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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 auto insurance policy differently. You could end up paying more by choosing the wrong company or failing to compare car insurance quotes from a diverse collection of companies.
This in-depth guide — written by one of The Zebra's licensed insurance experts — outlines the factors that go into car insurance premiums, along with some tips to help you find the best insurance rates.
Your auto insurance rate depends on your track record as a driver, as well as your age, your credit, your vehicle, and your location. 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.
Our analysis of major rating factors shows how premiums shift from company to company.
To compare car insurance quotes for free online today, enter your ZIP code below.
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 US, State Farm, GEICO, and USAA are the cheapest coverage options for teen drivers.
|Insurance company||6-month premium|
For more info on car insurance rate comparisons by age, reference these resources:
The age of 25 is a 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 default user profile and gathered rates from eight popular auto insurance companies.
|Insurance provider||6-month premium|
USAA is the cheapest car insurance company for 25-year-old drivers, with GEICO being a bit more expensive. Although Liberty Mutual and State Farm are the more expensive options for older drivers, they could end up being affordable insurers 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:
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 children drivers, GEICO and USAA offer the cheapest rates, all other metrics constant.
|Insurance Provider||6-month Premium|
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 will raise your premium by an average of $767 per year. Because most insurance providers will charge you for three years after an accident, this $767 increase equates to more than $2,301 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 $2,301 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.
|Insurance provider||No accident||After at-fault accident|
In many states, a DUI 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 10 years. Based on our analysis of the most popular car insurance companies, this could set you back an average of $1,200 per year in insurance rate increases during that 10-year period. To limit costs, do your due diligence and compare rates. State Farm and USAA are the cheapest insurance options after a DUI — consider starting your comparison process with those providers.
|Insurance provider||No violation||After DUI/DWI|
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 cheap 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.
|Company||None||Premium w/ reckless driving|
For more information on insurance after a driving violation, check out our more in-depth articles:
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.
Compare how car insurance companies factor credit score into their rates:
If you have very poor credit, the cheapest car insurance company is Nationwide. With this insurer, your premium could be $350 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!
|Company||Credit score: Very Poor (300-579)|
With rates $240 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 $891, that's $257 more than those with "great" credit are paying, with all other metrics consistent.
|Company||Credit score: Fair (580-669)|
As a driver gets into the higher credit tiers, car insurance rates get a little more competitive between companies. Although a driver with a credit score between 670-739 is still paying $100-plus more than a driver in the absolute highest credit tier, it's possible to cut insurance costs by selecting USAA as your car insurance provider.
|Company||Credit score: Good (670-739)|
Between "very good" and "great" credit, there's an average of $116 in annual premium difference. For our user profile, USAA and GEICO are the cheapest for this credit level. On average, these companies charge between $85 and $158 per month for auto insurance.
|Company||Credit score: Very Good (740-799)|
For drivers in the top credit tier, USAA remains the cheapest car insurance company. At $159 less per year than the group average, USAA auto insurance typically costs a driver with exceptional credit $950 per year — about $79 per month.
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 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.
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.
|State||Average 6-month premium|
While many inputs comprise car insurance costs, we tried to touch on some of the major factors. If you’re interested in all the other rating factors, such as your homeowner status, education level, and more, consult our other resources:
What's the best way to compare car insurance quotes online?
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?
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?
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?
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 rates 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?
To make the process of getting car insurance quotes as quick and painless as possible, be sure to have the following information on hand:
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
|Company||Average annual premium|
|NJM Insurance Co.||$1,252|
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 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 the J.D. 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.
The auto insurance rates displayed in our articles are based on the 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 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.