Montana, home of some of the finest skiing in the nation and a landscape of vast national parklands, is home to Glacier National Park and three of the five entrances to Yellowstone National Park.
While containing some of nation’s most stunning mountain ranges, it’s an expensive place for residents when it comes to insuring their vehicles. In 2011, Montanans paid the fourth most expensive auto insurance premiums in the U.S., according to Insure.com
For much of the first decade following the year 2000, residents of Montana paid less than the rest of the country for auto insurance coverage.
Why the recent steep rise in the cost of Montana auto insurance premiums?
It could in part be linked to auto theft and the associated costs of replacing those vehicles. While the insurers pay out, the costs are passed on to the consumer in the form of higher Montana auto insurance rates.
One such example of a recent rash of vehicle thefts was uncovered in the fall of 2010, when police received reports of 96 vehicle thefts over a six-month span of time in the Great Falls, Montana area.
Police were concerned that very few of those stolen vehicles were found quickly. They suspected the vehicles may have been “parted-out,” thereby unrecoverable; they also suspected that something larger may have been taking place, due to the larger than normal number of stolen vehicles being reported.
It was learned that the ring transported vehicles to the state of Washington, where the vehicles were delivered to a chop shop in Spokane. Police also suspected there might be links to a Spokane, Washington drug ring.
A number of individuals were arrested and, at the time, it was suggested that in addition to those arrested, more than 20 people may have been involved.
The top five stolen vehicles in Montana
To avoid paying higher auto insurance premiums on your Montana vehicle, consider the top five vehicles that are most often stolen in Montana. If you have a vehicle similar to the Montana top five vehicles, make sure to protect your vehicle by installing anti-theft devices, housing your vehicle in a garage rather than on the street and by all means, even in winter, never leaving your car running with the key in the ignition. Make your vehicle difficult to steal. Criminals are less apt to steal vehicles if the owner doesn’t make it easy prey.
The vehicle with the number one highest theft rate in Montana is a Chev 1500 C/K full-size Pickup. This is followed by the Ford F150, the Honda Accord, the Honda Civic and the Toyota Pickup.
Decrease in alcohol-related deaths on Montana road ways
While auto insurance premiums are on the rise in Montana, fatalities relating to alcohol are on the downswing thanks to the efforts of Montana officials and stringent penalties for first-time offenders. In 2009, fatalities involving driving and driving numbered approximately 100 individuals. In the early 1980s, prior to a clampdown by the state on those who drive while drinking, a count of more than 170 individuals lost their lives in accidents due to the influence of alcohol.
Today Montana has seen a significant decrease in lives lost in alcohol-related accidents.
If you are caught drinking and driving in Big Sky Country, as Montanans call their state, you’ll pay dearly. First-time offenders can receive a jail sentence of up to six months and could pay up to $1,000 or more in administrative costs and fines.
Montanans driving with a blood alcohol level (BAC) of .08 percent or higher, which is the BAC level at which it is illegal to drive in all 50 states. Montana imposes stiffer penalties for those convicted of having a BAC of .15 percent or above.
Montana’s mandatory auto insurance requirements
It is mandatory in the state of Montana to keep a copy of your vehicle registration receipt and valid evidence of car insurance meeting the state minimum liability requirements.
These are the required liability minimums you must purchase in order to drive on Montana roads:
- $25,000 – bodily injury, one person
- $50,000 – bodily injury, multiple victims, per accident
- $10,000 – property damage
It’s important to note that while the above limits meet Montana’s auto insurance liability minimums, in many cases, carrying only the minimum coverages may put you at risk.
Also, if you have financed your vehicle through a commercial lender, that lender will more than likely require you to carry higher amounts of Montana auto insurance coverage, in order to protect their investment.
Consult with your Montana auto insurance agent the proper coverage you should carry to ensure that you have the full protection you need.
Average annual cost of auto insurance
In 2011, Montanans pay an average annual auto insurance premium of $2190, making it the fourth most expensive state to purchase auto insurance. The national annual average auto insurance premium for the same time period is $1561.
Montana Commissioner of Securities and Insurance
Consumer Hotline Tel 800-332-6148, toll-free in state; 406-444-2040, Helena