Many insurance providers are revving up auto insurance rates across Arizona, continuing an upward trend that began last year.
According to the Arizona Department of Insurance, 77.46 percent of insurers that have reported auto insurance rate changes this year either have or are increasing their rates. The highest percentage increases are Colorado Casualty Insurance Co., a Liberty Mutual Group company, up 30.20 percent, and Garrison Property and Casualty Insurance Co., a USAA company, up 30.10 percent.
Insurers have all year to report any changes they make to their auto insurance rates, said Erin Klug, department spokeswoman.
"There's no requirement that they change their rates at any particular time," she said.
In 2008, an overall average increase of 3.72 percent was reported among insurers filing rate changes that year, according to the department. That's up from a .32 percent decrease in 2007.
"There is a small uptick ... in insurance rates that appears to be happening at this time," said Ron Williams, executive director of the Arizona Insurance Council. "It's balanced by the fact that in 2006, the 20 largest insurers in the state dropped their auto insurance rates by 5 percent.
"We have times when the competitive nature of the insurance business here in Arizona allows for rate decreases, and then we have these times where losses and costs that insurance companies incur result in higher rates."
Colorado Casualty has been paying out more in claims than it has been receiving in premiums, said spokesman Paul Hollie. Colorado Casualty insures commercial vehicles, he said.
"(Premiums in Arizona are) underpriced for the risk that the insurance company takes, so from time to time you have to make adjustments based on market," he said. "Additionally, Colorado Casualty is still very competitive in that marketplace. Some customers, depending on where they are in the spectrum, will actually see a rate decrease."
Clay Allen, USAA spokesman, said USAA companies, including Garrison Property and Casualty, had a combined auto insurance rate increase of 9.9 percent this year in Arizona. Garrison is a newer USAA company that began providing insurance in Arizona three years ago, he said.
"After a few years of loss experience in claims, we determined that those original Garrison auto insurance rates were inadequate, and that's why we filed the rate increase," he said. "Overall, Garrison and our other companies, we're seeing our auto loss trends steadily increase, and those are being driven by a growing number of claims and higher repair and related medical expenses associated with those claims."
USAA provides coverage to military-related personnel, including active duty and reserve, retired or direct family of a military member.
None of the three largest auto insurers in Arizona - State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance Co., Farmers Insurance Co. of Arizona and American Family Mutual Insurance Co. - reported increases. In 2008, those companies had 30.3 percent of policyholders across Arizona.
State Farm hasn't filed any rate change, while Farmers reported a .4 percent decrease and American Family reported a 3.1 percent decrease.
State Farm's auto insurance products are appropriately priced to risk, said spokeswoman Cheryl Willis-Blakes.
Arizona's highly competitive insurance market means consumers have plenty of choices if they feel their rates are too high, Klug said. The department's Web site includes an auto insurance premium comparison guide, at www.id.state.az.us/autopremium.html.
Policyholders should examine their policies at least once a year to see if they could be paying less, Williams said.
"The insurance companies really do vie for our business, so consumers are encouraged to do some comparison shopping," he said.