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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, vehicle, location, credit history, driving record, and claims history.
  • To find the best rates, compare many quotes at once using a trusted insurance comparison site, like The Zebra.
  • 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 $1,483 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. 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, it’s likely the insurance company will require a down payment before the policy is bound (accepted).

While you might want to finish shopping for car insurance coverage as quickly as possible, it’s important 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. Look at a company's reviews where possible to get a good idea of what you can expect as a customer.

Car insurance policy icon

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?

While insurers in most states use credit as a rating factor, 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.


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 every individual company's quoting process. 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.com, Insurify and Gabi. Some sites — like Insurify — 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 auto insurance.

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

Average Auto Insurance Rates — Teen Drivers.png
TEEN DRIVER CAR INSURANCE RATE COMPARISON
Insurance Company 12-Month Insurance Premium
Allstate $5,890
American Family $3,200
Farmers $4,930
GEICO $3,106
Liberty Mutual $6,664
Nationwide $3,442
Progressive $5,094
State Farm $3,376
Travelers $3,670
USAA $3,332

Auto insurance data methodology

The auto insurance rates published in this guide are based on the results of The Zebra's State of Insurance car insurance pricing analysis. This analysis of more than 83 million insurance rates spans every U.S. ZIP code, using a sample user profile: a 30-year-old single male driver with a Honda Accord, good credit and full coverage at these levels:

  • $50,000 per person/$100,000 per incident for bodily injury liability
  • $50,000 per incident for property damage liability
  • $500 deductibles for collision and comprehensive coverage

To generate pricing for particular rating factors, we adjusted the driving profile based on common pricing factors used by major car insurance companies. These factors include credit score, coverage level, driving record and others.

In some instances, average rates from Liberty Mutual were derived from internally sourced sales data.

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

Nationwide is the least expensive car insurance company for 25-year-old drivers, with GEICO being a bit more expensive. Although State Farm and American Family are the more expensive options for older drivers, they could end up being affordable insurers for drivers with violations on their records.

 

Average Auto Insurance Rates — 25-Year-Old Drivers.png

 

CAR INSURANCE PREMIUMS BY COMPANY — 25-YEAR-OLD DRIVER
Insurance Company 12-Month Insurance Rate
Allstate $2,242
American Family $1,446
Farmers $1,718
GEICO $1,272
Liberty Mutual $1,776
Nationwide $1,224
Progressive $1,370
State Farm $1,468
Travelers $1,392
USAA $1,408

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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, GEICO and Nationwide offer the lowest rates with all other metrics constant.

 

Average Auto Insurance Rates — Senior Drivers.png

 

CAR INSURANCE PREMIUMS — SENIOR DRIVERS
Insurance company 12-Month Car Insurance Rate
Allstate $1,900
American Family $1,172
Farmers $1,364
GEICO $1,054
Liberty Mutual $1,330
Nationwide $920
Progressive $1,118
State Farm $1,146
Travelers $1,116
USAA $1,070

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 $658 per year. Because most insurance providers will charge you for three years after an accident, this $658 increase equates to more than $1,974 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 $1,974 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.

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Average Auto Insurance Rates — After At-Fault Accident.png

 

12-MONTH CAR INSURANCE RATES AFTER AN ACCIDENT
Insurance Company Rate Without Collision Rate After Collision
Allstate $2,026 $3,412
American Family $1,416 $1,768
Farmers $1,594 $2,276
GEICO $1,230 $1,964
Liberty Mutual $1,646 $2,358
Nationwide $1,278 $1,904
Progressive $1,288 $2,176
State Farm $1,352 $1,620
Travelers $1,368 $1,846
USAA $1,134 $1,534

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 Progressive and State Farm 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.png

 

AVERAGE AUTO INSURANCE RATES AFTER A DUI
Insurance Provider 12-Month Rate Without Violation 12-Month Rate After DUI/DWI
Allstate $2,026 $4,002
American Family $1,416 $1,646
Farmers $1,594 $2,488
GEICO $1,230 $2,754
Liberty Mutual $1,646 $2,634
Nationwide $1,278 $2,958
Progressive $1,288 $1,838
State Farm $1,352 $1,880
Travelers $1,368 $2,006
USAA $1,134 $2,212

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 State Farm, despite the latter being one of the more pricey insurance companies if you don’t have a violation. This shows the importance of comparing car insurance rates: your driving profile will be handled differently by every carrier.

