Survey: Auto insurance rates vary by zip code


A survey by shows a surprising difference in rates and it all depends on your zip code. Drivers across the state pay an average of $745 per year for auto insurance. However, in San Francisco, the rates are 8 percent higher than the statewide figure.

Laura Adams of says the city's heavy traffic is a major factor. "This has a lot to do with population density. You've got more cars on the road. More cars means more traffic. That means more claims," she says.

Adams says insurance companies consider the history of accidents and claims in setting rates for each area. Drivers in all the other Bay Area counties, on average, pay less than the statewide figure. Rates vary from 3 percent below average in Alameda County to 13 percent below average in Santa Clara County.

Insurance is most expensive in, you guessed it, Los Angeles, where rates are 32 percent higher than the statewide average. Where is the cheapest insurance? You'll find that in tiny Morro bay in San Luis Obispo County. Drivers there pay 30 percent less than average. "But that's a very small town with about 10,000 population, so it makes sense those more urban areas are going to be higher," Adams says.

But you don't have to move to Morro Bay to get lower rates. Adams says many drivers probably qualify for extra discounts. "There's just a whole list of discounts that consumers, in some cases, need to ask for. They need to be proactive and ask about these," she says.

For example, there are discounts for being a good student, getting married, being in the military, and even discounts for taking defensive driving courses.

The survey found rate differences even within cities. The zip code with the lowest rate in the Bay Area was in Palo Alto around Sand Hill Road. The highest was in Oakland around Hegenberger Road.

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