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Comparing car insurance: what to know

When comparing car insurance rates, it helps to know how insurance companies arrive at the quotes they give to you. Along with the type and amount of coverage that you choose, your auto insurance rates depend primarily on a number of personal factors including your driving record, your age, your credit history, your vehicle, and the risk level of your area. Insurance companies' weighting of these attributes is reflected in your premium. For example, having a limited driving history or a poor credit score can raise your rates dramatically.

This unbiased guide — written by The Zebra's insurance experts — outlines the factors that comprise car insurance premiums and provides tips to help you compare quotes and find the right car insurance policy.

Key Takeaways:

  • Your insurance rates are based on personal factors like age, gender, driving record and claims history
  • Trusted car insurance comparison sites like The Zebra are the best way to find cheap car insurance rates
  • Drivers who are new, young or have a bad driving record or credit history see higher than average rates
  • Getting auto insurance quotes has no impact on your credit score

Why insurance comparison shopping is important

While drivers pay an average of $1,529 per year for auto insurance, your individual rate may be significantly more or less.  Auto insurance companies use varying methods to underwrite policies. This means that the auto insurance rate you are quoted might not match your quote from a competing company. However, you can expect that your individual driver profile is one of the primary factors used to determine how much you'll pay. Complicating matters even further, car insurance quotes can fluctuate depending on trends in the wider insurance market. Because of the many variables at play, the best way to find car insurance is to compare auto insurance rates from a number of companies.

While shopping around can lead to affordable car insurance for all drivers, this is especially important for those with a poor credit history or who lack a clean driving record. Rates for such drivers are already higher on average, even for the minimum coverage required by your state.

The best way to find car insurance is to compare auto insurance rates from a number of companies.


How to compare car insurance policies

Now that you understand what contributes to your car insurance premium, let’s talk about how to shop for car insurance. First off, you need to decide on what’s most important to you in a policy. Is affordability top of your list? Are you dead set on having a responsive and courteous customer service team? Do you prefer having the highest level of coverage to keep you and your assets protected?

Ideally, you will find a policy from a company that can provide all of the above. To do that, follow these steps for comparing car insurance policies.

 

1. Gather some personal information

Unless you want to spend a significant amount of time talking to an insurance agent, you'll need to make sure to have certain pieces of information ready when you begin your car insurance shopping process.

 

What you need to start a policy
  • Personal information of anyone on the policy, including date of birth, driver’s license number, and address (if different from your own)
  • Driving history of all drivers on the policy
  • Insurance history of all drivers on the policy
  • Vehicle information of all vehicles on the policy including VIN
  • Payment: If you’re getting a policy for the first time, the insurance company will likely require a down payment before the policy is bound (accepted)

2. Get quotes

This used to be the most tedious part of the insurance buying process. It required customers to contact an agent or multiple companies in order to get enough quotes to make a comparison. Nowadays, auto insurance comparison sites – like The Zebra – make this quick and easy. Input your information to get a number of quotes from top insurers. 

Compare the policies not only by price, but also by the level of coverage they provide. A cheap policy that doesn’t provide sufficient coverage isn’t often worth considering. Narrow in on a few carriers who offer affordable policies with the coverage options that meet your needs. For more on how to find out how much car insurance you need, consult our informative guide.

multiple policies stacked

Compare the policies not only by price, but also by the level of coverage they provide.

3. Compare car insurance company reputation

With quotes in hand, now is the time to dig into which individual carrier will provide the best overall policy and customer experience. To begin, consult customer ratings from trusted sources such as J.D. Power and The Zebra customer survey. You can also use the NAIC’s website to look up a company’s complaint trends. Reviews from third-party sites and the Better Business Bureau can also give you a good idea of what to expect as a customer of these companies.

Once you have an idea of overall customer satisfaction, revisit your short-list to decide on the carrier – and policy – that is best. The level of customer service you can expect could very well be what tips the scales in favor of one company over another.

Zebra Tip: Seek out other coverage types to be fully covered


While property damage and bodily injury liability coverage are required in most states, it always pays to look into the optional coverage offered by your auto insurance company. Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverages provide a great way to protect yourself against drivers without insurance coverage. Comprehensive and collision coverage are also great ways to cover your vehicle if it becomes damaged.

Is it bad to get multiple insurance quotes?

Insurers in most states use credit as a rating factor, but getting car insurance quotes has no impact on your credit score. When putting together your quotes, car insurance companies only run a soft pull on your credit, which does not have any effect on your credit. Therefore, getting quotes from many different insurance companies is highly encouraged in order to get the best rate.

