How to find affordable auto insurance rates

If you’ve ever compared car insurance rates, you know how many options are available. Depending on a variety of individual rating factors, certain companies will price your insurance differently. You could end up paying more by choosing the wrong company or failing to compare enough companies. We've outlined the factors that go into your car insurance premiums, as well as some tips for how to find the best possible rates. Let’s get started.

Comparing car insurance rates: basics and info
  1. What goes into auto insurance prices
  2. How to shop for a car insurance policy
  3. Methodology


What goes into car insurance rates?

Your auto insurance rate depends on who you are as a driver, as well as your age, your credit, your vehicle, and your location. How insurance companies weigh these attributes is reflected in your premium. For example, having a limited driving history or a poor credit score can raise your rates dramatically. Our analysis of major rating factors shows how premiums shift from company to company.

  1. Your age
  2. Your driving history
  3. Your credit level
  4. Your vehicle
  5. Your location

Why is car insurance mandatory?

There are many reasons to insure your vehicle. The most basic reason is that it is required by law. Even if you own your vehicle, the law mandates that you carry at least liability insurance. If you’re leasing or financing your car, you may need to carry additional auto insurance — namely, comprehensive, collision, and sometimes gap insurance. 

Car insurance is designed to financially protect drivers and their vehicles after damaging incidents. A car insurance company's financial resources will compensate you for damages sustained by your vehicle — or others' person or vehicles — if they are affected by a collision. 


What is a car insurance premium?

An auto insurance premium is the rate you pay an insurance company for the protection it provides. Car insurance premiums can be paid on a monthly basis or paid in full at the initiation of the policy (up-front payment may land you a discount). How much your car insurance premiums cost comes down to a wide variety of factors, each of which is covered in detail on this page. If you want to compare car insurance quotes immediately, enter your ZIP code below.  


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Comparing car insurance rates by age and insurance provider

Car insurance rates for teenage drivers

If you have teens or you’re a teen driver, you know it’s expensive. In many cases, adding a teen to your car insurance plan will nearly double your premium. Comparing the top car insurance companies across the US, State FarmNationwide, and USAA, are the cheapest companies for a teen driver.

average car insurance rates for teen drivers chart 2019

Teen driver car insurance rate comparison
Insurance Company6-month Premium
Liberty Mutual$873
State Farm$784

If you want more info on car insurance for teens, reference our additional articles:

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Car insurance comparison: young adult drivers

The age of 25 is a big turning point for car insurance savings. But no matter how much you save, you’re probably still paying more than you’d like. In order to find the cheapest car insurance for 25-year-olds, we created a user profile and generated rates from eight popular auto insurance companies.

average auto insurance rates for 25 year olds chart 2019

Comparing 6-month car insurance premiums for 25-year-olds
Insurance Provider6-month Premium
Liberty Mutual$873
State Farm$784

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USAA is the cheapest car insurance company for 25-year-old drivers, with GEICO a bit more expensive. Although Liberty Mutual and State Farm are the most expensive options for older drivers, they could end up being affordable options for drivers with violations on their records (read on for more info).

If you’re looking for more information on how to get car insurance as a young driver, see our additional articles:

Car insurance for seniors

Between the ages of 30 and 60, car insurance rates don’t fluctuate much based only on age. As you get into your late 50s and 60s, your age becomes a more important determinant of your rate. For a profile of a married couple without children drivers, Geico and Progressive offer the cheapest rates, all other metrics constant.

average car insurance rates for senior drivers chart 2019

6-month car insurance premiums for seniors
Insurance Provider6-month Premium
Liberty Mutual$661
State Farm$589

Looking for more information? See our additional articles.

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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 $612 per year. Because most insurance providers will charge you for three years after an accident, this $612 increase equates to more than $1,800 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 $1,837 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. If you have an at-fault accident on your insurance history, consider USAA or State Farm.


average car insurance rates after accident chart 2019

6-month car insurance premiums after an at-fault collision
Insurance ProviderNo AccidentAfter At-Fault Accident
Liberty Mutual$769$1,181
State Farm$665$802


DUI conviction

In most states, a DUI is the most costly violation you can receive. Moreover, in states like California, it will stay on your insurance record for 10 years! Based on our analysis of the most popular car insurance companies, this would set you back an average of $1,200 in insurance rate increases during that 10-year period. To limit costs, do your due diligence and shop around: Progressive and USAA are the cheapest insurance options after a DUI — consider starting with those providers.

average car insurance rates after dui chart 2019

6-month auto insurance comparison after DUI conviction
Insurance ProviderNone6-month premium
Liberty Mutual$769$1,316
State Farm$665$1,110

Reckless Driving

Like a DUI, a reckless driving citation can raise your car insurance rates. If you’ve received a reckless driving citation, your best bets for cheap car insurance are USAA and State Farm, despite the latter being one of the more expensive insurance companies if you don’t have a violation. This shows the importance of comparing car insurance rates carefully — your driving profile will be handled differently by every carrier.

average auto insurance premium after reckless driving chart 2019

6-month insurance rates after a reckless driving conviction
CompanyNonePremium w/ Reckless Driving
Liberty Mutual$769$1,285
State Farm$665$1,019

For more information on driving with a not-so-great profile, check out our more in-depth articles here

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Compare car insurance by credit score

Another major contributor to your car insurance rate is your credit score. While not directly related to your driving, car insurance companies believe your credit score says a lot about what kind of client you’ll be. Compare how car insurance companies factor credit score into their rates:


6-month car insurance premiums (very poor credit):

