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Soaring car insurance premiums leave Florida drivers searching for relief

Cars moving south on Interstate 275 near downtown Tampa.
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A high number of crashes and fatalities, uninsured drivers, hurricanes, theft and fraud are among the many factors contributing to the cost of car insurance in the state.

Mark Friedlander of the Insurance Information Institute says many factors contribute to the high price of car insurance in the state.

"Despite implementing substantial rate increases, (the) premium that is being collected from policyholders is not covering the escalating losses being paid out. That's why we've seen some auto insurers actually implement multiple rate increases this year — and not just one, but two or more in some states," Friedlander said.

The institute, a nonprofit trade association that provides educational support and resources, has forecast another negative underwriting performance for the auto insurance industry this year.

"Florida recorded381,256 accidents in 2022, which led to 3,292 fatalities of the state's accident total for last year, (and) 102,568 were categorized as hit and run crashes, resulting in 255 fatalities and 22,309 injuries. ... So (it's) big problem when it comes to accident rates and particularly the fatalities involved. And then a high uninsured motorist rate. Florida has the sixth highest uninsured motorist rate in the US at 20.4%," Friedlander said.

Skirting the fraud law

Despite attempts by Florida lawmakers to stop fraud, unscrupulous people have found a way to skirt HB 541, which was designed to eliminate glass windshield replacement fraud, according Friedlander.

He said sometimes people who have assigned their car insurance benefits to windshield repair companies may not even know that those businesses have sued automobile insurance providers to try to make a hefty profit. And those lawsuits keep coming, in record numbers.

RELATED: A bill to prevent windshield damage lawsuits is moving forward

And those are only a few reasons why the rates are so high in this state. Another is an infamous TikToksocial media challenge, which taught kids, many of them too young to drive, how to steal Kias and Hyundais, using stuff they can find around the house.

"It's primarily model years 2011 through 2021. The manufacturers chose not to install a very common theft deterrent called an engine immobilizer. They've tried to take steps with a voluntary program where you could take your vehicle into the dealer and get a software upgrade. Most people don't abide by voluntary, because if it's not mandatory, they don't do it," Friedlander said.

"If you look back at last year's hurricane season, more than 100,000 vehicles were destroyed by Hurricane Ian, primarily flood damage from storm surge. And just so you know, a storm surge is covered in an auto insurance policy but it's technically an optional portion of the policy."
Mark Friedlander, Insurance Information Institute

He said the institute is hearing from law enforcement across the country that car thefts are increasing.

And while this was probably for those who stole the cars to take joyrides, it has caused several deaths and a lot of property damage.

"It's a very dangerous situation, in addition to a costly situation. And these theft patterns have led to numerous class actions," Friedlander said.

Impact caused by hurricanes

Florida is also known for fraud and a cottage industry of faking car crashes for insurance money.

And for its sometimes wild weather.

"If you look back at last year's hurricane season, more than 100,000 vehicles were destroyed by Hurricane Ian, primarily flood damage from storm surge. And just so you know, a storm surge is covered in an auto insurance policy but it's technically an optional portion of the policy," Friedlander said.

You have to have comprehensive car coverage to be covered for storm damage.

Friedlander said there are many reasons why Florida drivers and parents of young drivers are paying more for car insurance than drivers in any other U.S. state.

Among them is Melissa De Leon, of Wesley Chapel, who was trying to find car insurance for her oldest son. When she started the search, she turned first to USAA, which she'd been with for around two decades.

"So together with USAA, according to the price that they gave my son, we would have been paying a quote, close to like, $975 a month of which, you know, my portion was $165. And that's just insane," De Leon said.

Ultimately, they went with Geico, but De Leon said she's waiting to see what happens when the policy comes up for renewal next month.

Friedlander said, "in most states, where age and gender are allowed as rating factors, which includes Florida, you're gonna see boys cost a little bit above girls cost once again, based on the industry actuarial data."

But De Leon said her family is paying much more for car insurance than people they know in other states.

"I have friends who are in Tennessee, who, what they pay for an entire year for young teenage boy, children is like $150, $200 a month. That's it. And, and that's like, for multiple children on their policy," she said.

Friedlander said if you add a teenager to your family policy in Florida, you can expect your rates to double. But he said Florida has a robust car insurance market, so it pays to shop around or check with an insurance broker. And always take advantage of any discounts offered, whether for good grades or for veterans or something else.

I love telling stories about my home state. And I hope they will help you in some way and maybe even lift your spirits.
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