Car and truck drivers know all too well how expensive it is to own a vehicle. Between monthly payments, buying gas, and paying for inevitable repairs, the out-of-pocket costs of driving add up quickly. The cost of auto insurance has increasingly made up a larger part of the burden of financing a vehicle, with mandatory liability insurance to protect other drivers from accidents you cause combining with the costs of collision and comprehensive insurance to protect your vehicle.
Yet the auto insurance industry is a state-by-state market, and residents in some states pay a lot more than those in others. Earlier this year, Insure.com analyzed the costs of auto insurance across the nation. Let's look at the five most expensive states (plus one federal city) for auto insurance.
The average Montana driver pays $2,013 in annual auto insurance premiums. In a largely rural state with a relatively small population, high insurance rates in Montana might seem like an aberration. But Montana law allows teens to get their first learner's license as early as age 14 and a half if they're in an approved driver education class. In addition, for a period of time, interstates in Montana had no fixed speed limit, although a court challenge to the state's "reasonable and prudent" speed standard led lawmakers to impose a 75 mph maximum on rural freeways.
5. Rhode Island
Rhode Island drivers pay an average of $2,020 for their auto insurance. One of the primary reasons is that 90% of residents of the smallest state in the U.S. live in urban areas, giving Rhode Island the smallest population of rural residents in the nation. Driving in congested areas pushes insurance rates up, and Rhode Island also doesn't have no-fault rules that many other states have adopted to reduce rates.
4. Washington, D.C.
Like Rhode Island, Washington, D.C.'s high rates stem largely from it being an entirely urban area. Even with the benefit of some no-fault auto insurance laws to help keep premiums in check, the typical policy in Washington, D.C. costs $2,127 annually. Moreover, the city has the reputation for being a hotbed of auto theft, with more than one in every 100 vehicles having been stolen, further raising costs of comprehensive coverage.
Georgians pay $2,201 for a typical auto insurance policy, but the reasons are different than in most of the other high-cost states. For years Georgia had a highly competitive insurance market, leading insurance companies to get aggressive in their underwriting practices and pushing premiums down. More recently, though, bad loss experiences have forced many of those insurers to boost rates in order to become profitable. Moreover, as in most states, the prevalence of attorneys offering services to secure large accident awards boosts insurance costs. The cold weather last winter also caused numerous accidents, as drivers unfamiliar with winter driving conditions were more at risk.
2. West Virginia
An insurance policy typically costs $2,518 per year in West Virginia, where one of the main problems drivers face is wildlife. Drivers are more likely to hit a deer in West Virginia than in any other state, and that boosts premiums on comprehensive auto insurance. Moreover, the rising oil and gas industry in the state has increased the number of commercial trucks on the road, and high numbers of uninsured motorists also boost costs for those who do have insurance.
Michigan once again tops the list with an average annual premium of $2,551, with the state having been the most expensive as recently as 2011 and displacing Louisiana this year to retake the No. 1 spot. Michigan has particularly comprehensive laws protecting drivers and passengers through personal injury protection. Unlike most other states with similar provisions, Michigan places a high limit of more than $500,000 on potential claims from personal injury protection coverage. Moreover, high costs lead many Michigan drivers to go uninsured, and even though the state hasn't seen major damage from weather-related events recently, any savings weren't enough to save drivers from being hit the hardest of any in the nation.
No matter where you live, auto insurance makes up a big part of the total costs of car ownership. It's important to make sure you get the necessary coverage, but especially in high-cost states, options like higher deductibles can make your premium payments more manageable.
More from The Motley Fool: Warren Buffett Tells You How to Turn $40 into $10 Million