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2 Insurers Offer Discounts to Drivers of Hybrids

Apr 12, 2007

By Julie M. Mckinnon, The Blade, Toledo, Ohio

Apr. 13--If saving money on gas isn't enough reason to buy a Toyota Prius or other hybrid vehicle, maybe a 10 percent discount on car insurance will be.

Travelers Cos. Inc. and Farmers Insurance Group of Cos. both offer such discounts on at least a limited basis in Ohio and Michigan. Preliminary research at Travelers indicated hybrid owners tend to be lower-risk drivers, according to the company.

Farmers, meanwhile, chose to add hybrid discounts to reward drivers as part of its commitment to the environment, said spokesman Michelle Levy.

"People are starting to choose environmentally friendly hydrogen and alternative-fuel vehicles," she said.

Farmers added the discount in Ohio in November, and it is available to those who drive gas/electric hybrid, electric, natural gas, ethanol, methanol, and propane vehicles.

It does not apply to diesel or so-called flexible fuel vehicles, which can run on E85, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.

Hybrids use both electric batteries and gasoline engines for power, helping reduce the amount of fuel needed.

The Prius, for example, uses only the electric motor at low speeds, and it gets 55 mile-a-gallon performance in combined city and highway driving.

Not all insurance companies are offering hybrid-vehicle discounts, though.

State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., for example, doesn't have hybrid discounts in either Ohio or Michigan.

Insurance companies with which AAA Northwest Ohio does business have taken a wait-and-see approach to hybrids, which can be complicated to repair and may be an environmental concern depending on whether and how battery packs are damaged, said Frank Di Gennaro, director of insurance.

"They can be a little bit of a challenge," he said.

Meanwhile, the insurance providers, including Progressive Insurance Co., offer discounts based on drivers' histories instead of the vehicles they choose, Mr. Gennaro added. "It's really not so much focused on the car as the person."

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at: jmckinnon@theblade.com or 419-724-6087.

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Copyright (c) 2007, The Blade, Toledo, Ohio

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.

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