Best Cars for Baltimore and Beyond - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Best Cars for Baltimore and Beyond

 You might yearn to be behind the wheel of an Arctic White Corvette, but once winter comes to Baltimore, will it just sit in your garage for six months?

Spend your hard-earned money wisely with vehicles that are best for the Baltimore region. Learn what to look for, why, and how to get the most affordable Baltimore car insurance.

Driving Considerations in Greater Baltimore

Baltimore is Charm City for tourists flocking to taste its crab cakes and Berger Cookies, stroll Inner Harbor and Fells Point, revisit history at Fort McHenry and the birthplace of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” cruise Chesapeake Bay, visit the National Aquarium, and see the Orioles and the Ravens. Luckily for them, it’s a very walkable city.

That’s not so lucky for its resident drivers, as a large number of these tourists drive in and out of the city and are looking for a place to park. That’s weekends, holidays, and the summer that the locals are dealing with an influx of people who are unfamiliar with the area. Then they also have so many of their fellow residents to contend with on their weekday commute.

Weather Conditions in Greater Baltimore

The Baltimore area’s precipitation isn’t extreme, as it falls below the national average of snow per year (19 inches compared to 28 inches nationwide), and rises slightly above the national average of rainfall per year (42 inches compared to 38 inches nationwide). 

But that rainfall is throughout the year, including the nearly six months in which temperature hover at or dip below freezing. That means not only snow, but sleet, wet sludge, and the possibility of driving on roadways where crews haven’t yet salted — or salted again. And when temperatures are above freezing, the area is prone to minor flooding.

Road Conditions in Greater Baltimore

Traffic in Baltimore ranks among the nation’s busiest. As a major metropolitan area, Baltimore drivers normally spend 7 percent of their time sitting in traffic. During the morning and evening commute, make that 10 percent. The most congested area? The northwest stretch between Baltimore National Pike and Providence Road. There’s also the road-rage-inducing challenge of coming off of I-95 South and having to cut across three lanes of traffic to go to Inner Harbor and downtown Baltimore.

Add to that road construction, which to Baltimoreans is a never-ending annoyance: In the winter, crews are fixing the area’s notorious potholes. Baltimore County fills an average of 58,000 potholes a year, according to the county’s website. And in the summer, the crews are out to undo other winter damage and squeeze in regular projects while it’s warm.

Optimal Vehicles for Greater Baltimore

So you need a car that can handle winter weather and urban driving conditions — from cobblestones to streetcar tracks, snow salt to parallel parking, to everything in between.

Here are the popular picks:

Honda

CR-V: The perfect vehicle for a Baltimore family, as it’s relatively low priced and reliable. It’s a spacious, multiple-seated crossover. It also gets good highway mileage at 35 miles per gallon (mpg).

Accord: It’s as reliable as the CR-V, it’s comfortable, and it has effective vehicle engineering. Another plus is highway mileage: 34 mpg.

Civic: This compact car makes almost every list — it’s the third most popular in America after the Ford Mustang and the Accord. It gets raves for its fuel efficiency, practicality, low maintenance, quality engineering, and reliability. But because they’re so popular, sometimes it’s hard to find a pre-owned one. Luckily, you have other Honda choices.

Ford

Fusion: The mid-size sedan has an exceptional price range, and it’s stylish and comfortable while also handling well in snow and having an effective highway mileage of 32 mpg.

Unfortunately, Ford had announced 2020 as the last model year for the Fusion, having decided to focus more on new trucks and SUVs. They’ve since amended that to discontinuing the Fusion Sport in 2020 while continuing the other Fusion versions into the 2021 calendar year.

Toyota

Camry: Like the Accord, Baltimoreans consider this a safe and reliable choice. In fact, the sedan is known as such a dependable vehicle, with the ability to last over 200,000 miles on the road, that many Baltimore families pass it on to their children as a hand-me-down first car.

Nissan

Sentra: This good-looking sedan is unpretentious, scrappy, dependable, and inexpensive to purchase. It’s also not expensive to maintain: If you take good care of it, it can be driven 60,000-70,000 miles before it needs major repair, and repairs typically cost less than for other compact cars.

