How your credit score affects your car insurance rates

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Consumer Reports found that car insurance prices can increase dramatically, not because of how you drive but because of how you spend. (WPVI)

Many drivers think the cost of car insurance depends mostly on your driving record. But increasingly, car insurers also include other factors that have nothing to do with driving.

Consumer Reports got more than two billion insurance quotes from companies across the country and found that prices can increase dramatically, not because of how you drive but because of how you spend.

Car insurance commercials tout low rates but don't tell you just how the companies set those rates.

Consumer Reports' two-year investigation found many insurance companies base prices in part on a hidden credit score that can take into account things like what type of credit card you have or whether you've applied for credit recently.

"That car insurance credit score is different from your FICO score, and how it figures into your premiums varies depending on the insurer and your state. Companies use it to predict not if you'll be a good driver but whether you'll file a claim," said Margot Gilman, Consumer Reports money editor.

Consumer Reports compared rates for hypothetical drivers who are single with clean driving records.

In Pennsylvania, the average annual premium if you have an excellent car insurance credit score is $1,088. With a "good" score, it's $184 more or $1,272 total.

But you'll pay a whopping $1,170 MORE if you have a "poor" score!

That's a higher premium than for those with an excellent score and a drunk-driving conviction.

In New Jersey, a "poor score" will have you paying $1,682 more.

Some insurers penalize you more for a poor credit score than others so you have to shop around.

For drivers in Pennsylvania with poor credit, premiums between carriers can vary by more than $1,400 a year.

It's critical you check your report with Transunion, Experian and Equifax.

If there are inaccuracies, correcting them may help improve the credit score the insurance companies use.

For more tips and to find out which insurance carriers offer some of the best and worst rates in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, visit the Consumer Reports website.
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