State Farm, California’s largest vehicle insurer, is raising rates for its 3.7 million policyholders now that many if not most of them are on the road again.
Vehicle insurance premiums declined during the pandemic after I and others pointed out to the state Department of Insurance that rates no longer reflected the reality of cars sitting in driveways.
Now Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara is approving rate increases in light of the pandemic easing and people returning to offices.
Most recently he’s given the green light for State Farm to raise premiums by a total $264 million, which translates to about $70 per policyholder.
Insurers say the higher rates reflect the greater risk of most people being back on streets and freeways.
But consumer advocates say this is price gouging, and that in many cases, higher premiums are unwarranted.
“These massive premiums increases have been approved even though most auto insurance companies have failed to fully repay their customers for windfall overcharges during the pandemic lockdown, when people dramatically reduced their driving and accidents, and insurance claims dropped,” Pamela Pressley, senior attorney at Los Angeles’ Consumer Watchdog, said in a statement.
She said California drivers are still owed “billions in additional refunds.”
Several large insurers have received approval for similar premium increases, but the go-ahead for State Farm is the largest since last October.
If you receive notice of rising rates but feel that in your case they’re not justified, don’t hesitate to contact your insurer and appeal the decision.
You’ll be required to show a current photo of your odometer. If it demonstrates that you’re not driving much, you can request continuation of pandemic-level rates.
That’s not to say you’ll prevail — these are insurance companies, after all, with businesses designed to take in as much money as possible and pay out as little as they can.
But it doesn’t hurt to make the effort, even if it just buys you another year of reduced rates.