ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Get ready for your auto insurance rate to spike. The teen car theft “epidemic” brought to light recently by Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri is impacting all of us in another way: our wallets.
Car insurance rates are going up between 5 to 10 percent across Tampa Bay, according to several independent insurance agents. And they attribute it to the rise in grand theft auto crimes, car thefts and an increase in motor vehicle crashes, particularly in Pinellas County.
Laurie Laurenty of Solutions Insurance Group and Jeff DeNight of Bentley Denight Insurance both say their clients are getting sticker shock. Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties already have some of the highest car insurance rates in Florida, but now those rates are going even higher.
DeNight explained, “All the cases of grand theft auto and car break ins are making a bad situation worse." Laurenty agrees, “I have to tell my customers that move here from out of state to sit down before I read them a quote because our rates here in Florida can be double what customers pay in other states.”
St. Pete resident Heidi Boyd says it is frustrating to know she is a good driver who doesn’t get into accidents or get tickets, and yet her car insurance rate continues to climb.
“We are paying the price for juvenile delinquency. It’s not fair. I work three jobs just to pay all of my bills. I’m a defense driver, but we all need auto insurance, so we pay the higher rate.”
The only way rates will go down, according to Laurenty and DeNight, is if the rate of grand theft auto and car thefts go down. While one local county is seeing decreasing numbers, the other is seeing the opposite. Pinellas County and St Petersburg have seen the number of stolen cars spike, but Hillsborough County and Tampa have seen a decrease in vehicle thefts over the past year. According to Tampa Police spokesperson Stephen Hegarty, car thefts have decreased 25%. From January-June 2016 there were 353 vehicle thefts. The same period in 2017 there were 266.
Local insurance agents urge drivers to lock their cars and not keep extra keys to your car inside the vehicle.