How much more can Floridians be squeezed on insurance? This time, it’s for cars | Opinion

Oh, c’mon. It’s not enough that Floridians have the highest property insurance rates in the country. Now we’re getting hammered on auto insurance costs, too?

A mid-year report by Insurify, an insurance comparison website, says Floridians are paying the fourth highest auto insurance rates in the nation. We fork over a whopping 44% more than the national average. Only Michigan, New York and Nevada ranked higher than Florida on the car-insurance-misery scale.

Florida is also among the 10 states where car insurance rates are rising the fastest, the report said. As of July 2023, Florida drivers were paying an average annual premium of $2,412, a 25% leap from the year before, the Insurify report said. If you had your car insurance renewed lately, you’ve probably already experienced that nasty shock.

This issue isn’t plaguing Florida alone. Auto insurance rates across the country are rising — up 17% so far this year, with another 4% or more expected by the end of the year.

Florida’s special

But there are factors in Florida that push up costs more than in other places. Florida had the sixth-highest percent of uninsured drivers, about 20%, according to a 2021 study by the Insurance Research Council. Some estimates put the percentage even higher. That means at least a fifth of Florida drivers — one in five — are motoring around without even basic insurance, adding a lot of risk for insurance companies.

Weather events like hurricanes and flooding play an increasing role. Insurance fraud, the severity and frequency of accidents and high medical costs in the state do, too. And Florida ranked fourth highest in the number of vehicle thefts in 2022, according to the personal finance website ValuePenguin.

Florida has considered doing away with its current “no-fault” system of car insurance, which requires drivers to file injury claims with their own insurance company regardless of who’s at fault. The Legislature even passed a bill in 2021 to end the decades-old system but Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed it, perhaps wisely. The fix that the Legislature came up with may have driven up costs even more, at least initially, leading more drivers to simply drop coverage, worsening the uninsured-motorist issue.

Florida’s car insurance problem is a lot like its home insurance problem: complicated.

Shirking the work

The answer, of course, is a concerted effort by lawmakers. They would have to educate themselves on the details of insurance coverage and then work out reasonable ways to bring down costs for consumers. They might have to try a number of approaches. It might require several years of work — the kind of attention span that lawmakers don’t seem to possess anymore.

It’s a lot easier for lawmakers to focus on culture wars — they sure did want to please DeSantis when he was on the ascent — rather than trying to do the hard work of governing and improve the quality of life for residents. Why tackle a tough topic like insurance when you can make splashy pronouncements about diversity or churn up the base by attacking universities?

The burden on regular Floridians cannot keep increasing forever. We have the fourth highest car insurance rates in the country and the highest property insurance rates. Our sky-high housing remains ridiculously out of reach for many.

How much more can we afford before Florida becomes a place where only the rich can live?

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