5 Factors That Could Raise Your Insurance Rates

If you’re a smoker or extreme skier, you might pay more for insurance. Here’s why.

Insurance risks composite -- skiing, dog walking and smoking
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4. Lifestyle and occupation. Life insurers in particular are interested in any activities that could create a higher risk for premature death. "If you're in what's considered a higher-risk occupation, an airline pilot or a high-rise construction engineer, you're going to pay more for your life insurance," Bach says.

Some life insurers may also ask about travel plans, such as whether you've traveled outside of the United States in the past two years or plan to do so in the future. Policyholders who participate in activities such as extreme skiing, ballooning or deep-sea scuba diving may also pose a higher risk to life insurers. "It varies by company," Bach says. "Each company has their own underwriting criteria and their own actuaries who assign numbers to the risk that person poses."

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5. Dog ownership. Dog-related insurance claims cost property and casualty insurers millions of dollars a year. In fact, California insurers alone paid $480 millions in dog bite claims in 2011. These claims typically fall under the liability portion of your homeowners or renters insurance policy, so insurers want to know if you have a dog, especially if it's a breed that's considered more aggressive.

"Depending on the type of dog you have, some insurers may exclude the dog or add a surcharge because you have a dangerous dog," Moraga says. "If you have a vicious dog and don't keep him away from people, that may be a cause for nonrenewal or getting your premiums increased."