New Hampshire drivers are benefiting from increased competition among auto insurers.
Seven of the 11 auto insurance companies that have filed rate change requests with the state so far this year have asked for decreases, compared to five of 25 in 2004 and none the year before, according to the department of insurance.
“Companies have had a fairly decent experience the past couple of years in New Hampshire,” said David Withers, a property casualty actuary in the insurance department.
New Hampshire has about 110 auto insurers, a number that has been fairly stable over the past few years, Withers said. The requests for rate decreases came after several years of rate increases, he said.
Withers cautioned against thinking that individual rate quotes would necessarily fall, following the broader market trend.
“Just because a company files an overall rate increase or rate decrease doesn’t mean that everyone insured by that company changes the overall amount,” he said. “It’s not uniform across the board.”
Auto insurance rates in New Hampshire are significantly higher than in Maine and Vermont, a difference Withers attributes to the state’s southern tier, where traffic can be nearly as heavy as in Massachusetts.
“Some of that is just the demographics of the state,” he said. ‘”Vermont is definitely more rural than New Hampshire … and Maine probably has a population that’s more spread out.” He added: “New Hampshire has a higher standard of living, with newer, more expensive cars.”
According to a recent study by the Internet-based insurance clearinghouse Insurance.com, New Hampshire premiums averaged $2,229 in 2004, compared to $1,434 in Maine and $1,609 in Vermont.
The study also said New Hampshire experienced the largest percentage drop in auto insurance rates in the country last year, 14 percent. Louisiana, with a 21.6 percent increase, ranked at the bottom of the 100,000-quote study, followed by South Carolina.
“The thing that stood out to us was the wide range of rate changes from lowest to highest,” said Insurance.com President Lou Geremia. “To have that much variability state-to-state in a highly regulated industry just shows us that carriers are very competitively going after business.”
Withers cautioned, however, that the Insurance.com study reflected only people who bought insurance through the service, and was not a comprehensive index.
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