Last Updated Aug 19, 2011 11:47 AM EDT
Same-sex couples celebrated this summer after New York State became the eighth state to legalize same-sex marriage. Now such couples could get a more mundane victory: a cut in their auto insurance bills.
In the states that allow gay marriage, the biggest two U.S. insurers, State Farm and Allstate, say they give the equivalent reduced rate to same-sex married couples as to heterosexual couples. Gay couples get the same deal in the eight additional states that have approved either civil unions (with a religious or civil ceremony) or domestic partnerships, which just require registering the partnership for most spousal rights. (See below for a full list of the states covered.)
Now Esurance, a smaller online company, is offering similar reduced rate in California, Illinois, Oregon and Washington -- and is considering expansion into other states.
Being treated the same as other married couples can save a couple an average of 10% off auto premiums, according to Eric Madia, director of product and actuarial management for Esurance.
To the insurance companies, it's all about underwriting. Marital status is one of many variables considered in setting your premium -- along with your driving record, your neighborhood, the kind of car you drive and your credit score. Statistics show that married drivers are less likely to get into accidents, says State Farm spokesman Dick Luedke. In actuarial terms, "Marriage is marriage," he explains. "It doesn't matter if you are married to someone of the same sex."
Here is how some of the biggest savings work:
- Being treated as married saves especially for couples under 30. Single men under 30 and single women under 25, of any sexual orientation, face higher rates because of a statistically higher rate of accidents. For a gay couple fitting this profile, savings could be around 15%, according to Cesar Diaz, CEO of quote-comparison site OnlineAutoInsurance.com
- Being counted as a single household also lets you qualify for a discount, varying from state to state, if you have more than one car. People who are roommates at the same address can't qualify for that price break. Why? Because underwriters assume a household with two cars doesn't drive twice as many miles as if they had one car, while two roommates going out on their own would rack up more miles.
Ask for the Discount
It isn't clear exactly how widespread the same-sex couple discount is, says spokesman Loretta Waters of the Insurance Information Institute, a trade group. But since several companies have begun putting it into their underwriting, it is worth asking any company you deal with.
Bring It Up to Your agent
If you are shopping for insurance through an agent, be sure to bring up your status when he or she is asking about your personal details.
Online? Be Sure to Select the Correct Status
With Esurance, for instance, select " Civil Union (certified)" if asked about your marital status in the application.
The issue may not come up, but have your marriage license or certificate of civil union or partnership handy if needed.
Here is a list of the states that have approved same-sex marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New York
- New Jersey
- Rhode Island
- California, pending appeal on same-sex marriage
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