Saving money is hard at the best of times, and living in San Francisco doesn’t make it any easier.
Within that cost of living, SF has things particularly bad when it comes to car costs. Gas is expensive, while parking and insurance costs don’t help.
The data suggests car insurance rates are going up across America. But when it comes to car insurance in San Francisco, what is it that keeps costs up and, more importantly, what can you do to get them down?
From taking the time to shop around, to being smart with your coverage, there’s plenty you can do.
What’s behind the higher costs?
Cities generally have higher auto insurance premiums. If there’s more people, there are more people to be on roads at the same time, so the chance of accidents goes up.
This chance of accidents can potentially mean more claims, leading to further increases in auto insurance costs for city dwellers.
That San Francisco traffic
San Francisco has one of the highest population densities in the US, with 6,266 people per square mile – behind only LA and New York.
More people means more driving, even in SF. It’s true that the area is above the national average for the amount of people who bike to work and one of the lowest rate of people who drive to work.
Source: US Census data
Nevertheless, two thirds of people in the San Francisco and Oakland area drive to work. This translates into 70 million miles driven every day.
Even though drivers aren’t driving further than counterparts in other US cities, San Francisco has some of the worst traffic. Tom Tom’s traffic index puts SF at number three for congestion in North America, behind only LA and Mexico City.
Causes of claims
It isn’t just the density that can push up prices for car insurance in San Francisco.
If your car is more at risk of being stolen, this could mean higher premiums. Unfortunately, San Francisco and the surrounding area has one of the highest vehicle theft rates in the US. In 2016, 640 vehicles were stolen per 100,000 population. Thefts from vehicles in San Francisco also increased significantly during 2017.
Source: National Insurance Crime Bureau, via the Insurance Information Institute
There is good news in terms of accidents on San Francisco roads. Fatal accidents have fallen, while total number of collisions has remained pretty flat even as the population increases.
Nevertheless, insurance companies see having a car in San Francisco as a higher risk.
Analysis suggests drivers in San Francisco will make an insurance claim roughly every six years compared to the average of 10 years.
What you can do to keep premiums down
What can you do get cheaper car insurance in San Francisco? Not everything about your car insurance rate is determined by where you live, so you can take the following steps to try and keep you rates down without having to move.
1. Shop around
This is key. Shopping around lets you see who will offer you what at what rate, as well as give you a better sense of the kind of coverage you need.
Of course, shopping around isn’t fun – we’re talking about buying insurance after all.
However, you don’t have to do all the legwork yourself. Look for services that can provide you with quotes from different providers at the same time.
The Cover mobile app, for instance, will get you a quote in minutes. All you need to do is answer a few short questions and the app will scan over 30 different providers to get you the best rate. (You can download it from the App Store or Google Play store for free)
2. Reduce coverage on older cars
Be smart about what types of car insurance you need. Once your car reaches a certain age, or gets enough miles on the clock, the depreciation means having collision or comprehensive insurance isn’t really worth it.
If you have an older car (another way to potentially save money) then consider the trade off between liability vs full coverage as a way of potentially reducing costs.
3. Raise your deductible
There’s a direct relationship between higher premiums and a lower deductible. This makes it a straightforward route to lower auto insurance costs.
Keep in mind that if you do get in an accident the money you might have saved from lower premiums would quickly be offset by the higher deductible.
4. Drive less, drive safe
Your own driving habits do play a part. The less you drive the less time you spend on the road to be in an accident, so you are less of a risk.
When you are in your car, If you need any extra incentive to drive safely remember that tickets and insurance claims can also push up your premiums.
5. Bundle insurance
If you need other types of insurance, such as renters or homeowners, getting them from the same insurer as your auto insurance could lower costs overall.