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S.C. Residents Could Be Paying 90% More for Auto Insurance because of Where They Live

Study highlights

  • On average, there was a $283 price difference between the cheapest area and the most expensive area.

  • The area that had the lowest quotes was Oconee. Its average quote was 10% below the statewide average.

  • The areas that had the highest quotes were Colleton and Hampton. Their average quotes were 7.6% above the statewide average.

Think where you live in South Carolina isn't affecting how much you pay for car insurance? Think again. You could be paying as much as 90% more for car insurance just because of where you live, according to an analysis of sample quotes from the South Carolina Department of Insurance (DOI).

Our location affects all of our auto insurance rates to some degree. To understand just how much of an effect it can have, we analyzed 920 sample quotes from the DOI that were broken down among 46 territories spread throughout the state. Twenty insurers were included in the analysis, and all quotes were for a 34-year-old single male. Once we compiled the data, we looked at the pricing differences between the territories.

The results showed a single insurance company, on average, charged nearly $300 more if the driver lived in the most expensive territory compared with the cheapest territory.

What parts of South Carolina are likely to see the highest rates? According to the data, Hampton and Colleton. The 20 insurers most frequently gave the highest prices to these two territories. Six of the 20 insurers gave the highest rate to Hampton, and six insurers gave the highest rate to Colleton.

The territory that most frequently saw the lowest rates was Oconee. Oconee saw the lowest rates available at five of the 20 insurers.

Territories with the cheapest and most expensive S.C. auto insurance rates

Territory Average quote*
Oconee $771
All territories $860
Colleton $925
Hampton $925

*Quotes are for a 34-year-old single male with a good driving record insuring a Toyota Taurus.

Territorial rating explained

Why does where you live affect your auto insurance bill? Because of something called "territorial rating." Territorial rating is when insurers use your location to help determine the price you should pay for a policy.

Where you live is only one factor insurers look at to help determine your price. They also look at your driving history, your age, the type of car you drive, and a whole host of other factors. The reason insurers look at all of this information is to get a better idea of how likely you are to file expensive claims in the future. With territorial rating, they do so by analyzing how often people in your geographic area tend to file claims. If you move to a city with drivers that file a high amount of claims, you can expect to feel that in your auto insurance bill. On the other hand, you're likely to see savings if you move from an area with a higher amount of claims to one with a lower amount of claims.

All insurance companies base these trends off their own claims data. As a result, their territorial pricing practices will differ. That means the priciest territory at one insurer isn't necessarily the priciest at another insurer. That's just one more reason for drivers to shop around before buying a policy.

Data shows territorial price difference ranges from $87 to $584

So how much could location actually affect your bill?

By up to $283, on average. In our analysis, that was the average difference between the quote for the cheapest territory and the quote for the most expensive territory at a single company.

Some insurers let where you live play a larger factor than others, however.

The company where location had the largest effect on rates was Horace Mann Insurance Company. At Horace Mann, the difference between the cheapest territory (Pickens) and the most expensive territory (Horry) was a full $584.

And at 21st Century Centennial Insurance, a quote for the most expensive territory was nearly double the price of the cheapest. The most expensive territory was 91% higher than the cheapest territory.

On the other hand, territory plays a smaller role in some insurers' pricing formulas. At Liberty Mutual, the difference between the lowest-priced territory (Cherokee) and the highest-priced territory (Williamsburg) was just $87.

The following chart visualizes the size of the territorial price gap at each insurance company included in the study.

Chart showing territorial insurance pricing gap at 20 S.C. insurers

No matter where you live, make sure to shop around

Regardless of where you live, one thing the analysis showed is that it pays to shop around.

The quotes included in the analysis all were for a 34-year-old single male driver with a good driving history. But despite that variable being the same for all of the quotes, the price fluctuation between companies was huge. The lowest out of all 920 quotes was $414. But the highest was a whopping $1,528.

And this gap wasn't due to location. When you look at a single territory, $751 was the average gap between the quote from the cheapest and most expensive companies for a single territory. In this case, the gap is just due to differences in different companies' pricing formulas.

