Does Not Paying a Car Insurance Bill Affect Credit?

Does Not Paying a Car Insurance Bill Affect Credit?
••• Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images

The relationship between auto insurance payments and credit scores is a bit murky, with insurers, credit reporting agencies and researchers trying to define the trends, consequences and ethics of late bill payments. One thing is certain, though: paying your car insurance bill late, or not at all, has serious consequences.

No Reports

A late car insurance payment won't directly affect a credit score because insurers don't report their customers' payment histories to credit reporting agencies. Since the insurance company isn't extending credit, in most cases, to its customers, it doesn't report payment or non-payment of insurance bills. That means your credit score won't take a huge hit after a later payment.

Credit Scoring

Disagreement persists whether insurance agencies should check consumer credit scores before pricing insurance. Credit agencies say it's unethical. United Policyholders, a non-profit advocate for consumers, says the practice is unfair because consumers are penalized for issues that aren't related to insurance, like bankruptcy or medical expenses. Automotive information and research site, however, says years of study have shown that drivers with low credit scores tend to be a bigger risk behind the wheel. Whatever your opinion, the practice isn't illegal and is likely to continue.

Rates and Scores

Credit scoring, as it's called, happens when insurance agencies check credit reports before offering policies to potential customers. A lower credit score generally leads to a higher insurance premium while a higher score leads to a lower premium. Policy underwriters may assume, rightly or wrongly, that people who don't pay their credit card bills won't pay their insurance bills either.

No Payment, No Policy

An auto insurance company may extend a grace period for their better customers when a payment is late. If you're not in that group, your coverage might be cancelled. If that happens, look out for a snowball effect. You may find it difficult to find insurance through another carrier. Don't think, "Well, I won't pay this, I'll get insurance somewhere else" when you're in a financial bind. Your rates can end up as much as four times higher than before.