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Why is car insurance so high in Florida? Let’s count the reasons.

Florida routinely ranks among the top five states for highest rates.
Florida has some of the highest auto insurance rates in the country. [St. Petersburg Police Department]

Every year around this time, I re-up my auto insurance. And every year, I wonder why I pay so much.

I own a 10-year-old truck, drive fewer miles than the average Floridian, and haven’t had a speeding ticket or other traffic infraction since the Clinton administration. My last crash was seven years ago and the other driver was 100 percent at fault. He received four tickets, including one for turning in front of oncoming traffic. I qualify as a “safe driver”. It says so on my driver’s license.

I’ve considered switching companies, but the price quotes are all about the same. No matter what the annoying gecko says, I never seem to “save 15 percent or more" on my car insurance. When I ask about the cost, the general answer is, “Car insurance is expensive in Florida.”

Indeed it is. I count my blessings when I see what the typical driver forks over.

The average annual car insurance bill in Florida is $2,219, third highest in the country behind Michigan and Louisiana, according to Insure.com. At the other end of the range, Maine and Wisconsin averaged less than $1,000. The national average was $1,457.

The Insure.com study wasn’t an anomaly. WalletHub recently pegged Florida’s average at close to $2,500, second highest in the country. Bankrate.com’s calculation came in at $1,823, third highest.

Insurance prices also vary within the state. Drivers in Gainesville paid the lowest, according to WalletHub. Their counterparts in Lake Worth and Hialeah paid twice as much for similar coverage. Drivers in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater fell in the middle of the state’s price range.

In general, Florida’s mid-sized cities have lower rates. Women pay slightly more than men and age matters, a lot. A 16-year old pays 342 percent more than a 56-year-old, WalletHub found.

WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez said she thought car insurance companies would have gotten more sophisticated on age-based evaluations given advances in data analysis tools and predictive modeling.

“Not all young people are so much riskier than older folks on the road," she said.

Why are rates in Florida so expensive?

A huge number of uninsured drivers doesn’t help. The Insurance Research Council found that more than a quarter of Florida’s drivers don’t carry insurance, the most of any state. That drives up costs for everyone.

So does the fact that a lot of claims in Florida involve lawyers, according to Insure.com. The state’s scourge of bogus broken windshield cases doesn’t help, nor do spikes in auto theft in some cities.

State insurance officials blame severe weather for higher comprehensive premiums, which pay to repair vehicles damaged by something unrelated to an accident. Tourists unfamiliar with our roads create more fender benders, they say. And the state has a high percentage of college-aged drivers and those over 75-years old, both of whom can pay more for insurance.

Florida also requires drivers to pay for $10,000 worth of personal injury protection, which covers medical costs after accidents. Often referred to as PIP, the coverage raises prices by roughly 20 percent, Insure.com reported. In what has become an annual event, lawmakers in Tallahassee have floated the idea of abolishing the no-fault program.

Florida’s recently strengthened laws on texting while driving could cut both ways. If fewer drivers get into accidents, that could lower rates. But drivers who get a ticket for violating the law could see their rates go up.

“Of course, the extent of that will depend on the insurance company," Gonzalez said.

Age and gender are out of our control, but there are things we can do to keep rates in check.

Save the NASCAR tactics for the track. WalletHub found that a speeding ticket received three months earlier can increase rates by 21 percent. Reckless driving, 23 percent. A DUI, 27 percent. An accident without injuries in the past year can boost rates by 43 percent.

Buy the right vehicle. Some are much cheaper to insure than others. Think safe and a little boring compared to a car that goes zero to 60 mph in four seconds.

Get every discount. Are you a veteran? Tell your insurance agent. Don’t drive much? Tell them that, too. Same goes for bundling policies or anti-theft systems. Every company is a little different, but they all have discounts.

A good credit rating can lower the cost. So can increasing your deductible or getting less coverage for non-accident related claims. Getting married helps, but not very much, WalletHub found.

Professionals would also tell you to shop around, despite the fact that it hasn’t worked for me. There’s always next year.

Florida’s auto insurance rates by city

WalletHub compared rates in Florida’s 30 largest cities. Gainesville ranked No.1 for lowest rates. Clearwater ranked 15th., St. Petersburg, 19th, and Tampa, 20th.

Least expensive

1. Gainesville

2. Panama City

3. Fort Myers

4. Ocala

5. Sarasota

Most expensive

1. Hialeah

2. Lake Worth

3. Boynton Beach

4. Homestead

5. Fort Lauderdale

Source: WalletHub

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