Average Auto Insurance Rates — After Reckless Driving.png

 

INSURANCE RATES AFTER A RECKLESS DRIVING VIOLATION
Insurance Company 12-Month Rate Without Violation 12-Month Premium After Reckless Driving
Allstate $2,026 $3,898
American Family $1,416 $1,976
Farmers $1,594 $2,618
GEICO $1,230 $2,450
Liberty Mutual $1,646 $2,550
Nationwide $1,278 $2,714
Progressive $1,288 $2,030
State Farm $1,352 $1,812
Travelers $1,368 $1,910
USAA $1,134 $1,682

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 Liberty Mutual, offering premiums $474 less than the average among major companies. Compared to drivers at the highest credit level, drivers with bad credit pay over $1,500 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
Average Auto Insurance Rates — Bad Credit(1).png
12-MONTH AUTO INSURANCE RATES WITH BAD CREDIT
Company Credit Score: Very Poor (300-579)
Allstate $3,154
American Family $2,508
Farmers $2,358
GEICO $1,806
Liberty Mutual $1,428
Nationwide $1,570
Progressive $2,362
State Farm $2,962
Travelers $2,852
USAA $2,764

Twelve-month car insurance rates for drivers with fair credit

With rates $283 less than the group average, Liberty Mutual again 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 $1,128, that's almost $350 more than those with "very good" credit are paying, with all other metrics consistent.

Average Auto Insurance Rates — Fair Credit(1).png
12-MONTH AUTO INSURANCE RATES FOR A DRIVER WITH FAIR CREDIT
Company Credit Score: Fair (580-669)
Allstate $2,682
American Family $2,072
Farmers $2,012
GEICO $1,504
Liberty Mutual $1,408
Nationwide $1,422
Progressive $1,888
State Farm $2,264
Travelers $2,390
USAA $2,102

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 $200-plus more than a driver in the highest credit tier, it's possible to cut insurance costs by selecting Liberty Mutual or Nationwide as your car insurance provider.

Average Auto Insurance Rates — Good Credit(1).png
12-MONTH AUTO INSURANCE RATES WITH GOOD CREDIT
Company Credit Score: Good (670-739)
Allstate $2,366
American Family $1,726
Farmers $1,784
GEICO $1,310
Liberty Mutual $1,304
Nationwide $1,304
Progressive $1,590
State Farm $1,756
Travelers $1,898
USAA $1,672

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

Between "very good" and "great" credit, there's an average of $275 in annual premium difference. For our user profile, Nationwide and Liberty Mutual are the best options for drivers in this credit tier. On average, these companies charge about $96 per month for auto insurance.

Average Auto Rates — Very Good Cred.png
12-MONTH CAR INSURANCE RATES WITH VERY GOOD CREDIT
Company Credit Score: Very Good (740-799)
Allstate $2,110
American Family $1,466
Farmers $1,602
GEICO $1,170
Liberty Mutual $1,150
Nationwide $1,160
Progressive $1,318
State Farm $1,374
Travelers $1,484
USAA $1,346

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

For drivers in the top credit tier, GEICO and Nationwide are the most affordable car insurance companies. At $190 less per year than the group average, GEICO and Nationwide auto insurance typically cost a driver with exceptional credit $1,000 per year — about $83 per month.