Consider what this means for you: If you don't shop around for your coverage and end up unwittingly choosing the highest-priced insurer, you could be paying more than double what you could be paying if you shopped around extensively.

The chart below shows the price ranges among the 20 companies for each of the 46 territories included in the study. Which would you rather pay: the prices on the left side of the orange bars, or the prices on the right?

Chart showing company-based pricing gap in 46 S.C. insurers

Table: Territorial pricing gaps at 20 South Carolina auto insurers

Company Territorial gap* Quote for cheapest territory Quote for most expensive territory
Average for all 20 companies $283 $721 1,004
Liberty Mutual Insurance Corporation $87 $813 $900
United Services Automobile Association $149 $507 $656
American National Property and Casualty Company $162 $414 $576
American National General Insurance Company $160 $416 $576
Amica Mutual Insurance Company $194 $788 $982
Travelers Home and Marine Insurance Company $221 $807 $1,028
South Carolina Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company $230 $595 $826
Travelers Commercial Insurance Company $252 $889 $1,141
Allstate Fire and Casualty Insurance Company $282 $940 $1,222
Nationwide Insurance Company of America $282 $661 $943
National General Insurance Company $293 $922 $1,215
State Auto Property and Casualty Insurance Company $341 $823 $1,164
USAA Casualty Insurance Company $343 $486 $829
Automobile Insurance Company of Hartford, Connecticut $370 $890 $1,260
Garrison Property and Casualty Insurance Company $385 $542 $927
Hartford Accident & Indemnity Company $431 $984 $1,415
21st Century Centennial Insurance Company $463 $508 $972
Horace Mann Insurance Company $584 $945 $1,528

Table: Price ranges between companies in 46 South Carolina territories

Territory Difference between highest quote and lowest quote Lowest quote for this territory Highest quote for this territory
Average for all 46 territories $751 $508 $1,260
McCormick $539 $508 $1,047
Greenwood $549 $508 $1,057
Abbeville $551 $508 $1,059
Anderson $597 $508 $1,105
Laurens $598 $508 $1,106
Greenville $162 $472 $1,104
Lexington $632 $465 $1,132
Cherokee $660 $465 $1,125
Pickens $666 $425 $1,091
Spartanburg $670 $442 $1,112
Colleton $680 $534 $1,057
Hampton $680 $534 $1,214
Barnwell $684 $478 $1,162
Oconee $689 $425 $1,114
Aiken $699 $414 $1,106
Bamberg $684 $478 $1,177
Union $721 $465 $1,186
Chester $737 $531 $1,268
Lancaster $737 $531 $1,268
Fairfield $737 $531 $1,268
York $743 $468 $1,211
Allendale $753 $478 $1,231
Newberry $765 $465 $1,230
Saluda $765 $465 $1,230
Marlboro $769 $576 $1,345
Darlington $769 $576 $1,345
Calhoun $770 $498 $1,268
Florence $783 $576 $1,359
Dillon $788 $576 $1,364
Marion $788 $576 $1,364
Chesterfield $789 $556 $1,345
Jasper $804 $534 $1,338
Kershaw $814 $531 $1,345
Georgetown $839 $533 $1,372
Lee $847 $498 $1,345
Richland $848 $500 $1,348
Dorchester $848 $524 $1,372
Berkeley $848 $524 $1,372
Sumter $851 $498 $1,349
Beaufort $881 $534 $1,415
Edgefield $905 $508 $1,413
Williamsburg $930 $533 $1,463
Charleston $962 $564 $1,526
Horry $1,009 $519 $1,528

Note on methodology:

All rates taken from the South Carolina Department of Insurance's 2013 Auto Price Comparison. The document (which you can download by clicking the link in the previous sentence), provides 920 sample quotes for a driver with the following characteristics:

  • 34-year-old single male

  • Drives less than 10 miles one way to work

  • Qualifies for the safe-driver discount

  • Has the following coverages:

  • Liability: 25/50/25

  • Uninsured motorist: 25/50/25

  • Comprehensive + collision with $500 deductibles

  • Drives a 2006 Ford Taurus

  • Has a credit score between 650-700 or equivalent.