These States Underreport The Most Mileage on Car Insurance Applications

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Americans drive 13,456 miles per year on average, or enough to make five road trips from coast to coast, according to the latest Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) data from 2021. However, U.S. drivers report an average of 7,589 miles per year to insurance companies, based on 97 million quotes from Insurify’s database.

Insurify dug into common factors among the states that most underestimated their mileage to find out why drivers underreport to insurers. A licensed insurance agent weighed in on what underreporting mileage could mean for their car insurance premiums.

Average miles driven per year by state

Drivers in some states cover significantly more ground than the U.S. average, even if they don’t always report it to insurance companies. The table below shows how many miles drivers in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., drove according to FHWA data, plus how many miles they reported to insurers.

States that underreported the most mileage

Insurify’s data science team found a significant difference between the mileage drivers self-reported to car insurance companies and the most recent FHWA Highway Statistics report.

U.S. drivers report an average annual mileage of 7,589 on 2023 car insurance applications — 44% lower than the 13,456 miles FHWA data suggests they drove. Drivers reported more mileage than the FHWA in just one place: Washington, D.C.

In Wyoming, the state that drives the most according to FHWA data, drivers reported an average annual mileage of just 6,969 miles to insurers — nearly 73% lower than the FHWA estimate of 25,779 miles per year.

Drivers in these states, ranked by the percentage difference between FHWA and self-reported data, underreported the most mileage to insurance companies.

Why are drivers underreporting mileage?

Rising car insurance rates caused nearly 55% of drivers to take steps to lower their premiums in 2023, from dropping down to liability-only insurance to increasing their deductibles. However, it seems unlikely that drivers are deliberately underreporting mileage to save money on insurance.

Given that drivers underreport mileage across the country, people may simply be underestimating. That said, wishful thinking about mileage could be at play in states where rising rates strain more budgets. Half the states that underestimated their mileage the most pay a higher percentage of income toward car insurance than the U.S. average of 2.6%.

Nine of the 10 states with the most underreported mileage have a higher poverty rate than the national average of 11.5%, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. North Dakota is the exception, with a poverty rate equal to the U.S. average.

Poverty rates in Mississippi (19.1%), Louisiana (18.6%), New Mexico (17.6%), Kentucky (16.5%), Alabama (16.2%), and Oklahoma (15.7%) are among the highest in the country. Louisiana is also the fifth most expensive state for car insurance.

States that reported the most accurate mileage

Insurify examined the 10 states with the lowest percentage difference between FHWA mileage estimates and self-reported mileage. Drivers in these areas paid more for full coverage than the 10 states with the most underreporting, with an average annual rate of $1,965 vs. $1,819.

However, among the areas with the smallest difference in FHWA and self-reported mileage, only two states (New York and Rhode Island) paid a higher percentage of household income toward car insurance than the national average of 2.6%.

The 10 areas with the smallest difference in self-reported and FHWA mileage still shaved off nearly 28% of miles driven, or an average of 2,858 miles annually. But states that underreported the most mileage underestimated by almost 58%, or 10,573 miles per year.

Drivers who report more accurate mileage drive less than average

Areas where drivers reported more accurate mileage had lower overall annual mileage, according to FHWA data. All the top 10 areas drove less than the national average mileage of 13,456 miles per year. Residents in these areas might drive less because of access to robust public transportation systems.

Public transportation has a national weekly ridership of 150.8 million, according to data from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). Many of those rides happen in states with a lower average annual mileage.

New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority accounts for 54.4 million rides per week. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, Chicago Transit Authority, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority, and Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (in Washington, D.C.) have weekly ridership numbers between 4.5 million and 6.5 million.

Does annual mileage affect car insurance rates?

Your annual mileage is one of many factors insurers consider when determining your rate. Drivers generally see an extra $3 to $5 on their monthly premiums for every additional 2,000 to 3,000 miles, according to Insurify data.

While your driving history, vehicle type, age, and other factors can have a greater effect on your rate, driving more miles can add up over time. People who drive less than 5,000 miles annually pay an average of $264 less per year than drivers who rack up more than 15,000 miles.

What happens if you underreport mileage to your insurer?

You can calculate your mileage for your insurance company in a few ways. 

“Some companies will ask for you to verify your annual mileage via oil change receipts, which show your average mileage between changes. Other [insurers] may offer telematics tracking, which will confirm annual mileage for you,” says Buddy Parkhurst, a licensed insurance agent at Insurify.

You can also track vehicle miles using your odometer. Note how much you drive in a typical month, then multiply that number by 12 to find your annual mileage.

Of course, people don’t always drive the same amount throughout the year. If you get a new job with a longer commute or go on a road trip, your estimated mileage could be too low.

Insurers have the legal right to figure out how much you drive on their own in some circumstances. While your policy is active, insurance companies may pull your mileage from your repair shop or DMV records.

Insurance companies don’t typically penalize you if you accidentally underreport your mileage, says Parkhurst. But “you could experience rate increases if you don’t verify the mileage, or once the policy renews and the estimated mileage changes.”

What happens if you overreport mileage to your insurer?

If you believe you or your insurance company overcalculated the number of miles you drove, it’s worth reaching out to correct your mileage. If your actual mileage is significantly lower than your reported mileage, you could see that reflected in a lower premium.

“Most [companies] will allow you to submit proof of mileage and may possibly backdate the low-mileage discount to the inception date. Of course, they’re going to require proof of your lower mileage,” says Parkhurst.

Reporting accurate mileage saves drivers from surprise rate hikes

Drivers in some states underreported their mileage by more than others, but Americans consistently underestimate how much they drive. Only one place, Washington, D.C., reported more mileage to insurers than FHWA estimates.

Providing accurate mileage to your insurance company can save you from surprise premium increases upon renewing your policy. If you’ve been underreporting mileage to your insurance company, you might see your car insurance premium increase upon renewal.

Every insurance company weighs mileage differently when setting rates. Drivers who experience a rate increase due to mileage could save money by comparing car insurance quotes from multiple insurers.

Methodology

The team at Insurify dove into the latest Federal Highway Administration data for the mileage statistics you’ll find in this post. Much of the data comes from the Highway Statistics Series, a comprehensive repository of annual reports. 

Insurify data comes from customers self-reporting their information when using our tool to compare car insurance quotes. Customer-provided data includes vehicle type, driver history, and odometer readings. Insurify utilizes this data and real-time quotes from our partner insurance companies to find accurate information on insurance prices.

This article originally appeared on Insurify and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

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