Average Auto Insurance Rates — Great Credit(1).png
CAR INSURANCE RATES WITH GREAT CREDIT
Company Credit Score: Excellent (800-850)
Allstate $1,854
American Family $1,220
Farmers $1,412
GEICO $1,004
Liberty Mutual $1,048
Nationwide $1,000
Progressive $1,052
State Farm $1,088
Travelers $1,132
USAA $1,132

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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's 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 Average 12-Month Insurance Rate
New York $3,110
Los Angeles $2,520
Chicago $1,680
Houston $1,752
Philadelphia $2,362
Phoenix $1,746
San Antonio $1,578
San Diego $1,730
Dallas $1,750
San Jose $1,792
Austin $1,504
Jacksonville $2,256
San Francisco $2,160
Indianapolis $1,286
Columbus $1,028
Fort Worth $1,510
Charlotte $1,178
Detroit $5,072
El Paso $1,548
Seattle $1,458
Denver $1,900
Washington $1,426
Memphis $1,602
Boston $1,530
Nashville $1,320
Baltimore $2,094
Oklahoma City $1,748
Portland $1,634
Las Vegas $2,292
Louisville $2,156
Milwaukee $1,450
Albuquerque $1,492
Tucson $1,466
Fresno $1,740
Sacramento $1,998
Long Beach $2,012
Kansas City $1,938
Mesa $1,524
Atlanta $1,860
Virginia Beach $1,058
Omaha $1,626
Colorado Springs $1,856
Raleigh $1,006
Miami $2,958
Oakland $2,138
Minneapolis $1,756
Tulsa $1,740
Cleveland $1,076
Wichita $1,674
New Orleans $3,564

 

If you live in an area with unusual state regulations or a 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 Average 12-Month Premium
Alaska $1,396
Alabama $1,296
Arkansas $1,702
Arizona $1,416
California $1,822
Colorado $1,698
Connecticut $1,542
Washington DC $1,426
Delaware $1,616
Florida $2,324
Georgia $1,538
Hawaii $1,080
Iowa $1,150
Idaho $1,256
Illinois $1,284
Indiana $1,188
Kansas $1,600
Kentucky $1,850
Louisiana $2,304
Massachusetts $1,302
Maryland $1,436
Maine $1,100
Michigan $2,534
Minnesota $1,398
Missouri $1,688
Mississippi $1,502
Montana $1,550
North Carolina $1,010
North Dakota $1,322
Nebraska $1,520
New Hampshire $960
New Jersey $1,502
New Mexico $1,274
Nevada $1,744
New York $1,692
Ohio $926
Oklahoma $1,546
Oregon $1,332
Pennsylvania $1,338
Rhode Island $1,874
South Carolina $1,466
South Dakota $1,440
Tennessee $1,258
Texas $1,498
Utah $1,314
Virginia $1,026
Vermont $1,056
Washington $1,208
Wisconsin $1,080
West Virginia $1,430
Wyoming $1,460

 

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

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.

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

I live with mom and we have an umbrella policy and a car insurance policy. I want to switch companies but mom says I can't.

When it comes to having an umbrella policy, anyone is able to purchase one. However, there are certain qualifications you are going to need in order to purchase one.
Jul 13, 2021 Danville, CA

Can I get car insurance without a home address?

Unfortunately it seems like you are in a tough spot until you have moved into your new place. Lots of information is used by insurance companies to determine the rate that they will charge to insure a driver and a major factor in rating that price is your home address.
May 29, 2016 Portland, OR

My husband and I want to co-own or lease a vehicle with a friend, and we both have teen drivers. How would insurance work?

This is a unique situation, but one that you can still work around. If you finance or lease the vehicle, you will need to use the same address for the vehicle and the insurance policy.
Dec 28, 2020 San Francisco, CA

I signed up for a new insurance policy, but why doesn't the quote doesn't match the policy I signed up for?

The first thing you'll want to do is to check your policy's declaration page to see the exact coverage that you currently have. This may be a physical document or, if your insurer has an app, could be electronic. If you find that your coverage is insufficient, you should start shopping for a new policy or look to add coverage from your current insurer.
May 27, 2020 Vancouver, WA

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Ross MartinManager, Content Quality

As a licensed insurance agent, Ross researches and writes insurance content intended to help users make informed decisions.

Ross's background is in writing and education. He holds a master's degree from Royal Holloway, University of London.

Ross's work has been cited by The New York Times, Investopedia, 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.