While you might want to finish shopping for car insurance coverage as quickly as possible, it’s essential to do your due diligence and find the right company. At the end of the day, car insurance is designed to protect you and your assets. If you were to be injured or have your car totaled in an accident, your insurer’s customer service and claims satisfaction would be vital.


What are the best car insurance comparison sites?

In your search for auto insurance, you may choose to use an online insurance comparison site to avoid the tedious task of going through the quoting process of many different companies. Much like The Zebra's comparison tool, these sites request your personal information to generate your quotes and help you shop for your next policy. However, not every comparison site keeps your data secure — and in many cases, lead generation sites will sell your data to insurance companies, who will contact you relentlessly in pursuit of your business.

If you want to avoid spam emails, texts and phone calls, it's in your best interest to find out how your information is handled before submitting your contact info for online car insurance quotes. A site that generates real insurance quotes without selling your information is the best way to get affordable insurance without sacrificing your sanity. Unfortunately, most of the quote comparison sites online use a lead-gen model, so exercise caution before offering up any personal information.

It's in your best interest to find out how your information is handled before submitting your contact info for quotes.

Lead-generation sites

Some insurance quote sites make money by selling your information as leads. This can result in an increase in spam and unwanted contact from numerous sources. Below is a list of known lead generation sites:

  • ValuePenguin
  • InsuranceQuotes
  • NetQuote
  • EverQuote
laptop with quotes

Other insurance comparison sites

Other popular insurance comparison sites include Nerdwallet, Compare.comInsurify and Gabi. Be careful in your search, however, as some sites claim to have no-spam policies, but partner with lead generation sites for insurance quotes.

The Zebra has a pledge to not sell your information to spammers. In fact, we don't ask for your phone number when you get a quote, unlike many comparison sites, and offer personalized quotes from more than 100 insurance providers. The Zebra also operates an in-house insurance agency to guide consumers through the process of obtaining coverage from only the best car insurance companies.

The Zebra has a pledge to not sell your information to spammers.

Auto insurance buying guides

Looking for more information to guide your auto insurance comparison decision? Consult the resources below, written by unbiased insurance experts:


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Compare car insurance rates by age and insurance company

As drivers get older, their car insurance rates typically change as well. This has to do with how insurance companies assign risk to drivers of varying ages. For example, young drivers are considered a greater risk to insure than drivers in their 40s, 50s or 60s.

Let’s look at average car insurance rates by age — starting first with teenage drivers.

 

Teen drivers

If you have teenage dependents — or if you’re a teen driver yourself — you know insurance is expensive. In many cases, adding a teen to your car insurance plan can nearly double your premium. Insurance professionals often suggest increasing the amounts of your liability coverage limits or seeking out an umbrella policy to safeguard against any unforeseen issues1.

Of the most popular car insurance companies in the U.S., Travelers, American Family and USAA are the most affordable insurance companies for teen drivers.

TEEN DRIVER CAR INSURANCE RATE COMPARISON
Company Avg. Annual Premium
Travelers $3,904
USAA $3,922
American Family $3,975
GEICO $4,067
Nationwide $4,853
State Farm $5,173
Farmers $6,825
Allstate $7,226
Progressive $7,308
Updated: 08/16/22.

Dynamic auto insurance data methodology

Methodology: The auto insurance rates displayed above and throughout this page are dynamic, meaning the data will refresh when the most recent information is made available. Rates are based on a sample driver profile — a 30-year-old single male driver with a Honda Accord and full coverage. This profile was adjusted based on common pricing factors used by major car insurance companies, like age, coverage level, driving record and others.

The Zebra has written car insurance guides for drivers of many different ages aimed at helping you find the coverage you need. For more car insurance rate comparisons by age bracket, reference our in-depth guides:

Drivers aged 20-to-29

Travelers is the least expensive car insurance company for drivers in their 20s, with USAA being a bit more expensive.

CAR INSURANCE PREMIUMS BY COMPANY — DRIVERS IN THEIR 20S
Company Avg. Annual Premium
Travelers $1,689
USAA $1,767
GEICO $1,926
American Family $1,984
Nationwide $2,034
State Farm $2,211
Farmers $2,336
Progressive $2,521
Allstate $3,265
Updated: 08/16/22.

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Compare car insurance for seniors

Between the ages of 30 and 60, car insurance rates don’t fluctuate much based only on age. As you reach your late 50s and 60s, age becomes a more important determinant of your rate. For a typical senior-aged married couple without young drivers on their policy, USAA and Nationwide offer the lowest rates with all other metrics constant.

