Up the ‘Gulch’: How Much Tony Soprano Saved on Insurance by Moving New Jersey Neighborhoods

Take a close look into the history of The Sopranos and you’ll find the background of the famed HBO show’s titular New Jersey family includes — in patriarch Tony’s words — trekking up the “gulch” of Bloomfield Avenue from Newark to West Caldwell.

So why the move? Nicer neighborhood? Sure. Lower crime rate? Irony aside, yes.

But there’s always an angle with Tony, so maybe the middle-class mob boss was swayed by a simpler reason: auto insurance costs.

An OnlineAutoInsurance.com (OAI) study of auto coverage costs in New Jersey show Tony’s childhood stomping grounds of Newark has the most expensive average premiums in the state while Morristown (where his family’s North Caldwell home is) had one of the cheapest average premiums.

How Big Is the Difference?

For the mostly urban city of Newark, the average quote was $2,778.

In heavily-suburban Morristown, which includes West Caldwell, OAI found an average quote of $1,549.

Vehicle coverage costs in the Garden State are among the highest in the U.S., so Newark is not only one of the priciest territories in New Jersey but also nationwide.

At $2,778, the average auto insurance bill in Newark is 30 percent above the average for the entire state and 79 percent above the average for Morristown, where New Jersey residents see some of the cheapest auto insurance.

For the common consumer, or mobster, that’s an average savings of $1,229 a year between the highest and one of the lowest price tags in New Jersey.

Why the Difference?

According to Marshall McKnight, spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance (DOBI), insurers look at “loss experience” as a major determining factor in setting how high and low rates are for territories in throughout the state.

What’s that mean?

“Our territorial ratings are connected to loss experience,” he said in an interview with OAI. “If there’s a higher loss experience in a territory, there’s higher average rates there.”

So, in short, the size and kind of claims filed by you and other policyholders in your territory ultimately determines the price of car insurance there.

That’s unfortunate for the densely-populated New Jersey, according to McKnight, who said that as “the most densely populated state in the country, the loss experience is higher because there are more expensive accidents.”

Another look at population density also explains Newark’s place atop priciest territories in New Jersey. With 277,540 residents spread across a little over 24 square miles, the 11,458 residents per square mile gives the city a dense, urban environment.

Caldwell, on the other hand, has 6,708 residents per square mile.

A denser territory also likely means higher crime rates, something that contributes to the higher-than-average insurance prices in urbanized locales.

Again comparing Newark with Morristown, you’ll find why insurers typically make the decision to charge more to protect themselves in places that show higher chances that they’ll pay for an auto theft claim.

According to statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), there was only 1 motor vehicle theft in North Caldwell in 2010, signifying a theft rate of 1 theft for every 7,086 residents. Newark, on the other hand, had 3,620 motor vehicle thefts that year for a theft rate of 1 theft for every 77 residents.

So FBI data can be useful for consumers and, yes, even mob bosses looking to save a few extra bucks.

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