occasion. This is usually when you request a quote or go to buy coverage. They’ll use the report to assess your risk and decide if they want to provide coverage to you. They also use it to determine your rates. The more claims you have, the higher your rates will be.

How Far Back Insurers Will Look

Car insurance claims don’t necessarily stay on your record forever. After a certain period, most insurers won’t count them against you. The accident or claim may still be on your record, but the insurer may stop using it to determine your rates. In general, this time period is about three to five years. Some insurers may even consider claims up to ten years later, but this is rare.

Many insurers will reward you for going a certain period of time without getting into an accident. This period of time is often similar to how long claims factor into your rates. You may see this reward in the form of a “safe driver discount.” For example, State Farm offers a discount for drivers who are accident-free for three years.

When You Should and Shouldn’t File a Claim

Since filing a claim can raise your rates, you may consider not filing one in some situations. The natural way of thinking is to just file a claim any time you get into an accident or damage your car. But this could end up costing you more money in the long run. You’ll want to decide whether it’s worth it to involve your insurance.

Whether or not you should file a claim depends on the situation and the type of damage that your car has. Here’s a breakdown of when you should and shouldn’t file a claim:

When you should file a claim:

  • You either never filed a claim or haven’t in a long time (three years or longer)
  • The accident involves an injury
  • The accident involves severe property damage
  • The other car or property is expensive e.g., exotic or classic/collector cars
  • You’re at fault for the accident
  • The other party could sue you

When you shouldn’t file a claim:

  • The damages cost less than your deductible. For example, windshield damage that costs $200 to repair, but your deductible is $500.
  • You can afford to pay the damages (as long as it doesn’t ruin you)
  • You’re wealthy
  • You’ve already filed more than one claim in the last three years

Your decision to file a claim should depend on what the consequences will be. If your insurance rates are likely to skyrocket, you should consider paying for the damages yourself. But only do so if you can afford it. You should speak with your agent if you’re worried about what filing a claim would do to your rates. One claim likely won’t do much of anything to your rates.

How to Lower Your Rates if Your History is Bad

Even if you have a spotty claim history, you can still find ways to lower your rates. You should also think in the long term. Claims usually stay on your record for three to five years. If you can maintain a clean driving and claim record, you can see your rates decrease.

There are plenty of methods that you can use to slash your rates in the short term. Here are some of the best ways to lower your rates ASAP:

  • Get discounts. Many insurers offer discounts for you to take advantage of. Examples of this include the good student, safe driver, multi-car, and multi-policy discounts.
  • Avoid tickets and accidents. The cleaner your driving record is, the cheaper your insurance will be. Try to practice defensive driving techniques and avoid making mistakes. Never drink and drive.
  • Shop around. Not all insurers offer the same rates. It’s smart to shop around and compare car insurance quotes to get the best deal.
  • Live in a rural or less risky area. Where you live affects your rates. Try to avoid living in areas that have high crime rates or severe weather.
  • Drive a safe car. Try to drive a car that has high safety ratings. You can also get discounts from your insurer if your car has certain safety features (most new cars do).
  • Have good credit. Having a good credit score will bode well for your insurance costs. Making payments on time is the best way to keep a good credit score.
  • Raise your deductible. Setting a higher deductible will result in lower rates. You should only do this if you can make the payment when you file a claim.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is CLUE?

A: CLUE is a report that you or your insurer can look at regarding your claims. It shows various info on previous claims that you’ve filed. Insurers use this info to view your claim history and assess your risk as a driver and customer. Having too many claims can cause a spike in your rates. The CLUE system makes it so you can’t hide your claim history if you want to switch companies.

Q: How far back do insurers look?

A: Typically, insurers look as far as three to five years. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the claims on your record will be gone. It just means that they won’t use it against you when determining your rates after the time is up. Keep in mind that some insurers will look back as far as ten years. But this is very rare.

Filing one claim within the three years probably won’t hurt you. But more than one can become a problem. Before filing a claim, you should ask your agent what the effect on your premiums might be.

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