Debunked: What we thought was true about Switzerland

Do foreigners pay higher car insurance premiums in Switzerland?

Ein ausgebrannter Porsche in Zürich. Der Lenker wurde nur leicht verletzt. Keystone / Alessandro Della Bella

A reader asked us whether it is true that foreigners in Switzerland pay higher car insurance fees than the Swiss.

This content was published on September 2, 2019 - 11:00

The answer to this reader’s question is: Yes. Car insurers demand higher premiums from citizens of certain nations in Switzerland.

“According to our information, nationality is an important criterion in setting tariffs among most insurers,” says Takashi Sugimoto, a spokesperson for the Swiss Insurance Association.

In calculating premiums, insurers take into account gender, age, place of residence, car type, driving experience and nationality. Statistically, these factors influence the probability of an accident. 

“Insurers try to assess a driver’s risks as precisely as possible,” Sugimoto says. For this they create risk groups based on historical damages, their own statistics and, in part, public statistics.

The most expensive premiums are for new drivers who are young and male and hold a foreign passport. A 2018 analysis by Comparis, a price-comparison service, found that Albanians pay as much as 95% more than Swiss drivers. Italians pay a supplement of as much as 22%, depending on their insurer. The Swiss Insurance Association couldn’t say whether any nationalities pay less than the Swiss.

Problematic inequality? 

In the European Union, it is forbidden to use nationality as a factor in setting premiums. Why is it allowed in Switzerland? 

“Insurers are allowed to use any criterion that is an objective risk in setting premiums, as long as they can prove it statistically,” Sugimoto says. 

In response to critical questions from parliament, the Swiss government took the position that a risk-related calculation of premiums according to nationality is not discrimination. Insurers must however keep statistical records and use complete statistics in their calculations. 

In a similar vein, young women (regardless of nationality) pay significantly higher supplementary health insurance. According to an analysis by Comparis, the difference can be as much as 80%. The reason: young women carry the “risk” of giving birth. 

This article is part of an ongoing series of fact checks driven by our readers, who have been writing in with suggestions of claims about Switzerland we should verify. Submit a claim below and catch up on previous fact checks from the series under Related Stories.

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