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Same-sex couples getting discounts on car insurance

Tamara E. Holmes

A husband and wife typically can get better rates on car insurance than singles can. However, as more and more states recognize same-sex marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships, many car insurers are providing the same cost breaks to same-sex couples and unmarried straight couples as they do to husband-and-wife duos.

“When couples get married or get in a committed relationship, it’s the joining of two households,” says Ron Moore, senior product manager for MetLife Auto & Home.

Safer drivers?

As same-sex marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships become more prevalent, more car insurance companies are offering discounts to same-sex couples.

In many cases, the commitment leads to a change in driving habits. For example, those in committed relationships tend to be more family-oriented and may buy safer vehicles and avoid late-night driving. Each person also may spend less time driving individually as the couple splits the driving duties. Statistics show married people on average have fewer accidents than singles; as such, insurers often lower their rates for married couples.

Recognizing that unmarried couples in committed relationships typically have similar habits to married people, some insurers also let domestic partners — those who live together as couples — take advantage of those lower rates. For example, “at MetLife, we treat all domestic partnerships the same as being married,” Moore says.

Other car insurers use civil unions — legally recognized partnerships that are similar to marriage — as the litmus test for whether they’ll provide marriage discounts to same-sex couples.

“Couples in state-recognized civil union partnerships would receive the same benefits and savings as married couples in accordance with the current laws in that state,” says Meghann Dowd, a spokeswoman for Allstate.

Still other car insurance companies have different arrangements in different parts of the country. For example, Esurance lets same-sex couples in Illinois, California, Oregon and Washington qualify for the same car insurance savings offered to married straight couples. Farmers, GEICO and State Farm also offer discounts for unmarried couples who are in domestic partnerships or civil unions, but the discounts vary by state.

No national consensus

The reason the discount scenario looks different across the country is that recognition of same-sex marriages, civil unions and domestic partnerships is decided at the state or local level. For instance, only Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriages.

Many insurers simply follow the lead of the state where the insurance customer lives, while others, such as MetLife, treat domestic partners like married couples regardless of state law. For that reason, it’s important to tell your insurer once you’ve entered some form of domestic partnership, Moore says.

Some insurance companies may require formal proof of a couple’s relationship before providing benefits, the Oklahoma Insurance Department says. In that case, couples can show such evidence as a domestic partnership affidavit, an apartment lease, a homeowner’s insurance policy or a joint financial account highlighting both partners’ names.

Domestic partnership checklist

If a couple enters some form of domestic partnership, it’s a good time to take a few steps to ensure there’s enough car insurance and the premiums are reasonable.

  • Make sure each person is listed as “named insured” on the car insurance policy. Such a designation gives each person full rights under the policy, Moore says. An “additional insured” designation means one person may have only partial coverage.
  • Take note of lifestyle changes that may affect the policy. For example, if one person moves in with the other, the change in neighborhood or a shorter commute to work could lead to a lower insurance rate. Likewise, a couple with two cars may no longer need rental car coverage (which comes in handy when your car is undergoing extensive repairs.)
  • Consider keeping separate policies. While most couples will save money by combining their policies, that may not be the case if one person has a poor driving record. In that case, it may be less expensive to keep separate policies, at least until the lousy driving record has improved.
  • Shop around. When you enter a domestic partnership, civil union or same-sex marriage, sit down with each of your insurance agents to see which company will offer the best rates. One insurer may offer a 5 percent to 10 percent discount, Moore says, while another may offer a 30 percent to 40 percent discount. Even if you’re happy with what you hear, explore all of your options. “This is a good opportunity to look at other companies, too,” Moore says.

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