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Cracking the code: What’s behind your car insurance rate?

Data shows premiums can vary greatly from ZIP code to ZIP code

It's not your driving record or even the kind of car you drive that has the biggest impact on how much you pay for car insurance; agents say it's your ZIP CODE We are CRACKING THE CODE behind what you pay.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – While many drivers think their age, driving record or car model are key factors in how much they pay for insurance, agents say it’s actually where you live that makes the biggest impact.

Data obtained by News4Jax shows drivers in different neighborhoods in northeast Florida may be paying vastly different amounts and, as one driver found, just crossing a street can make a difference.

"So it’s more dangerous to drive on that side of the road, rather than over there?" asked Bob Fowler.

The road Fowler is talking about is Atlantic Boulevard, part of which divides Atlantic and Neptune beaches. According to Fowler, a longtime beach resident, the road is also the dividing line between affordable and expensive car insurance.

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"I used to live in Neptune Beach, which is 32266," Fowler said. "Across the road is 32233, and when I moved over there my rates went up, and they claim it’s from the area, more accidents."

When Fowler moved to Atlantic Beach, his car insurance jumped more than $150, prompting him to switch insurance carriers.

We asked experts with TheZebra.com, a nationwide car insurance quote search engine, why insurance would be more expensive in one ZIP code than in the neighboring one.

"Congestion is a major factor," said Alyssa Connolly, a licensed insurance expert with TheZebra.com. "As a rule, if one area is more congested than the other that’s densely populated, car insurance is going to be more expensive there, because there are more people on the road."

High crime rates, vandalism and even accidents attributed to texting while driving can all have a bearing on how much car insurance companies charge you, based on where you live.

TheZebra.com did a nationwide rate analysis using a sample driver: a 30-year-old single man with a good driving history, driving a 2014 Honda Accord EX. Experts with the site found Florida is the third-most expensive state for car insurance, and that in Jacksonville, insurance rates are roughly 30% higher than the national average right now.

According to the site’s analysis, the ZIP code in northeast Florida with the highest insurance rates is 32205, which includes Avondale, Murray Hill and nearby neighborhoods. There, the rate for the sample driver was $2,060 a year.

Next was 32207, encompassing San Marco, Miramar and St. Nicholas, where the annual rate was $2,055.

The local ZIP code with the third-highest rate in the analysis from TheZebra.com was 32208, in the Moncrief area, with a rate of $2,049.

The site’s insurance experts said geography was not the only factor in rates, however. They said women typically pay slightly more for car insurance than men because women are more likely to make an insurance claim. A driver’s occupation can also come into play.

"People like lawyers or engineers are likely to pay a little bit less for car insurance compared to the people who make a little less money, versus the people who are unemployed," Connolly said.

Natural disasters, like Hurricane Michael, which devastated the Florida Panhandle in 2018, are also driving car insurance rates up. While the Category 5 storm spared northeast Florida, drivers here are still required to pay more.

"You have to think of car insurance as a pool of risk, and all Floridians share the same pool," Connolly explained.

If your insurance rates jump dramatically, experts suggest fighting back, by calling your carrier and asking for the reason for the increase. If your carrier doesn’t budge – start shopping around. They also suggest monitoring your insurance statements after that, because more than likely, your rates will rise again.

The whole process can still be difficult to understand, for drivers like Fowler.

"I move into a safer neighborhood and my rates go up, that makes no sense at all," he said.

We also learned that bundling your car insurance with your home insurance can save you at least 10% on your car insurance rates, but be sure to check the length of the term to make sure they expire at the same time. One thing you do not want to do is to let your car insurance lapse, even for one day, as carriers can view that as added risk, which leads to higher rates.

Explore car insurance rates in your neighborhood

About the Authors:

Tarik anchors the 4, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts and reports with the I-TEAM.