How FL drivers can lower car expenses

Tampa, Florida -- A new study shows the state of Florida is one of the priciest places in the entire country to drive. The study, from, says Florida is the third most expensive state in the nation in which to own and operate a vehicle.

It's a triple whammy of higher-than-average repair costs, fuel prices, and insurance.

"You know, sometimes it's 50 percent higher. Sometimes it's double," says Adam Kjeer with Tampa's AAA Insurance Agency.

Kjeer says insurance rates are higher here for a few reasons. Florida is one of only 12 states that requires personal injury protection, stemming from a huge number of uninsured motorists.

The added insurance expense of PIP can cost hundreds each year and that number, says Kjeer, is pushed even higher because Tampa Bay leads the nation in auto claim fraud. In order to recoup those costs, insurance companies raise rates here on all of us.

"We constantly have drivers coming in from other states and they're in shock," says Kjeer, "comparing what they paid in their previous state."

Kjeer recommends:

- Shopping around for better rates every year or two

- Improving your personal credit score, which has a lot to do with rate quotes, and

- Use a local insurance agent who can shop several companies' rates and knows the tricks of the trade

For example, says Kjeer, if you're married and one spouse has a better credit rating than the other, list that spouse's name first on the application. It's the name companies will run their credit check on and you may get a lower rate.

Another factor is fuel. found that Florida's per-gallon prices aren't the highest, but they are higher than average.

Shana Cook from Tampa, topping-off her tanks Wednesday along Kennedy Boulevard, says for her the pain at the pump is a budget killer.

"Gas is the worst. I can hardly afford it," she said.

For possible relief consider price-clubs, or turn to the Internet. Websites like allow drivers to search for cheaper fuel prices in their neighborhood.

And then there's vehicle repairs. The cost difference from state to state isn't all that great, according to the study. But again, Floridians rank near the top.

Shop owners say it may be because Floridians are more prone to forget to perform regularly scheduled maintenance in the absence of seasonal changes. In the north, when it gets colder or hotter, people know it's time to bring their cars in. Here, they sometimes wait until something breaks.

"Oh yeah, it's always more expensive to do the repair than it is to take care of the maintenance," said Ashley Butler who owns the Ice Cold Air auto repair shop on S. Dale Mabry Highway.

While Florida wasn't the most expensive in any single category, it was near the top of the list in all three. To see the full results of the study, click here.


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