Auto Insurance Rates Decline but Still Vary Widely by Carrier, Region : Driving: Survey shows that coverage costs most in L.A. County, and that inner city residents pay more than suburbanites.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

California auto insurance rates have declined slightly over the last year, a new state survey shows.

But many of the things the Insurance Department's annual survey shows are the same as in previous years: rates in Los Angeles County remain the state's highest, followed by Orange County; rates still vary widely from carrier to carrier, and a poor driving record costs a lot of money.

And once again, the survey demonstrates that inner city residents pay much more for auto insurance than suburbanites, in absolute terms and as a proportion of income.

Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi blames that on insurance company redlining--or refusal to offer coverage in certain neighborhoods. He said he will provide evidence of redlining at a special congressional hearing on the subject Friday at the Museum of Science and Industry in Los Angeles.

Garamendi, releasing the survey Wednesday, credited his refusal to grant rate increases, plus the beneficial effects of Proposition 103--the 1988 insurance rollback initiative--for the decline in auto insurance prices.

Knowing they cannot rely on regular rate increases, companies have had to find ways of reducing their costs to remain profitable, said Garamendi, who is a Democratic candidate for governor.

He cited State Farm Insurance Group and 20th Century Insurance Co.--both of which have refused to pay ordered rebates under Proposition 103--as having among the lowest rates.

He also noted that Farmers Insurance Group, Mercury General Group and Auto Club of Southern California had recently lowered their rates.

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The survey shows that the state average annual premium for a 30-year-old driver with a clean driving record is $543, down $13 or 2.4% from a year ago. In Los Angeles, the average premium for such a driver is $944, down $24 or 2.5% from a year ago. Orange County's average is $636, down $11 or 1.7%.

The biggest lesson for consumers in the survey is to shop around. Rates for the 30-year-old with a clean record in Los Angeles County, for example, vary from a high of $1,288 (Farmers) to a low of $674 (20th Century). For other driver categories, the variation is even wider.

How much difference does a poor driving record make?

Consider this: Mercury's rate for the 30-year-old Los Angeles resident with a clean record is $685. With a speeding ticket and an at-fault accident, it jumps to $1,278.

Rates within regions also vary widely. Garamendi noted that a 30-year-old driver with a clean record pays an average of $584 annually in Palmdale, $628 in Palos Verdes, but $1,416 in South Central Los Angeles.

"These premiums clearly show that California's auto insurance market remains unfair and arbitrary," Garamendi said.

Mary Crystal, a spokeswoman for the Western Insurance Information Services, an industry trade group, said that insurers are satisfied with the accuracy of the survey but that it provides only a general indication of pricing. Rates are based on so many factors that individual consumers' premiums may be much different from those shown in the hypothetical examples, she said.

Average Automobile Premiums

Here are the average annual premiums for Southern California's 13 largest auto insurers, region by region, using six hypothetical examples of coverage.

EXAMPLES

1. Male or female; age 65; no violations; pleasure use; 7,500 annual miles; liability coverage

2. Male or female; age 30; no violations; 12,000 annual miles; liability coverage

3. Male or female; age 30; one speeding ticket and one at-fault accident; 12,000 annual miles; liability coverage

4. Male; age 19; 15,000 annual miles; liability coverage

5. Single female; age 38; principal operator; no violations; licensed 22 years; 16,000 annual miles; 1992 Honda LX 4-door

6. Husband and wife; ages 45 and 43; principal operators; son, age 17, occasional operator; 1992 Toyota Camry & 1993 Dodge Caravan; husband and wife have one speeding ticket each

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POLICY LIMITS, EXAMPLES 1-4: Bodily injury: 15,000/30,000 Property damage: 5,000 Medical payments: 2,000 Uninsured motorist bodily injury: 15,000/30,000 Uninsured motorist property damage: 3,500

POLICY LIMITS, EXAMPLES 5-6: Bodily injury: 100,000/300,000 Property damage: 50,000 Medical payments: 5,000 Uninsured motorist bodily injury: 30,000/60,000 Uninsured motorist property damage: 3,500 Comprehensive deductible: $100 Collision deductible: $200