Average Auto Insurance Rates — Senior Drivers

 

Rates change as drivers age. If you're looking for more information about driving for senior citizens, see our helpful guides below.


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Car insurance comparison by driving history

Naturally, insurance companies use your driving past as an indicator of how you will drive in the future. It can be difficult to find affordable car insurance if you have a checkered driving history. While it’s very unlikely you will find an insurance company that won’t increase your premium after an at-fault accident or other violation, the degree of the rate increase will vary by company. Let’s compare rate increases for some common violations across major insurance companies.

At-fault accidents and car insurance rates

On average, an at-fault property damage accident will raise your premium by an average of $846 per year. Because most insurance providers will charge you for three years after an accident, this $846 increase equates to about $2,538 in total fees. If you’re thinking of filing a claim, consider the overall cost of the claim versus what the claim would cost to pay out-of-pocket. Compare this $2,538 penalty — plus your deductible (if applicable) — to the out-of-pocket expense. While this is nice information to know before filing a claim, it won’t help if you’ve already filed a claim.

wrecked car icon
12-MONTH CAR INSURANCE RATES AFTER AN ACCIDENT
Company Avg. Annual Premium
Travelers $1,909
USAA $1,927
State Farm $2,005
American Family $2,053
Nationwide $2,334
GEICO $2,344
Farmers $2,508
Progressive $2,936
Allstate $3,482
Updated: 08/16/22.

Insurance rate comparison after a DUI conviction

In many states, a DUI/DWI is the most costly violation you can receive. In fact, in California, a DUI offense can stay on your insurance record for as long as ten years, and even set you back an average of $1,000 per year in insurance rate increases during that ten-year period. To limit costs, do your due diligence and compare rates. We've found that American Family and Travelers are solid insurance options after a DUI — so consider starting your comparison process with one of these companies.

Average Auto Insurance Rates — After a DUI_DWI

 

Auto insurance rate comparison: with a reckless driving citation

Like a DUI, a reckless driving ticket can raise your car insurance rates. If you’ve received a reckless driving citation, your best bets for car insurance are USAA and Travelers. But keep in mind that your driving profile will be handled differently from carrier to carrier.

INSURANCE RATES AFTER A RECKLESS DRIVING VIOLATION
Company Avg. Annual Premium
USAA $1,958
Travelers $2,143
American Family $2,389
State Farm $2,584
Progressive $2,725
GEICO $2,727
Farmers $2,807
Nationwide $3,114
Allstate $3,413
Updated: 08/16/22.

Driving infractions can have a serious impact on your car insurance. The Zebra has put together the following handy guides on how your insurance is impacted by certain driving violations.

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Compare car insurance rates by credit score

Another major contributor to your car insurance rate is your credit score. While it's not directly related to your driving, car insurance companies believe your credit score says a lot about what kind of client you’ll be.

Comparing car insurance premiums with very poor credit

If you have very poor credit, the best car insurance option could be Nationwide. Compared to drivers at the highest credit level, drivers with bad credit pay over $1,600 more per year for auto insurance. If you pay off a loan or otherwise improve your credit score, you should shop around for car insurance as your premium should change. This insurance benefit is yet another reason to keep your credit score up.

credit car with arrows
12-MONTH AUTO INSURANCE RATES WITH BAD CREDIT
Company Avg. Annual Premium
Nationwide $1,984
GEICO $2,174
USAA $2,393
Travelers $2,395
American Family $2,483
Farmers $2,724
Allstate $3,434
Progressive $3,716
State Farm $4,126
Updated: 08/16/22.

Twelve-month car insurance rates for drivers with fair credit

USAA offers the most affordable insurance for drivers with "fair" credit scores. Even so, a fair credit score will result in elevated rates. While the average premium for fair credit drivers is over $2,000, that's more than $400 more than those with "very good" credit are paying, with all other metrics consistent.

12-MONTH AUTO INSURANCE RATES FOR A DRIVER WITH FAIR CREDIT
Company Avg. Annual Premium
USAA $1,580
Travelers $1,634
Nationwide $1,683
GEICO $1,707
American Family $1,806
Farmers $2,080
State Farm $2,127
Progressive $2,354
Allstate $2,743
Updated: 08/16/22.

The best car insurance for drivers with good credit

As a driver improves their credit score, they earn more competitive car insurance rates from companies. Although a driver with a credit score between 670 and 739 is still paying $250-plus more than a driver in the highest credit tier, it's possible to cut insurance costs by selecting Travelers or USAA as your car insurance provider.

