PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- You may be surprised by a little known secret about your auto insurance. Your rates may be determined by factors other than your driving record.
According to experts, your education level and credit have more to do with your car insurance rate than how you drive. And one auto insurance company that says it's doing things differently wants the practice exposed.
Consumer advocates say car insurance companies use what they call "proxies" to determine the rate you pay.
"Basically a substitute for asking how much money do you make. We use proxies such as a person's credit score, or whether or not somebody who has a four-year college degree, or they work in an occupation that makes a lot of money," said Eric Poe, the chief operating officer of CURE Auto Insurance.
Poe calls it a negative practice that he says needs to stop.
"It has a tremendous impact on minorities who make up the largest population of the lower income skilled drivers in this country," Poe said.
For example, Poe says if you have a poor credit score you could actually pay more for car insurance than somebody who's had a DWI in the last three years. Sometimes 20 to 30 to 40 percent more.
In Philadelphia, the disparities can range hundreds of dollars.
"I would say clearly over $1,000, sometimes $2,000, in terms of what you're paying for car insurance if you live in Philadelphia," Poe said.
Kevin Brasler of Checkbook Magazine said, "The problem is these companies don't have to disclose really how exactly how much influence credit scoring has when they're setting their rates."
The best advice is to shop around every couple of years.
"Most auto insurance policyholders can save $500, even $1,000 or more per year, every year," said Brasler.
And realize that bundling doesn't always get you a great deal.
"What we find is that often that 20% discount, that 15% discount, it doesn't mean anything compared to the 40% discount you can get by just shopping around," said Brasler.
And as far as getting the industry to change its usage of income proxies, Poe says get involved.
"People have no idea the power of calling and emailing your local legislator," he said.
CURE Auto insurance has put together a website to help educate consumers and legislators on this issue. Again, CURE says unlike most other companies, it does not use income proxies.
Also, we did reach out to a group representing the auto insurance industry but were told it has no comment.