Everybody knows your auto insurance rates will probably go up if you drag race past a police station in broad daylight. But let's say you're a safe driver with a good driving record. Can insurance companies still find reasons to hike your monthly payment?

In a word, yes. Some of the factors are beyond your control — but others aren’t.

“Many factors can affect your premium, and they all help determine how likely you are to have an accident,” says Loretta Worters, vice president for communications at the Insurance Information Institute. “Perhaps surprisingly, many of them do a better job than just your driving record.”

Here are five reasons your insurance premiums may be higher.

Related: 6 Mistakes Drivers Make After a Car Accident

1. You live in a city. If you want to lower your rate, move to the countryside. “Generally, due to higher rates of vandalism, theft and accidents, urban drivers pay a higher auto insurance price than those in small towns or rural areas,” says Worters.

If you stay in the city, specific neighborhoods can also matter. A driver is likely to receive higher premium quotes if they live in a zip code that is predominantly poor, according to research by the UCLA School of Public Affairs.

“Because losses tend to be higher in urban areas, rates for auto and home insurance are often higher than average in inner cities,” says Worters. She also points out that it is illegal for insurance companies to refuse to insure someone based on his or her location.

2. You live in one of 14 particular states. When it comes to premium rates, drivers in 14 states pay more than the national average, according to a study published by InsuranceQuotes.com. Michigan, at 136 percent higher, pays the most.

Rhode Island, New York and Delaware follow at between 41 and 45 percent. The other states are, in descending order, Louisiana, Connecticut, New Jersey, Florida, Nevada, Texas, California, Georgia, Minnesota and Oklahoma.

3. You have a poor credit score. Insurance companies are financial institutions, so they want to know how well you manage your financial affairs. When deciding what to charge you, they use an “insurance score” based on your credit history, according to the Insurance Information Institute. If your credit history is bad, expect to pay higher premiums.

Consumers with the worst insurance scores are twice as likely to have an accident or insurance claim as those with the best ones according to a public statement by Progressive Casualty Insurance Company.

Related: 5 Smart Ways to Protect Your Credit Score

4. You’re a man. “As a group, women tend to get into fewer accidents, have fewer driver-under-the-influence accidents and, most importantly, less serious accidents than men,” says Worters. “So, all other things being equal, women generally pay less for auto insurance than men.”

5. You’re spendy. Some insurers will base your quote on how much they think you're willing to pay, according to Consumer Reports. Called “price optimization,” the company uses data they have about you and statistical models to measure how likely you are to shop for a lower quote.

California, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Ohio, Vermont and Washington have banned the practice for determining for auto insurance rates.

Two things that won't affect your premiums

1. You drive a red car. Go ahead, buy that little red Corvette. It's not true that insurers jack up rates for owners of red vehicles on the assumption that they like to drive fast. They'll consider make, model, body type and engine size — not to mention your driving record — but not color.

Sports cars in general can receive higher or lower rates based on a variety of factors, such as the model's safety record and the likelihood that it will be stolen, according to Worters.

2. You’re long in the tooth. Contrary to popular belief, insurance companies don't penalize senior citizens for their supposed loss of mental clarity or motor control. If you're over 55 and take an accident prevention course, your insurance company might even give you a discount.

Related: Quiz: Are Your Driving Skills Declining?


David Arv Bragi is a freelance journalist and marketing consultant. He has been writing about health and safety issues since the 1990s and currently lives in Portland, Oregon.