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Auto insurance costs can vary wildly depending on which side of the street you live

Nov 7, 2017

Detroit has the highest auto insurance costs in the nation. Depending on the survey, it costs somewhere between seven thousand and ten thousand dollars a year.

A lot of the cost is wrapped up in Personal Injury Protection. A recent series of stories in Crain’s Detroit in cooperation with Bridge magazine reveal that portion of auto insurance has skyrocketed because of high medical claims. But, those premiums greatly depend on where you live.

Chad Livengood is the reporter who’s been writing those Crain’s Detroit stories. I asked him to join me in the MorningSide neighborhood of Detroit. Mack Avenue separates MorningSide from the suburb of Grosse Pointe.

“On the Grosse Pointe side they’re getting a 30 to 50 percent discount on the Personal Injury Protection portion of their premium and on the Detroit side they’re getting a 50, 60, or over 100 percent increase in their Personal Injury Protection simply because of where they live,” Livengood said.

The people in Detroit know the cost of that.

Deyona Vance indicated she found out when she moved back to Detroit.

“It shot up to close to $500. So, my experience is horrible. Financially, it’s just terrible because it’s like I’m paying more for my insurance than I’m paying for my car,” she said.

Michael Mumaw lives in MorningSide and said insurance is extremely high in Detroit.

“I actually have a friend right now who’s moving to Columbus, Ohio and his insurance dropped almost $400 a month,” he said.

James Pierce talked to me about his insurance rates.

“For a 2003 Chrysler minivan, I’m paying $189 a month.”

LG:  $189?

“Yes, a month.”

LG: That’s not bad compared to some of the other ones.

“But, it’s No-Fault coverage, it’s not for full coverage.”

Each of them thought it was unfair that people just down the street were paying so much less than they were.

“Redlining has been outlawed for years, yet the insurance code allows for territorial based rating systems,” said Todd Berg. He’s an attorney at Michigan Auto Law, a firm based in Farmington Hills. 

Berg says that Personal Injury Protection –also called PIP- is a real value if you need it.

“If somebody is injured in a car accident, No-Fault PIP pays for all of their medical expenses, it also provides wage loss benefits for up to three years, and it also provides replacement services benefits,” he explained.

It is the best coverage in the nation. But, if you can’t pay for it, it does you no good, and a lot of people in Detroit cannot pay the price. 

Not only is that premium for Personal Injury Protection more than many people in Detroit can afford to pay, it’s much higher than their neighbors across the street in Grosse Pointe pay.

Pete Kuhnmuench is with the Insurance Alliance of Michigan.

“Obviously, in urban areas there’s more concentration of vehicles, more traffic, unfortunately a higher rate of theft and things of that nature. So…”

LG: In this particular case, they’ve separated out just the Personal Injury Protection costs. So, what’s happening in Detroit that’s not happening in Grosse Pointe based on that?

“If you remember, Mayor Duggan had an actuarial report done which found that the claims costs in the city were nearly twice as much as what they were in outstate.”

And there are other factors – such as a person’s credit score, gender, age, marital status – they all can contribute to higher auto insurance rates.

Everyone seems to agree that auto insurance is too high. A recently failed legislative proposal to reduce rates suggested forcing doctors and hospitals to charge less. It also proposed going after fraud and reducing the level of coverage required by law in exchange for lower premiums. But, that would have left some people who live on the Detroit side of the street still paying high premiums for worse coverage.

Support for the Detroit Journalism Cooperative on Michigan Radio comes from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Ford Foundation and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.