Why Is Car Insurance in Portland the Highest in the State?

Sharing is caring!


As far as car insurance goes, Oregon isn’t that much worse off than other states. It has a yearly average rate of $905, which is actually lower than its neighbors in California and Washington.

There is a major exception, however: Portland. Car insurance rates in Portland can get as high as $2,700 a year, depending on the neighborhood and circumstances. Why is car insurance in Portland so disproportionately high? We’ll take a look at some of the reasons, and tell you some of the steps you can take to bring it down to a somewhat saner level.

High Density

One main reason for the high insurance rates in Portland is the population density. Portland is the most populous city in Oregon with a population of 666,453, much higher than second-placed Salem at 179,522. The math is simple: with more people comes higher traffic volumes, which in turn means a higher rate of accidents, vehicle break-ins, and theft.

Bad Driving

Portland ranks as one of the worst cities in terms of driver behavior, having the highest number of speeding tickets and an alarming traffic fatality rate. And those fatalities are on the rise — Portland had 63 traffic deaths in 2021, the most since 1990, and pedestrians accounted for 27 of those deaths. Deaths on state highways are also on the rise, up 50% since 2021. As anyone can tell you, a poor driving record can mean a big hit to your insurance premiums, and the disproportionate number of bad drivers on the road affects everyone’s premiums.

Increasing Natural Disasters

One of the biggest factors insurance companies consult when setting premiums is an area’s propensity for natural disasters. Simply put, disasters cause damage, which means more claims, which in turn means higher premiums. As a coastal city, Oregon faces more potential hazards than most, with the possibility of floods, landslides, earthquakes, wildfires, droughts, winter storms, and even volcanic activity. Some disasters, like wildfires, have become much more severe and common, which leads to higher insurance rates.

Uninsured Motorists

About 13% of Portland’s motorists are uninsured, which isn’t that much higher than the natural average — but uninsured motorists can cost insurance companies a lot, especially in a city with a reputation for poor driving and higher accident rates. When there’s no insurance to help pay out a claim, the insurer of the person who wasn’t at fault has to pay out of pocket — and they have to make up the difference somewhere.

Legalized Marijuana

Between 2013 and 2017, the percentage of fatal traffic accidents in Portland in which marijuana was involved rose from around 8% to almost 18%. The legalization of marijuana no doubt contributed to this rise in frequency, which in turn means higher insurance premiums for everyone due to the increased risk. It should be noted that alcohol has been contributing to at least 20% of Portland traffic fatalities for much longer than that.

How to Reduce Your Car Insurance Rates

So what can you do if you’re a Portland driver and want to bring your car insurance rates down? While you may not be able to get them down to the national average, you can certainly get closer with a few simple steps:

Drive safely.

This is a bit of a no-brainer, but merits mention anyway. Not driving while distracted or under the influence doesn’t just help you avoid accidents and violations — it also keeps your premiums down. Everyone knows a solid driving record keeps premiums low — so be careful out there!

Drop comprehensive and collision coverage.

If you’re able to pay out of pocket for damage to your vehicle and medical treatment, then you can meet the state’s minimum liability coverage, which only covers damage and injury to the other party. That can be a big “if,” however, so consider this carefully.

Shop around for cheaper insurance.

Every year, do a review of your insurance rates and see what’s out there in terms of competition. There are free online tools to help you shop around for better car insurance, and it never hurts to look.There’s every chance you get coverage just as good, or better, for a lot less money. 

Buy a Cheaper Used Car

There are a few reasons why a cheaper used car will cost you less than a new one, insurance-wise. The more expensive luxury vehicles cost more to repair, and the more tech and electronics a car has on board, the more likelihood of it getting stolen. Some models of cars are downright magnets for criminals — avoid those as much as you can.

Drive less.

Driving less not only reduces your risk of accident, violation, or vehicle theft, it also might let you switch to a low-mileage insurance rate, which can be a significant savings. Instead, consider taking public transport, a bike, a rideshare service or taxi, or carpool. It’s better for the environment and your wallet.