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Drivers might be penalized on insurance rates for using smaller carriers

DENVER -- Colorado's increasing popularity definitely comes with a price.

Everyone is paying more for car insurance in part to subsidize higher risk drivers. And according to a study, some are being unfairly penalized.

About 7 percent of Colorado drivers have to buy insurance from smaller, nonstandard carriers versus the preferred big name standard carriers.

"A lot of folks that end up with a nonstandard carrier have never had previous insurance,” Colorado insurance industry spokeswoman Carole Walker said.

“They may be much higher risk and may not be able to get insurance with that preferred company because they have a DUI, because they have a lot of speeding tickets or at fault accidents."

Those companies charge higher rates. But the Consumer Federation of America study found even drivers with good records had to pay more to switch to a standard carrier.

The study says that forces lower-income drivers to buy more expensive insurance from lesser-known companies and then pay a lot more when they switch to a big company.

"It is socioeconomic,” Tracy Fair said because she believes she pays more because of her ZIP code.

A driver with a good record switching to a standard carrier will be charged 15 percent more on average by Allstate, according to the study.

Farmers charged 9 percent more. And American Family Insurance charged 9 percent more.

"I definitely see the effects of that it's been tough,” said Margo Archey, who recently switched jobs from the energy industry to a nonprofit.

Colorado is ranked second in the nation for hail damage claims. With more people moving to the state, more drivers are on the road and fatal accidents are up 24 percent.

So auto insurance rates are among the highest in the country.

"You as a driver have to ask yourself if you're in the 93 percent that are with what we consider a standard carrier you would be subsidizing those that are with a nonstandard carrier," Walker said.

"I also think we need to subsidize the other drivers," said Francis Wisner, who said that helps everyone else make sure they're covered in a crash.

Because Colorado has such a competitive insurance market, drivers can save by reading the study and shopping around.

Get price quotes, then use them to negotiate a lower rate with an insurer.