About 128 million Americans commute to work each day, with an average commute time of 25.5 minutes, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Chances are, you're one of these people. Commuting to work obviously costs money in terms of gas and wear and tear on the car -- but you may not know that how long you commute to work each day also can affect your auto insurance premium.
Insurance and commutes
Insurance prices are based on a number of factors, but when it comes down to it, it's all about risk. When you apply for auto insurance, you'll be asked how long your daily commute to work is. If you have a long commute, you're spending more time on the road than the average driver, thereby increasing your chance of a collision. As a result, your insurance premium can increase (sometimes by up to $500 a year, according to the Insurance Information Network of California) if you drive more than 5,000 miles to and from work each year.
Saving on insurance
If you've managed to cut down on your commute, make sure you inform your auto insurance company. Your insurer will want to know whether, for example, you've started working from home instead of driving 45 minutes each way through rush-hour traffic.
Another potential reward of cutting your daily mileage is a special type of coverage called pay-as-you-drive insurance. Pay-as-you-drive insurance, which is becoming increasingly popular among insurers as states approve it, lets you pay for insurance based on how much you drive your car. Many major insurance companies, including State Farm and Progressive, offer this type of coverage.
Pay-as-you-drive insurance programs differ by company. Some require motorists to report their mileage. Others use in-car monitoring devices to keep track of risky driving behaviors like speeding and sudden braking. No matter which pay-as-you-drive program you choose, being on the road less can mean lower premiums.
Cutting down your commute
If you want to save on auto insurance, there are a number of ways you can cut the amount of time you spend in the car. PACommutes, an alternative transportation awareness initiative in Pennsylvania, offers the following suggestions.
- Use public transportation. The benefits of public transportation are numerous -- you reduce the amount of time you spend in your car, and you save money on both gas and insurance. If your city has a robust mass transit system, check whether your company offers reimbursement for using it.
- Work from home. More and more companies are allowing their commuters to telecommute, or work from home. Before you run to your boss with this idea, have a concrete plan to show it will work. If you spend the majority of your time on a computer or on the phone, you may be a good candidate.
- Carpool. If you have co-workers who live close to you, consider carpooling. Not only does it save money, but you can use the high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes in many cities, which can cut down on your commute time considerably. Many cities also have park-and-ride lots, where you can meet your co-workers, park your car safely and then carpool together.