Subaru

Forester: Baltimoreans consider this five-seat, compact SUV as a little urban tank. It packs a lot of space into a relatively small chassis, it emphasizes all-weather tracks and safety, and it has a car-like ride and handling.

Car Insurance Options for Greater Baltimore

Since Maryland is rated among the most costly states for car insurance — coming in 40th — it’s even more important for Baltimore-area drivers to take advantage of the numerous ways to lower your premium.

Minimum Required Car Insurance

The state of Maryland requires liability coverage of 30/60/15. That means $30,000 per person and $60,000 per accident for bodily injury, and $15,000 per accident for property damage.

They also require you to carry the same amounts of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. This coverage protects you from bodily injury and property damage caused by the operator of an uninsured or underinsured vehicle, including a hit-and-run driver, after any applicable deductible.

Maryland has one more area of coverage that’s a bit more complicated: personal injury protection (PIP). The state requires Maryland insurance companies to offer a minimum of $2,500 of PIP coverage when writing car insurance policies.

Some consumers choose to waive PIP coverage for themselves because it duplicates their own health care coverage. If you want to take that course of action, your insurance company may request you complete an electronic waiver declining coverage. 

And while you can waive this for yourself, you typically can’t waive PIP coverage for passengers riding in your car. So you’ll need to select a coverage amount for passengers.

Most Maryland drivers pay around $151 monthly for their car insurance policy.

More Affordable Car Insurance

Since you can’t change how insurance companies gauge the risks of Baltimore-area weather patterns, traffic congestion, and crime (car thefts) as key factors in determining the price of car insurance, focus on how you can lower your personal car insurance premium.

Build good credit: Since Maryland isn’t one of the three states that ban the use of credit data in car insurance pricing (that’s California, Hawaii, and Massachusetts), if you establish and maintain good credit you’ll pay 67 percent less than people with no credit. 

Drive safely: A clean driving record gets you cheaper rates.

Consider usage-based insurance: A clean driving record can also make you eligible for pay-as-you-go insurance. The insurance company places a device in your car to track your driving habits, like speeding and braking, and being a safe driver can save you money.

And if you’re an infrequent driver (usually under 7,500 miles per year), usage-based insurance could work for you as well. A device tracks your mileage for your pay-per-mile plan. Look into Baltimore’s public transportation options — the bus, MARC train, Light Rail, and Metro subway — or see if you can carpool to offset your mileage.

Raise your deductible: When you increase the amount you personally have to pay when you make a claim, your insurer will usually lower your rate.

Double-check your coverage: If you had financed a vehicle and paid it off, consider whether you want to keep your comprehensive or collision coverage, which was a requirement when the lender, in essence, owned your vehicle. Consider the same if you’ve been paying for this insurance but you have an older car.

Just note that if you drop these coverages and your car is damaged in an accident that you caused, or if it’s stolen, vandalized, or you collide with an animal, you pay for the repairs.

Explore discounts: There are dozens of discounts, so be sure to research and follow up with an insurer about them. They include bundling (having a car and home policy with the same insurer), multi-car, early sign up, electronic payment, annual payment, membership affiliations, occupation, good student, and vehicle safety features. 

Compare providers: Up for car insurance renewal? Has it been a few years since you’ve looked at other companies? Then it’s time to go shopping. You’ll be amazed at the difference in rates from carrier to carrier for the same types of coverage.

Compare at least three insurers, and don’t discount regional and local providers. Some car insurance companies that cater to customers in certain regions or states may provide lower rates. Some of the best Baltimore car insurance companies providing affordable premiums are Allstate (averaging $56 a month), Cal Casualty ($61), Nationwide ($66), State Auto ($70), and State Farm ($78).

Now that you know what’s best for driving in Baltimore, when someone cuts you off on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway just remember you have the upper hand — they and most of the drivers around you are most likely paying much more than you are for their car insurance.

Karen Condor is an insurance expert who writes and researches for the car insurance comparison site, AutoInsuranceEZ.com.


About the author

Karen Condor is an insurance expert who writes and researches for the car insurance comparison site, AutoInsuranceEZ.com. Contact the author.
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