If you have very poor credit, the cheapest car insurance company is Nationwide. Here, your premium will be more than $435 less than the group average. Compared to the highest credit level, drivers with bad credit pay nearly $1,450 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. Just another reason to keep your score up!

average car insurance rates with bad credit chart 2019

6-month premium comparison with bad credit
CompanyCredit Score: (300-579)
Liberty Mutual$1,823
State Farm$1,512




6-month car insurance cost for fair credit

With rates $400 less than the group average, USAA offers the cheapest 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 $854, that's $229 more than those with "great" credit are paying, with all other metrics constant.

average car insurance rates with fair credit chart 2019

6-month premiums with fair credit
CompanyCredit Score: (580-669)
Liberty Mutual$1,042
State Farm$831



6-month car insurance rates with good credit

As we get into the higher levels of credit score, the car insurance rates get a little more competitive. Although those with a credit score between 670-739 are still paying over $200 more than the highest credit tier, you can lower your bill by selecting USAA for your car insurance provider.

average car insurance rates with good credit chart 2019

6-month insurance premiums with good credit
CompanyCredit Score: Good (670-739)
State Farm$664



Six-month premium with very good credit

Between "very good" and "great" credit, there's an average of $93 in annual premium difference. For our user profile, USAA and State Farm are the cheapest for this credit level. On average, these companies will cost $76-99 per month for auto insurance.

average car insurance rates with very good credit chart 2019

6-month car insurance rates with very good credit
CompanyCredit Score: Very Good (740-799)
State Farm$596



6-month premium with excellent credit

At the highest credit trier, USAA is still the cheapest car insurance company. At $198 less per year than the group average, USAA will cost you $427 per year for insurance - about $71 per month for auto insurance.

average car insurance rates with great credit chart 2019

6-month auto insurance premiums with great credit
Company6-Month Premium
Liberty Mutual$698
State Farm$536


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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 large 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. Simple as that.

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Compare car insurance rates by location

Your location can have a huge impact on your insurance premium. Like many industries in the US, 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 rate will be elevated, as insurance companies compensate for these risks. Dive into the data below to find check out your expected costs with our list of car insurance rates by city.


City6-Month Premium
New York$1,407
Los Angeles$1,255
San Antonio$951
San Diego$869
San Jose$884
San Francisco$1,051
Fort Worth$923
El Paso$912
Oklahoma City$890
Las Vegas$1,305
Long Beach$991
Kansas City$791
Virginia Beach$482
Colorado Springs$896
New Orleans$1,843

If you live in an area with unusual state regulations or heightened risk of weather-related claims, shopping 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 storm-prone states like Louisiana or Florida, you might find it harder to get a competitive rate.

Below are the average six-month premiums for every state in the US.

While many factors comprise your car insurance costs, we tried to touch on some of the bigger ones. If you’re interested in all the other rating factors, such as your homeowner status or education level, see our additional articles:

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How to compare car insurance rates

Now that you understand what contributes to car insurance rates, 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, make sure you have the following information ready when you begin your car insurance shopping process.

  • 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 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 and benefit you. 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.

We’ve listed America's best auto insurance companies, according to J.D. Power Customer Satisfaction Surveys, with corresponding average annual premiums.

Highest-ranked car insurance companies in the US

CompanyCheapest Company
Farm Bureau Insurance – Tennessee$658
Texas Farm Bureau$905
The Hartford$651

There isn’t a definitive answer to the question, “which company is the cheapest?” Some companies are cheaper than others, plain and simple, but individual details of your driving profile can affect which companies offer you the cheapest rates. For example, while Nationwide wasn’t the cheapest for a driver with a clean record, it was the relatively cheap for a driver following an at-fault accident. The best way to find cheap car insurance is to compare as many companies as possible using your driving profile.

While JD Power-recommended companies above aren’t among the cheapest of the insurance companies we’ve examined, they might suit your needs. It’s important to think beyond price to find a comfortable middle ground between claims satisfaction and affordability. Use The Zebra’s side-by-side insurance comparisons to avoid some of the legwork involved in insurance shopping.

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Rate calculations and methodology

The auto insurance rates displayed in our articles are based on the 2019 results of The Zebra’s comprehensive car insurance pricing analysis. In our analysis of all US zip codes — including Washington D.C. — the sample user profile consisted of a 30-year-old single male driving a 2013 Honda Accord. To generate pricing specific to particular rating factors, we adjusted the driving profile based on pricing factors commonly used by car insurance companies.

For more auto insurance information, please reference The Zebra's comprehensive State of Insurance study.

This article was written by one of The Zebra’s licensed insurance experts. Each article is thoroughly researched to ensure we provide accurate, unbiased, and useful information.

Recent Questions:

Auto Insurance

Should I get full coverage from a less well-known insurer?

Whether or not the company is a "mainstream" provider doesn't mean that you would have a bad claims experience. There are several companies out there that have been around for several years and just don't advertise like other companies.

If I cancel my insurance mid-month, will I get my money back?

Most companies, including Progressive, usually bill you ahead of time. Meaning, if you pay your bill on the 1st for the 1st-31st and cancel on the 10th, you would get the remaining days of the months of premium back.

How can I get auto insurance as a foreign driver?

You can use our insurance calculator here in order to find insurance. Your status as a foreign driver does not impact this as long as you have your license.

How do I get insurance after buying from private seller in CA?

In order to legally drive and register the vehicle, you will need to get insurance - so, yes, you will need to get insurance "on the spot" if you chose to buy it. You can compare prices with us here or call us at 888-444-8949 to get a quote today.