12-MONTH AUTO INSURANCE RATES WITH GOOD CREDIT
Company Avg. Annual Premium
Travelers $1,342
USAA $1,365
Nationwide $1,476
GEICO $1,542
American Family $1,568
State Farm $1,569
Farmers $1,786
Progressive $1,887
Allstate $2,414
Updated: 08/16/22.

The top car insurance companies for a driver with very good credit

Between "very good" and "great" credit, there's an average of about $120 in annual premium difference. For our user profile, Travelers and USAA are the best options for drivers in this credit tier. On average, these companies charge just over $100 per month for auto insurance.

12-MONTH CAR INSURANCE RATES WITH VERY GOOD CREDIT
Company Avg. Annual Premium
Travelers $1,226
USAA $1,291
State Farm $1,369
Nationwide $1,411
GEICO $1,461
American Family $1,466
Farmers $1,657
Progressive $1,659
Allstate $2,302
Updated: 08/16/22.

Twelve-month insurance premium comparison for a driver with excellent credit

For drivers in the top credit tier, Travelers and USAA are again the most affordable car insurance companies. At $190 less per year than the group average, Travelers and USAA auto insurance typically cost a driver with exceptional credit about $100 per month.

CAR INSURANCE RATES WITH GREAT CREDIT
Company Avg. Annual Premium
Travelers $1,149
USAA $1,216
State Farm $1,224
Nationwide $1,331
American Family $1,348
GEICO $1,397
Progressive $1,461
Farmers $1,525
Allstate $2,160
Updated: 08/16/22.

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Compare car insurance costs by vehicle make and model

The type of vehicle you insure will impact your car insurance rate. Insuring a truck or luxury vehicle is more expensive than insuring a sedan with standard trim. This is because collision and comprehensive coverage are designed to replace your vehicle in the event of an accident. The more it costs to replace your vehicle, the more it costs to insure it.

Check out The Zebra's Vehicle Guide for average annual costs based on your vehicle's make, model and year.


Compare rates to find car insurance in your location

Your location can have a huge impact on your insurance premium. Like many industries in the U.S., car insurance is regulated at the state level and is dictated by each state’s regulations. If you live in an area prone to floods, hurricanes or wildfires, your rates could be more expensive: insurance companies compensate for these risks with higher premiums.

Dive into the data below to find check out your expected costs, or check out our full list of car insurance rates by city.

City Avg. Annual Premium
Albuquerque $1,891
Atlanta $2,322
Austin $1,966
Baltimore $2,971
Boston $1,827
Charlotte $1,318
Chicago $2,171
Cleveland $1,522
Colorado Springs $2,392
Columbus $1,350
Dallas $2,340
Denver $2,396
Detroit $4,726
El Paso $1,961
Fort Worth $2,016
Fresno $1,900
Houston $2,365
Indianapolis $1,398
Jacksonville $2,745
Kansas City $2,154
Las Vegas $2,856
Long Beach $2,149
Los Angeles $2,688
Louisville $2,775
Memphis $1,954
Mesa $1,920
Miami $3,938
Milwaukee $1,826
Minneapolis $1,949
Nashville $1,546
New Orleans $4,087
New York City $4,545
Oakland $2,240
Oklahoma City $2,068
Omaha $1,805
Philadelphia $3,315
Phoenix $2,210
Portland $1,858
Raleigh $1,159
Sacramento $2,100
San Antonio $2,071
San Diego $1,844
San Francisco $2,295
San Jose $1,923
Seattle $2,157
Tucson $1,832
Tulsa $2,095
Virginia Beach $1,606
Washington, D.C. $2,212
Wichita $1,835
Updated: 08/16/22.

If you live in an area with unusual state regulations or heightened risk of weather-related claims, shopping for car insurance options will be vital. Not every car insurance company offers policies in every state, which can make pricing less competitive. If you live in a storm-prone state such as Louisiana or Florida, you might find it harder to get a competitive rate.

Average twelve-month premiums for every state in the U.S.
State Avg. Annual Premium
Alabama $1,770
Alaska $1,851
Arizona $1,750
Arkansas $2,118
California $1,932
Colorado $2,176
Connecticut $1,963
Delaware $2,117
Florida $2,923
Georgia $1,982
Hawaii $1,409
Idaho $1,197
Illinois $1,514
Indiana $1,266
Iowa $1,358
Kansas $1,791
Kentucky $2,567
Louisiana $2,702
Maine $1,239
Maryland $2,017
Massachusetts $1,418
Michigan $2,176
Minnesota $1,707
Mississippi $1,813
Missouri $1,917
Montana $1,798
Nebraska $1,816
Nevada $2,229
New Hampshire $1,281
New Jersey $2,043
New Mexico $1,628
New York $2,171
North Carolina $1,148
North Dakota $1,555
Ohio $1,179
Oklahoma $1,899
Oregon $1,509
Pennsylvania $1,777
Rhode Island $2,329
South Carolina $2,025
South Dakota $1,606
Tennessee $1,518
Texas $1,986
Utah $1,617
Vermont $1,184
Virginia $1,515
Washington $1,819
Washington, D.C. $2,212
West Virginia $1,709
Wisconsin $1,382
Wyoming $1,589
Updated: 08/16/22. Annual auto insurance premiums for full coverage in every state in the United States

