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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Other insurance comparison sites
Other popular insurance comparison sites include Nerdwallet, Compare.com, Insurify 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.
Compare car insurance quotes from the top insurers in the country!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Find car insurance today by comparing rates online.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Compare car insurance rates online today.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Compare auto insurance rates today.
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.
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|
|New York City||$4,545|
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||Avg. Annual Premium|
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:
Compare insurance quotes and find a policy today.
Car insurance comparison FAQs
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 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 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?
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.
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.