ValuePenguin’s annual insurance premiums ranked by state:
1. North Carolina: $807
2. Tennessee: $1,199
3. Alabama: $1,279
4. Georgia: $1,338
5. South Carolina: $1,538
6. Arkansas: $1,643
7. Kentucky: $1,885
Annual auto insurance premiums in Tennessee's four biggest cities:
1. Chattanooga: $1,172
2. Nashville: $1,209
3. Knoxville: $1,226
4. Memphis: $1,600
Chattanooga recently ranked as having the least-expensive gas prices in the United States.
A new study says auto insurance is a bargain here, too, with annual premiums in Chattanooga ranking the lowest among Tennessee's four largest cities, behind Nashville, Knoxville and Memphis.
ValuePenguin.com, a Manhattan, N.Y.-based personal finance website that says it "conducts in-depth research and analysis on a variety of topics," found insurance costs $1,172 in Chattanooga annually for its sample driver, a 30-year-old, single male with a Toyota Camry who has a good credit score and a clean driving record.
That puts Chattanooga smack dab in the middle, at 22nd place, among the 44 Tennessee cities and towns that ValuePenguin ranked in its study. But Chattanooga insurance rates, on average, were $27 a year below the statewide average in Tennessee.
The study also found Tennessee drivers pay the second-lowest annual auto insurance premiums — at an average of $1,199 — in a swath of seven Southern states, with North Carolina having cheaper auto insurance, while it costs more in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Arkansas and Kentucky.
"It sounds pretty accurate to me," said Chattanooga insurance agent Mark Massengill, who has an office on Broad Street. "I write insurance in Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee. I have an office in Georiga. Our rates in Georgia are higher than they are in Tennessee."
ValuePenguin.com found Bristol, Tenn., on the Virginia border, had Tennessee's cheapest auto insurance, since the sample driver there would pay $1,067 for an annual premium, compared to Tennessee's most-expensive city for auto insurance, Memphis, where the premium cost $1,600.
"Memphis follows the trend found in other states where a fairly large metropolitan city is the most expensive spot for auto insurance in the state," the ValuePenguin report said.
However, while recent U.S. Census estimates show Nashville may overtake Memphis' population, auto insurance premiums are substantially lower in Nashville, at $1,209 annually.
"Nashville is almost $400 cheaper than similarly populated Memphis," Value- Penguin's report said.
Red Bank best locally
Locally, Red Bank ranked the least-expensive, with an annual premium of $1,146, which puts it ninth among Tennessee cities. Other area cities that ranked as less-expensive than Chattanooga were Soddy-Daisy, which ranked 12th with a premium of $1,147, and Cleveland, at 17th with an annual premium of $1,157.
Insurance rates are low in Red Bank because claims have been low there over the past five years, said Jim Hartley, owner of River City Insurance in Red Bank. That means insurance companies can lower rates and still make a profit.
Red Bank has a great police and fire department, Hartley said, which keeps home insurance rates low.
"Auto and home-owners rates coincide," Hartley said. "I'm in Red Bank and I grew up in Red Bank, so I'm very biased. In Red Bank, you've got a middle class attitude where people are paying their bills."
Auto insurance costs more in ZIP codes where there are lots of uninsured drivers, Hartley said, and where people don't pay their bills.
ValuePenguin's rankings are similar, but not identical, to those given by Insure.com, another website that ranks auto insurance by state.
While ValuePenguin said its sample Tennessee driver would pay an average premium of $1,199 annually, Insure.com's 2016 rankings found an annual insurance premium in Tennessee would cost less: $1,145 for a single, 40-year-old male who commutes 12 miles to work each day and has good credit and a clean driving record.
While ValuePenguin said the average annual insurance premium costs $1,338 in Georgia and $1,279 in Alabama, Insure.com said its sample driver would pay more: $1,559 in Georgia and $1,337 in Alabama.
Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@times freepress.com or www.facebook.com/MeetsForBusiness or Twitter@meetforbusiness or 423-757-6651.