Oregon requires non- commercial motorists to purchase certain level of auto insurance. See, ORS 806.10. Under that statute, Oregon drivers must purchase:

  1. Bodily injury and property damage liability
    • $25,000 per person;
    • $50,000 per crash for bodily injury to others; and
    • $20,000 per crash for damage to others property
  2. Personal injury protection (no fault medical insurance)
    • $15,000 per person
  3. Uninsured motorist protection
    • $25,000 per person;
    • $50,000 per crash for bodily injury

These auto insurance requirements can be costly…especially for Oregon’s poorest, some of whom need cars to transport children and travel to and from work. And, driving without auto insurance required by Oregon law can cause significant financial and emotional consequences.For example, driving without liability insurance carries fines and suspension of driving privileges, which for some, may result in loss of child custody or loss of employment. Plus, Oregonians without liability coverage are exposed to vehicle towing and storage charges. And, suppose an Oregonian is involved in a crash while uninsured. Driving privileges will be suspended for one year.

Adding insult to injury, a new study conducted by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) argues that many well- known auto insurers routinely charge more for America’s poorest drivers in comparison to higher income drivers– even for poorer drivers with better driving records.The CFA study revealed that in 66% of the cases studied, lower-and-middle income drivers are charged higher premiums than higher income motorists. More specifically in over 60% of the cases studied safer but poorer motorists were quoted rates 25 percent HIGHER auto insurance rates than higher income drivers with not so great driving records.

The CFA study also reveals which insurers appear to adhere to the questionable practice of charging poor good drivers more than bad wealthy drivers… and one which insurer does not. For example, in each city sampled Farmers, Geico and Progressive quoted safer drivers higher auto premiums than motorists with one accident. State Farm, by contrast, in the 12 cities studied, quoted good drivers less than motorists with accident history.

In making a decision about which auto insurer to choose also:

  1. Google “Consumer Guide to Oregon Insurance Complaints” for the most recent Oregon Insurance company complaint statistics; and,
  2. Check the financial stability of prospective insurers through rating companies like AM Best or Standard and Poor’s.

What can Oregon lawmakers do to address the issue of higher premiums for poor, good drivers? Look south.

California’s “Low Cost Auto Insurance” is a state subsidized program which lowers insurance rates for California residents who meet income requirements and who have good driving records. Rates under California’s “Low Cost Auto Insurance” program also include a 15% insurance down payment option. The California program accepts credit cards and debit cards.

If you are a low income Oregonian with a good driving record, write your Oregon law makers to request that Oregon adopt a low cost auto insurance program similar to California’s.