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Insurance rates for SUVs going up

In South Lake Tahoe, where sport utility vehicles are as common as chips on a casino table, auto insurance rate hikes on the priciest of high-clearance vehicles may breed more fear than fender-benders.

That’s why the news of a Dec. 18 increase on liability policies with Allstate Insurance and Progressive Insurance Group, the nation’s second and fourth-largest insurers, was met with a sneer, concern or relief.

South Shore resident Maria Escuadra said she was relieved that her husband arranged a two-car package deal with Infinity Insurance, leaving Allstate because the couple received a better deal on the family’s Chevrolet Tahoe.



Also from the lake, Darlene Clark was happy she recently switched policies from Allstate to Hartford Insurance on the Jeep Wagoneer she calls her station wagon.

“I don’t have any accidents (on my record). I shouldn’t be penalized for having a certain type of car,” Clark said.




Even Allstate’s South Lake Tahoe office manager Allen Vogt was apprehensive of the news. He owns a Chevrolet Suburban, the Hulk Hogan of SUVs.

Vogt said he’s unaware of any rate changes on SUVs, which account for about 35 percent of the local office’s insurance business.

Not to worry though, Allstate spokeswoman Lisa Wannamaker indicated, as the rate hikes only apply to 2001 models.

“We’re looking at the claims data for every make and model,” she said. She confirmed the rate hike as a statewide change, along with New Mexico’s policies. Eighteen other states have already applied the rate increases on the big, high-riding vehicles because of the tendency to cause more damage to the other vehicles in accidents.

Wannamaker noted that, as it turns out, rates on medical coverage could go down for policyholders while liability goes up as the size of SUVs have been known to protect its occupants. Collision and comprehensive coverage will also be evaluated, along with the motorist’s driving record.

“It kind of goes back to the whole idea to check on insurance rates before you buy a car,” Wannamaker said.

Progressive Insurance officials were unavailable for comment.

Farmers Insurance Group, the third largest insurer, plans to adopt similar pricing next year.

This served as unwelcomed news for Diane Cunha, who has lived in South Lake Tahoe for 14 years. She has a policy with Farmers on her Nissan Pathfinder.

“I’m 53 years old. I have no tickets and no accidents. Insurance is too damn high. It’s outrageous,” Cunha said.

According to the New York Times, State Farm, the nation’s largest insurer, announced a pricing plan Tuesday that would reduce the cost to drivers of many larger vehicles on the personal injury portion of their policies.

Compared with 20 percent for personal injury coverage, liability typically accounts for half the total cost of auto insurance.

State Farm argues that while they indeed cause more damage in crashes, SUVs are involved in fewer accidents overall, the Times stated.


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