Learn more about the factors that dictate your car insurance rates, compare top insurers, and save.
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.
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.
If you have teens or you’re a teen driver, you know it’s expensive. In many cases, adding a teen to your policy will nearly double your premium. Comparing five major car insurance companies across the US, Geico and Progressive are the cheapest companies for a teen driver.
Adding a teen driver to your car insurance policy
If you’re looking for more information on car insurance coverage for teens, see additional articles:
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 compared rates across the same car insurance companies as we did for our teens study.
Comparing 6-month car insurance premiums for 25-year-olds
Progressive 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 with this user profile, they could be the cheapest if you have violations on your driving record (read on for more information).
If you’re looking for more information on how to get car insurance, see our additional articles:
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.
6-month premiums for seniors
Looking for more information? See our additional articles.
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.
On average, an at-fault property damage accident with a claims payout exceeding $2,000 will raise your premium by an average of $726 per year. Over three years, that adds up to $2,178! 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 $2,178 penalty — plus your deductible — 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 Nationwide or Farmers.
Annual premium with an at-fault accident
|Company||No Accident||After At-Fault Accident|
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 $12,491 in insurance rate increases during that 10-year period. To limit your costs, do your due diligence and shop around: State Farm and Liberty Mutual are the cheapest insurance options after a DUI — so consider starting there.
Annual auto insurance comparison after DUI conviction
|Company||None||Premium after DUI|
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 Nationwide and Liberty Mutual, despite the latter being one of the more expensive insurance options 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 company.
Annual Premium with Reckless Driving Charge
|Company||None||Premium at Reckless Driving|
For more information on driving with a not-so-great profile, check out our more in-depth articles here
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:
|Company||Credit Score: (300-579)|
If you have very poor credit, the cheapest car insurance company is Farmers, where your premium will be more than $600 lower than the group average. Still, if you compare to the highest credit level you can see you can see how impactful your premium is if your credit is poor. Compared to the "great" credit tier, there's a difference of nearly $1,400 per year. Just another reason to keep your score up!
|Company||Credit Score: (580-669)|
Over $400 less than the group average, Farmers has the cheapest rate if you have a "fair" credit score. Still, you're going to be paying quite a bit more based solely on your credit. While the average premium for fair credit drivers is $2,189, that's still $900 more than those with "great" credit are paying - all other metrics constant.
|Company||Credit Score: (670-739)|
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 $531 more per year than the highest credit tier, you can cut this difference down to $277 if you select Farmers as your insurance company.
|Company||Credit Score: Very Good (740-799)|
Between "very good" and "great" credit, there's an average of $236 in annual premium difference. For our user profile, Farmers and Nationwide are the cheapest for this credit level. With these companies, this premium difference drops to between $68-$114.
|Company||Credit Score: Great (800-850)|
At the highest credit trier, Nationwide is the cheapest car insurance company. At $152 less per year than the group average, Nationwide will set you back $1,130 per year for insurance and about $565 for a standard 6-month policy.
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.
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 and find check out your expected costs with our list of car insurance rates by city.
Cheapest average car insurance by region (annual)
|Region||Cheapest Company||Average Annual Premium|
|Great Lakes||Cincinnati Financial||$1,037|
|New England||MMG Insurance Company||$927|
|Rocky Mts||Farm Bureau||$1,018|
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.
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:
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.
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
|Farm Bureau Insurance – Tennessee||$1,315|
|Texas Farm Bureau||$1,810|
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 Liberty Mutual wasn’t the cheapest for a driver with a clean record, it was the cheapest for a driver following a DUI. 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.
Between September and December 2017, The Zebra conducted comprehensive auto insurance pricing analysis using its proprietary quote engine, comprising data from insurance rating platforms and public rate filings. The Zebra examined nearly 53 million rates to explore trends for specific auto insurance rating factors across all United States zip codes, averaged by state, including Washington, DC.
Analysis used a consistent base profile for the insured driver: a 30-year-old single male driving a 2013 Honda Accord EX with a good driving history and coverage limits of $50,000 bodily injury liability per person/$100,000 bodily injury liability per accident/$50,000 property damage liability per accident with a $500 deductible for comprehensive and collision. For coverage level data, optional coverage (that must be rejected in writing) is included where applicable, including uninsured motorist coverage and personal injury protection.
National property and casualty losses information is from the Insurance Information Institute and the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information U.S. Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters report.
For vehicle make and model data, analysis referenced the most popular vehicles in the U.S. by 2016 year-end sales, according to Goodcarbadcar.net’s automakers’ data.
Some rate data may vary slightly throughout report based on rounding.
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