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Los Angeles County

Example State Farmers Allstate 20th Farm Group Group Century AAA 1 502 642 779 540 685 2 696 1288 1014 674 872 3 N/A N/A N/A N/A 1950 4 N/A N/A N/A N/A 2318 5 1973 2311 2365 1710 1778 6 5907 N/A 6187 N/A 5244

Los Angeles County (continued)

Example Mercury Safeco Hartford Liberty General Group GEICO Fire Mutual 1 681 614 1041 748 663 2 685 694 1386 1215 800 3 1278 N/A 3077 2239 N/A 4 1630 1576 5782 3581 1726 5 1769 1764 2917 3379 1834 6 3407 4795 5705 9151 5206

Los Angeles County (continued)

Example Colonial Fireman's Penn Fund Prudential AVERAGE 1 739 922 711 713 2 858 1051 1037 944 3 N/A 1795 1858 2033 4 N/A 2026 3028 2708 5 1834 2593 2241 2190 6 4364 7766 7458 5926

Orange County

Example State Farmers Allstate 20th Farm Group Group Century AAA 1 335 375 557 335 495 2 467 780 703 416 616 3 N/A N/A N/A N/A 1349 4 N/A N/A N/A N/A 1605 5 1371 1412 1671 1109 1225 6 4132 N/A 4423 N/A 3611

Orange County (continued)

Example Mercury Safeco Hartford Liberty General Group GEICO Fire Mutual 1 460 459 639 465 477 2 463 520 851 757 569 3 871 N/A 1880 1396 N/A 4 1126 1181 3530 2236 1204 5 1131 1363 1837 2146 1412 6 2225 3682 3575 5815 3573

Orange County (continued)

Example Colonial Fireman's Penn Fund Prudential AVERAGE 1 538 628 536 485 2 627 714 781 636 3 N/A 1206 1399 1350 4 N/A 1358 2275 1814 5 1412 1752 1649 1499 6 3368 5204 5487 4100

San Bernardino & Riverside counties

Example State Farmers Allstate 20th Farm Group Group Century AAA 1 296 315 469 316 463 2 412 647 590 393 573 3 N/A N/A N/A N/A 1238 4 N/A N/A N/A N/A 1466 5 1352 1383 1581 1149 1222 6 4087 N/A 4108 N/A 3504

San Bernardino & Riverside counties (continued)

Example Mercury Safeco Hartford Liberty General Group GEICO Fire Mutual 1 420 324 487 401 376 2 422 366 648 652 444 3 796 N/A 1437 1197 N/A 4 1022 827 2700 1914 923 5 1139 1062 1536 1963 1116 6 2208 2808 2928 5266 3185

San Bernardino & Riverside counties (continued)

Example Colonial Fireman's Penn Fund Prudential AVERAGE 1 370 571 369 398 2 433 647 537 520 3 N/A 1086 1039 1132 4 N/A 1221 1556 1454 5 1116 1584 1328 1349 6 2658 4691 4374 3620

San Diego & Imperial counties

Example State Farmers Allstate 20th Farm Group Group Century AAA 1 242 262 380 253 381 2 337 538 469 308 462 3 N/A N/A N/A N/A 979 4 N/A N/A N/A N/A 1157 5 1164 1175 1362 879 984 6 3542 N/A 3499 N/A 2794

San Diego & Imperial counties (continued)

Example Mercury Safeco Hartford Liberty General Group GEICO Fire Mutual 1 391 309 428 367 345 2 393 350 570 596 406 3 743 N/A 1252 1095 N/A 4 945 790 2352 1751 835 5 1084 1044 1319 1794 1095 6 2096 2744 2531 4824 2832

San Diego & Imperial counties (continued)

Example Colonial Fireman's Penn Fund Prudential AVERAGE 1 352 425 359 345 2 413 477 521 449 3 N/A 793 928 965 4 N/A 890 1506 1278 5 1095 1166 1251 1186 6 2611 3423 4130 3184

N/A = Company does not offer this type of policy.

Source: California Department of Insurance

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