While factors decide whether a driver qualifies for affordable car insurance, we tried to touch on some of the major factors. If you’re interested in learning more about other rating factors, such as your homeownership status, education level, and more, consult our other research pieces:

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Car insurance comparison FAQs

What's the best way to compare car insurance quotes online? Chevron down icon

The best way to compare auto insurance quotes online is to use an insurance comparison site such as The Zebra. The site makes insurance less complicated, allowing consumers to find the rates and information they need to make an informed decision on their insurance.

How can you find car insurance quotes from multiple companies at once? Chevron down icon

It's easy to compare auto insurance quotes from multiple companies simultaneously by using an insurance comparison site like The Zebra. The Zebra is an independent insurance quote comparison site that strives to act as a trusted partner for everyday insurance consumers.

Does The Zebra work well for comparing car insurance rates? Chevron down icon

The Zebra provides the internet's most accurate insurance rates, gathering personalized quotes from more than 100 top insurance companies.

What factors go into car insurance rates? Chevron down icon

Auto insurance rates depend on an array of factors, including a driver's age, credit score, vehicle type and location (among others). An easy way to compare car insurance is to use The Zebra to gather personalized pricing from more than 100 leading insurance companies.

What information do you need to compare auto insurance rates? Chevron down icon

To start comparing quotes, you'll need your personal information, like date of birth, driver's license number and address. You should also know the driving history and insurance history of all drivers on the policy, and vehicle information (including the VIN) for the car(s) that will be listed.

How does The Zebra make money? Is it legitimate? Chevron down icon

The Zebra earns money by helping you find insurance, whether you purchase a policy online or consult one of our insurance agents by phone. The Zebra's partnerships with insurance companies do not influence the editorial content that appears on the site.




RECENT QUESTIONS

Who do I get auto insurance from before a storm?

Unfortunately once a huge storm, like a hurricane, is imminent, most (if not all) insurers offering coverage in the storm's path will stop writing new policies to decrease their risk exposure. My recommendation would be to check with every possible company offering insurance in Florida to see if any will issue a policy.
Sep 16, 2017 Delray Beach, FL

If a car has full coverage under someone else's name, can I open another policy on that car under my name?

The simplest solution would be to request that the owner add you to the existing policy. Insuring the vehicle on two separate polices violates the insurance contract of the owner's policy.
May 18, 2017 West Covina, CA

What happens if I stop paying for my SR22?

If you stop paying for the SR-22, the insurance is required to notify the state that the policy is canceled. Typically, the state will suspend your license and you may have additional fines as well.
Jan 31, 2019 Miami, FL

Can I use a general delivery address for car insurance?

Your insurance policy needs to have to address where the vehicle is kept at more than 50% of the time. This is called the garaging address.
Feb 23, 2019 Boone, NC

Ross Martin photo
Ross MartinManager, Content Quality

Ross joined The Zebra as a writer and researcher in 2019. As a licensed insurance agent, he specializes in writing insurance content to help shoppers make informed decisions.

Ross holds a master's degree from Royal Holloway, University of London and has a background in copywriting and education. As a former teacher, he applies his educational skills to explain insurance concepts in ways that consumers can understand.

Ross's work has been cited by The New York Times, AxiosInvestopedia, The Simple DollarThe BalanceCar and Driver and Fox Business. He has been quoted by CNET, I Drive Safely and Kin Insurance

About The Zebra

The Zebra is not an insurance company. We publish data-backed, expert-reviewed resources to help consumers make more informed insurance decisions.

  • The Zebra’s insurance content is written and reviewed for accuracy by licensed insurance agents.

  • The Zebra’s insurance content is not subject to review or alteration by insurance companies or partners.

  • The Zebra’s editorial team operates independently of the company’s partnerships and commercialization interests, publishing unbiased information for consumer benefit.

  • The auto insurance rates published on The Zebra’s pages are based on a comprehensive analysis of car insurance pricing data, evaluating more than 83 million insurance rates from across the United States.