New Auto Insurance Ratings May Affect Cost of Coverage Helps Consumers Estimate Change (NUI) - Auto insurance consumers in California need to look carefully when they buy or renew their policies during the next 12 months.

That's because the cost of auto insurance may change - in some cases, significantly - because of new auto ratings that took effect Oct. 1. Those changes resulted from the passage of Proposition 103, the 1988 voter-approved initiative that sought to lower insurance rates for autos, homes and other types of property and casualty insurance.

The new ratings are significant for California's 23 million licensed drivers because they fundamentally change the way policy coverage is calculated in the state. The new ratings give the greatest weight to a motorist's driving record, miles driven annually and years of driving experience. Previously, a motorist's geographic location had the greatest impact on the cost of driving.

California motorists have already begun to feel the impact of those changes. Motorists receiving a renewal notice on their auto policy will now pay under the new rates. In some instances, the cost of coverage may increase or decrease by up to 30 percent.

To get an idea of how rates may change in any area of California, consumers can turn to a unique, interactive tool on the World Wide Web that estimates the rate change in a particular ZIP code. Consumers who have access to a computer with a modem can type in to go to InsWeb's Proposition 103 Information Center, a package of online tools and information to help educate consumers about the effect of the new auto insurance rates.

By selecting the Rate Change Estimator and typing in a ZIP code, consumers will get a free estimate of the rate change in that ZIP - or any other they may wish to check for a friend or relative.

The estimate, based on data from the California Department of Insurance, is best used as a guideline for comparison because a motorist's driving record, number of miles driven annually and years of experience may have a significant affect on rates. Consumers should also check with their agents. The state's estimate and the actual change to an individual's policy may vary significantly.

Marc Barach is senior vice president and head of Consumer Marketing of InsWeb Corp, the Internet's largest insurance marketplace, at

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