Car insurance rates in California are spiking, and there are mixed opinions as to why

The insurance industry said it's losing money, but consumer advocates disagree.

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Los Angeles resident Angela Gould said she has an impeccable driving record.

No accidents, no tickets. Yet, her car insurance premium just went up nearly 30 percent. 

“You understand if you had an accident or if you got a ticket or something, you expect your rates to go up," said Gould. "You don’t expect it when you haven’t done anything wrong."

Gould said she called around, but couldn’t find a better rate. So she sucked it up and paid the new premium, which cost her an additional $600. 

“I know a lot of people, they’re getting by, but they can’t absorb that kind of an increase in insurance,” she said.

Bob Passmore with the American Property Casualty Insurance Association, an insurance industry trade group, blamed the premium increases on inflation.

“Inflation has taken a bite out of everyone’s pocketbook,” he said.


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Passmore said the cost of repairing cars is up 20 percent. And higher-than-normal used car prices have driven up replacement values. 

“When the cost of everything that auto insurance pays for is going up, then there’s only one result that can happen – auto insurance premiums will go up, too,” he said.

Passmore said every car insurer in California is losing money, so they need to raise rates. 

But Harvey Rosenfield with the consumer advocacy group Consumer Watchdog doesn’t buy it. 

“We have a hard time believing that that can explain double-digit rate increases. The insurance companies have a profit motive constantly to raise rates, limit the amount of claims they pay, and seek higher rates from the insurance commissioner," said Rosenfield. 

In fact, California’s insurance commissioner Ricardo Lara recently approved $1 billion in rate increases. And Consumer Watchdog said another $2 billion are pending.

“I think the insurance companies are taking advantage and trying to put pressure on the insurance commissioner to approve rates that are unjustified.” said Rosenfield. 

The Department of Insurance (DOI) declined the I-Team’s request for an interview. But they told us the car industry’s loss ratio is the highest it’s been in 30 years – 81 percent. That means, for every dollar they collect in premiums, they pay 81-cents in claims and expenses. The DOI said a good loss ratio is 70 percent or less. So the companies are making less money.

The DOI also said all rate increases must be justified, by state law. And they thoroughly review applications to ensure drivers only pay what’s required. 

But that explanation doesn’t change things for Gould and other drivers like her. 

“I don’t really know what the solution’s going to be, but somebody has to step in and do something,” she said.

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