Auto insurance risk selection is the process by which vehicle insurers determine whether or not to insure an individual and what insurance premium to charge. Depending on the jurisdiction, the insurance premium can be either mandated by the government or determined by the insurance company in accordance to a framework of regulations set by the government. Often, the insurer will have more freedom to set the price on physical damage coverages than on mandatory liability coverages.
When the premium is not mandated by the government, it is usually derived from the calculations of an actuary based on statistical data. The premium can vary depending on many factors that are believed to affect the expected cost of future claims. Those factors can include the car characteristics, the coverage selected (deductible, limit, covered perils), the profile of the driver (age, gender, driving history) and the usage of the car (commute to work or not, predicted annual distance driven).
Conventional methods for determining costs of motor vehicle insurance involve gathering relevant historical data from a personal interview with, or a written application completed by, the applicant for the insurance and by referencing the applicant’s public motor vehicle driving record that is maintained by a governmental agency, such as a Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Such data results in a classification of the applicant to a broad actuarial class for which insurance rates are assigned based upon the empirical experience of the insurer. Many factors are deemed relevant to such classification in a particular actuarial class or risk level, such as age, sex, marital status, location of residence and driving record.
Conventional rating systems are primarily based on past realized losses and the past record of other drivers with similar characteristics. More recently, electronic systems have been introduced whereby the actual driving performance of a given driver is monitored and communicated directly to the insurance company. The insurance company then assigns the driver to a risk class based on the monitored driving behaviour. An individual, therefore, can be put into different risk classes from month to month depending upon how they drive. For example, a driver who drives long distance at high speed in one month might be placed into a high risk class for that month and pay a large premium. If the same driver drives for short distances at low speed the next month, however, then he or she might be placed into a lower risk class and charged a lower premium.