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Is car insurance cheaper for a stick shift?

Mediafeed logo Mediafeed 9/12/2018 Karin Price Mueller
a close up of a logo: Stick Shift 1© Stick Shift 1

Q. Does owning a car with a manual transmission qualify as having an "anti-theft" device for auto insurance purposes? I ask because I’ve read some stories about carjackers and car thieves who were subverted by attempting to steal cars with manual transmissions because they couldn’t drive stick. — Stick Shift

A. Nice try, but you won’t necessarily save on car insurance by having a manual transmission. 

The number of manual transmission vehicles sold in the United States has declined. According to some estimates, only 2 to 3.5 percent of all new vehicles sold today have a stick shift.

Many manufacturers are discontinuing the production of manual transmission vehicles altogether, said Claudia Mott, a certified financial planner with Epona Financial Solutions in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. 

She said that a study by U.S. News and World Report claimed that only 18 percent of drivers know how to operate a manual transmission. 

What does that mean for car insurance?

Each insurer uses a computer model to determine drivers' insurance rates, Mott said. Those models' variables and calculations are proprietary to each company. 

“The type of a transmission a vehicle comes with is part of the equation, but a manual transmission is not considered an anti-theft device,” she said. “Despite the idea that they may be harder to drive and thus less appealing to steal, a manual transmission is not among the recognized list of anti-theft devices.” 

The anti-theft devices that are generally considered for insurance premium purposes include manual deterrents like wheel locks, kill switches and onboard alarms. They also include vehicle-disabling smart keys, glass etching and tracking services, Mott said. 

She said that some insurers may actually calculate lower premiums for manual transmissions compared to automatics because the cost of repair or replacement can be lower, depending on the vehicle's make and model. 

If you are trying to save on your auto insurance, it’s good to look for discounts from “bundling” it with your homeowners insurance at a single company. Other strategies include paying in full, having a good credit rating and having a clean driving history, Mott said. The make, model and year of your car, your age, whether you own a home and your car's location can also impact premium costs. 

“Bear in mind that the deductibles you choose will also affect your premium and this is something that should be reviewed with your agent regularly,” she said. “There is also no harm in shopping different insurers for rates periodically so that you know what you are paying is competitive.”

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