Women and Car Insurance

By Desiree Baughman
Desiree maintains insurance licensure in 46 states, and by combining years of experience as a writer and insurance professional, she delivers information consumers can easily relate to and understand. A graduate of Sweet Briar College with a diverse writing portfolio, she regularly serves as an expert source and commentator for respected outlets like CBS Money, Bankrate, and Ragan.com.

Women and Car InsuranceWhen it comes to car insurance, it’s not a secret that women have it easier than their male counterparts. CBS news reports that an 18 year old male living in Nevada would pay 51% higher insurance rates than his twin sister, even if they had the same car, grades, and insurance plan. This seems to be the case around the nation as well. Overall, women are safer drivers, getting into fewer wrecks and receiving fewer tickets than men, so we’re rewarded with lower insurance rates. Women are still susceptible to high insurance rates, but by following the rules of the road and being a smart consumer, you can enjoy insurance discounts for a lifetime.

Why the Pricing Gap Between the Genders?

According to the Social Issues Research Centre, “there is extensive evidence to show that men, and young men in particular, tend to be more aggressive than women (in all known cultures) and they express aggression in a direct, rather than indirect, manner. This has a very significant impact on driving, encouraging more competitive and hostile behavior with consequent higher probabilities of crashing.” While there will always be some men that drive very safely and some women that are maniacs on the road, the natural tendency for males to be more aggressive behind the wheel isn’t just about driving skills.

There are more fundamental issues at work that have evolved over the years that not only separate men and women on the insurance pricing spectrum, but in other ways as well. Historically, men were tasked with guarding the home and hunting to provide for the family. Women stayed close to the home turf to ensure children were nurtured. Peter Marsh and Peter Collett authored Driving Passion: The Psychology of the Car and claim that men tend look at cars and the driving experience as part of the so-called “territorial imperative”. When he feels as if someone is encroaching upon his territory, he becomes more aggressive, leading him to make instinctual, rather than logical decisions.

Information like this, while interesting, can also be very generalizing in nature. While it explains some behavior, there are plenty of individuals who have chosen to exert control over impulses and remain safe on the road. Insurance companies don’t look at exceptions though, and rely on statistics, which give women the edge when it comes to insurance. The fact of the matter is that the insurance industry relies on a risk-averse model. When studies from the Insurance Institute on Highway Safety (IIHS) produce results like the ones below, insurance companies naturally assume that the male driver has a higher risk of getting into an accident or receiving traffic-related infractions. To offset the high chances of settling an expensive claim, the male is charged more.

IIHS Statistics (Ratio of Male to Female)

  • Reckless Driving: 3.41 to 1
  • DUI: 3.09 to 1
  • Seatbelt Violations: 3.08 to 1
  • Speeding: 1.75 to 1
  • Failure to Yield: 1.54 to 1
  • Stop Sign/Signal Violation: 1.53 to 1

IIHS Statistics for the Number of Fatal Car Crashes per 100 million miles

  • Age 16-19: Males-9.2/Females 5.3
  • Age 20-29: Males- 4.0/Females 2.0
  • Age 30-59: Males 1.8/Females 1.3
  • Age 70+: Males 2.5/Females 1.7

So, if statistics prove time and again that males are the more dangerous driver, what’s up with the stereotype of the woman as the bad driver?

Defeating the Stereotype

Merriam-Webster defines stereotype as: “to believe unfairly that all people or things with a particular characteristic are the same.” While most modern adults have overcome the use of scathing generalizations, some women are still subject to the idea that, just because you’re a woman, operating a vehicle is somehow out of your capacity. We’ve already proved that this isn’t true, but is it possible that this longstanding untruth can actually hinder some females driving abilities? It’s called the stereotype threat.

In an Australian study conducted by Dr. Courtney von Hippel at the University of Queensland and published in the Accident Analysis and Prevention Journal, they found that “women who are told that men are better drivers are more than twice as likely to collide with jaywalking pedestrians as other women in a similar test.” The test involved 168 female university students, half of whom were told they were participating in a study that examined why men were better drivers. The other half were told they were participating in a study examining gender differences in driving abilities. Needless to say, women in the stereotyped group performed worse than those in the control group.

Hippel said, “When people are confronted with negative stereotypes about themselves they seem to experience an additional cognitive load, which can decrease their performance on a task.”

Examining Insurance Needs and Rates as You Age

Although the male and female divide is significant when it comes to auto insurance, gender isn’t the only factor used to determine rates. In addition to your driving record, things like geographic location, the kind of car you drive, and how old you are can either work for or against you. While the march of time isn’t something that many people look forward to, you can look forward to paying lower rates for your car insurance.

Just as men almost always pay more for car insurance, it’s a given that younger drivers cost more to insure due to simple lack of experience. Not until you reach age 25 will you see your insurance rates begin to drop. From that point on until age 55, it’s probable that your monthly payments could drop by as much as 19%, which will save you a pretty penny. Of course, you may find that you need additional coverage as you get older, which might cost a little bit more.

For example, the old hoopty you drove during high school and college may have finally died and you decided to invest in a brand new car upon receiving your first real job. Before, the car may have been so old that you only needed collision in case you damaged another car. Your new car, even with improved safety features, might make your insurance more expensive because you want to purchase full coverage. Additionally, if you buy a house, have a rocking 401(k), and a nice boat, an umbrella policy, or extra liability insurance, might be in order due to the fact that you’re now quite sue-able.

Sacrificing safety and coverage for price is never recommended, but there are ways to save on insurance, like taking preventive driving courses and bundling your policies. If you’re concerned you’re paying too much for insurance, contact your agent to make sure you’re getting the best rates and don’t forget to shop around. There are a variety of resources that allow you to compare prices from multiple providers so you can be sure that you’re getting the best policy at the best price.