You may already know the importance of shopping around to score the best rate on your auto insurance premiums, but did you know that certain factors (or the absence of them) could cause your insurance premiums to rise?

To understand what makes your insurance premiums spike, it helps to understand the basic nature of auto insurance: Insurers make money when they insure drivers who don't have accidents, and don't make claims. They lose money when the opposite happens. As such, it is in the insurer's best interest to predict driver risk factors as accurately as possible. When any of the following factors are present in your life, they indicate an increased likelihood that you, as a potential auto insurance policyholder, may have an insurance claim that will cost the insurer money. To compensate for the increased likelihood of a payout, insurers charge you more money in the form of a raised premium. Here are six things that spike your auto insurance.

Buying a New Car
Because a new car as an asset is worth more money than an older model, it will cost more to replace. Additionally, if you finance or lease your new car purchase, most lenders require you to carry full coverage at a stated level, which makes it impossible to skimp or strategize only on the coverage you need. You can be wise about how your new ride will impact insurance premiums before you buy. According to a recent study by Insure.com, the cheapest new cars to insure tend to be larger, sturdy models such as minivans, SUVs and trucks. Don't assume that premium boosts come only with a flashy sports car or other high-priced model. The study indicated that the Honda Civic, for example, commands higher insurance rates simply because it tends to be driven by younger, childless owners who are inherently deemed riskier than parents. Further, it's one of the most stolen vehicle models in the United States.

Increasing Your Commute
Long commutes to work don't just cost you in time and fuel; they'll also boost your auto insurance premiums. Again, the risk is much greater that you'll get into an accident when you're driving during rush hour. Further, if you are in a profession that involves frequent driving, like a pizza delivery person or salesperson, you'll pay for the increased time that you spend in the car because more time spent driving increases the risk of an accident.

Moving
Though actual risk is determined by the zip code you live in, city residents statistically have more accidents, which drives their premiums higher than those who live in rural areas. Additionally, more people living in an area means more claims, which is reflected in the higher premium prices in such places. If you've recently taken up residence in New Mexico, Alabama, Oklahoma or Florida, expect to pay higher premiums. According to the Insurance Research Council, these states have the greatest concentrations of uninsured motorists, which ultimately seeps into insured drivers' premiums.

Marital Status and Age
If you're unmarried and without children, you're considered part of a higher-risk category than married couples with kids. If you're 26 or younger, and male, you'll pay even more.

Dumping Your Auto Insurance
If you ditched your auto insurance in an effort to save some money, you've committed a classic case of being "penny smart and pound-foolish." Not having any auto insurance, even for just over 30 days, will cause your premiums to jump.

Having a Brush with the Law
Having no accidents or tickets will lower your auto insurance premiums and, as you might imagine, having either or both could raise them. When and if you'll see the spike is largely determined by your locale and your insurance provider. Insurance companies use a "merit plan" system. Most insurance companies periodically scan for recent traffic violations, whether you are a new or existing customer. After you commit a traffic violation and your insurer learns of it, your auto insurance rates could be higher for the next few years.

The Bottom Line
Auto insurance rates are often based on factors out of your immediate control, including age, occupation and accidents. Understanding what factors cause your auto insurance rates to spike can help you to shop around for a more competitive provider before you receive a surprise rate increase. It may also cause you to rethink some of your current driving habits.

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