(WSVN) - The high price of rent and home insurance are making things tough for people here in South Florida. And now, many are taking another financial hit.

The cost of car insurance in our state is sky-high. But what’s “driving” the rise in rates?

7’s Karen Hensel investigates.

At home and on the road, it’s not only expensive to live in South Florida but also expensive to drive here.

Mark Friedlander/Insurance Information Institute: “While we’re seeing spikes in auto insurance everywhere, Florida is unfortunately worse than many other states.”

Actually the worst, according to the Insurance Information Institute, a research organization that represents the industry.

Mark Friedlander says Florida drivers are now paying an average premium of $3,183 per year. That’s 58% higher than the national average of $2,014.

Mark Friedlander: “Florida all of a sudden didn’t get bad. It’s always been bad. Now, it might be a little worse.”

Maria Garcia/driver: “No tickets, no nothing and it’s still going up. I would say like $40 more.”

Maria Garcia says that monthly $40 increase in her car insurance has her considering giving up driving altogether.

Maria Garcia: “Right now, I think the cost of living sucks big time. It’s not like it used to be. We struggled a little bit but now you struggle more.”

A “vehicle insurance nightmare” is how one small business owner described it in an email to 7Investigates.

He wrote that the premium for his truck and trailer went from $7,800 a year to almost $14,000 despite a “perfect driving record.”

So why are prices going up?

Mark Friedlander: “You can’t just point to one factor here in Florida.”

Things like insurance fraud, vehicle thefts and flooded out cars, pave the road for higher rates. But that is just the start of it.

Mark Friedlander: “More accident severity, more expensive repairs.”

Yet another reason, according to a Washington Post article last month, is “Florida’s ‘unscrupulous’ auto glass shops” that charge way too much to replace damaged windshields.

If insurers refuse to pay these inflated costs, the claims can go to court.

There were only 591 glass and windshield lawsuits filed in 2011.

This year, Florida hit a record with more than 46,000 lawsuits.

Mark Friedlander: “We all pay for that.”

Friedlander says rates can vary by hundreds of dollars, so shop around.

Other ways to save include safe driver discounts and bundling multiple policies.

Rob Kornahrens says his roofing company found a way to save on its 270 vehicles.

Rob Kornahrens/owner, Advanced Roofing: “Speaking to our insurance company, what else can we do? So we were one of the pioneers of putting cameras in our vehicles.”

Kornahrens says the cameras help deter fraudulent accident claims by other drivers. And while their rates have only gone up about 3% over five years, some companies are paying a lot more.

Rob Kornahrens: “I’m hearing the thing across the board with contractors that their auto insurance are going up in that range from 15 to 30% yearly.”

But whether the policy is commercial or personal, the high price of car insurance is driving people mad.

John Born/driver: “I mean, it sucks, but it is what it is. I mean, it’s the cheapest rate I could get.”

And piling higher priced car insurance, on top of already out-of-control living expenses, may be the breaking point for some.

Karen Hensel, 7News.


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