Applying for car insurance isn’t exactly glamorous, but for most people it’s fairly straightforward. For transgender or nonbinary drivers, however, one part of the application — selecting a gender — can pose a distinct challenge.
That’s because nonbinary and transgender people often don’t have the freedom to choose the gender they identify with, something others can easily take for granted.
How gender complicates insurance applications
Gender is one factor commonly used to determine a car insurance rate, but there’s no set standard for how insurers define or verify gender.
Some companies ask for sex at birth, some require gender to match your driver’s license, and others let you choose the gender you identify with, says Charlie Arrowood, counsel for the Name Change Project at the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, a nonprofit based in New York City dedicated to ending discrimination against transgender people.
Although gender may be listed on an application, insurers might really be asking for your sex. Sex and gender are often used as synonyms, but sex refers to biological traits, while gender refers to how you identify within society.
This inconsistency presents a challenge for both a transgender person, whose gender identity differs from their sex at birth, and for a nonbinary person, whose gender is neither strictly male nor female.
Why does gender matter?
You may be wondering, why do insurers need to know your gender to begin with?
Some studies show a correlation between gender and driving habits. For instance, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that male drivers were nearly twice as likely as females to be involved in a fatal crash for almost every year from 1975 to 2019.
Still, advocates like the Consumer Federation of America, a nonprofit group in Washington, D.C., argue that charging a good driver a higher rate based on gender alone is discriminatory.
After all, gender “really does not tell you anything about someone’s driving history,” Arrowood says.
Gender-based pricing is banned when setting car insurance rates in seven states: California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. And in Oregon, gender-based pricing is allowed, but insurers must provide rates for anyone who chooses a gender-neutral option on their driver’s license.
Rates for men and women may vary less than you think
Because each insurer uses a unique formula to determine auto insurance prices, you can’t find out your rate without a quote. To get a better idea of how gender affects your car insurance, you can look at average auto insurance rates.
Across all age groups, men pay $62 more annually than women on average, according to NerdWallet’s car insurance rates analysis.
Rate disparities can vary by age. For example, men and women pay similar rates in their 30s through 50s. However, 20-year-old men pay $450 more per year, on average, than women of the same age.
But anyone — even young men — can save that much by shopping around and comparing quotes. Each insurer values personal factors differently, so the cheapest car insurance is different for everyone.
What transgender and nonbinary applicants can do
Finding the best car insurance rates can be tricky even without the challenges transgender and nonbinary applicants face. Here are some tips for buying car insurance to help you get through the process.
Shop around for car insurance quotes
Arrowood knew to ask their insurance agent whether their auto insurance rates would change based on their gender. Luckily, gender didn’t affect the rates. But not everyone will have the same results. That’s why comparing car insurance quotes is key to finding the lowest price for you.
“Really, it’s just a question of shopping around,” Arrowood says. “The main problem is that there’s no standard. … You have to do the digging.”
Don’t be afraid to talk to your agent
Changing the gender you report to your insurer may affect your rates, but not always. Arrowood recommends reaching out to your insurer directly and asking what its rules are.
Your agent can let you know what documents are needed to change your stated gender with the insurer. If you need to update your driver’s license and birth certificate, the National Center for Transgender Equality provides details on how to officially change your name and gender in your state.
Consider a trans-affirming auto insurer
If you’ve talked to your insurer and feel like you’re getting an unfair rate, look at lists like the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index. This index shows how likely a company is to adopt LGBTQ-inclusive policies.
A high rating on this list doesn’t mean a company will have gender-neutral rates, “but at least it’s a place to start,” Arrowood says.