Which company offers the best cheap car insurance quotes?
Your car insurance premium is priced to fit you like a glove. Insurers evaluate your driving history, demographic data, and other metrics to determine what kind of customer you'll be. But from a consumer's perspective, the primary question is which company offers the cheapest insurance? We surveyed top auto insurance companies and assessed common rating factors to determine which insurer provides the cheapest car insurance quotes — even for young motorists or high-risk drivers.
Crashes and other incidents can raise car insurance premiums substantially. Crashes result in collision claims, which insurance companies generally characterize as "at-fault" accidents. Other violations and tickets are be discussed in a separate section.
Annual Premiums After At-Fault Collisions
|Company||No Crashes||Damage less than $1,000||Damage greater than $2,000|
No matter which insurance company you chose, getting into an at-fault accident will raise your rates. Nationwide may be the cheapest company for car insurance after an accident, depending on the value of the claim. If the value of the damage you caused is greater than $2,000, Nationwide could offer the best cheap car insurance quotes. If the value of the claim is less than $1,000, Farmers is often cheaper.
It's the "golden rule" of car insurance: as your driving profile changes, so does your premium. Not every company will assess your profile and apply rate changes in the same way. If you’ve been involved in a collision and your rate increases, shop around to find a company that views your accident as less costly than does your current company.
"Violation" is a broad term for saying you did something you shouldn’t have. We included in our analysis violations with major financial implications: a DUI/DWI, driving with a suspended license, hit-and-run, and reckless driving. Here's how popular companies stack up against one another with violations added to the user profile.
Aside from other implications of a DUI, having one on your insurance record will, on average, raise your rate by $1,249 a year. Farmers, the second cheapest company if you don't have a DUI, actually raises rates the most after a DUI — a $2,026 increase.
Annual Premium by DUI Conviction
|Company||None||Premium with DUI||Premium Increase|
After a DUI, Nationwide's premiums increased by more than $1,300 to become the third-most-expensive company, while Liberty Mutual became the cheapest. While Liberty Mutual isn't the cheapest auto insurer without a DUI, the $785 increase is the smallest financial penalty for drinking and driving. This is why it’s important to not become complacent with your insurance company. Just because Nationwide was the cheapest insurance company before a DUI, doesn't mean things will stay as-is with a serious violation on your record.
Learn more about car insurance after a DUI.
While the average annual increase from driving with a suspended license is about $1,100, rates vary substantially by company. While Liberty Mutual's rates are middle-of-the-road for drivers without violations, they’re actually the cheapest after a citation for driving with a suspended license.
Annual Premium After Driving With Suspended License Conviction
|Company||None||Premium After Suspended License Citation||Premium Increase|
If you've been convicted of driving with a suspended license, your best bet for cheap auto insurance might be Liberty Mutual. After an incident, companies that were originally the cheapest without any prior claims or convictions are no longer cheap options.
A hit-and-run on your insurance record is a doozy. In most states, it is the most expensive violation you can receive – even greater than a DUI. So, if you’re ticketed after a hit-and-run, trying to find cheap auto insurance quotes can be tricky.
Annual Premium With Hit-and-Run Charge
|Company||None||Premium after Hit-and-Run||Premium Increase|
Liberty Mutual is an affordable bet after a hit-and-run. Liberty Mutual increases rates by just $868, $500 less than the average among other major insurers. The combined increase of a DUI ($783) and a license suspension ($783) is still less expensive than the cost increase after a hit-and-run. Yikes.
The definition of reckless driving can vary by state, but in general, it is described as a driving with a general disregard for the rules of the road and other drivers — and it comes with a pretty hefty fine. On average, a reckless driving charge will raise your annual premium nearly $1,200.
Annual Premium With Reckless Driving Charge
|Company||None||Premium at Reckless Driving||Premium Increase|
While Nationwide is not the cheapest after a DUI or hit-and-run, it is the cheapest after a reckless driving charge. If you have a reckless driving charge on your record, consider Nationwide, Liberty Mutual, and State Farm in your search for an auto insurance policy.
If a parent's greatest fear is their child getting behind the wheel, covering their car insurance premium might be a close second. On average, adding a teen driver increases annual car insurance rates by about 83%. This is because of the risks posed by teen drivers: they're less experienced and more likely to take risks behind the wheel, leaving the insurance company vulnerable. We assessed premiums from top insurers after adding a teen to the car insurance policy of a married couple.
Married Couple With a Teen Driver
|Company||No Teen Driver||16-Year-Old||17-Year-Old||18-Year-Old||19-Year-Old|
Nationwide is the cheapest company for adding a teen driver to your policy, with Farmers second-cheapest. Bear in mind, the data above was generated by averaging the projected premium for a teen male driver and a teen female driver. A male teenager, on average, costs $239 more per year than does a female driver. This is because of the additional risk presented by a young male driver compared to a female driver. Nationwide is the cheapest insurer for a family with either a female or male teen driver.
To find the cheapest auto insurance for teen drivers, consult our guides:
Insurance companies place a lot of weight on your credit score as they see it as a highly accurate way to determine risk. Studies by the Federal Trade Commission have shown that drivers with low credit scores not only file more claims than drivers with higher credit scores, but the actual dollar amount is greater than higher scoring drivers. Thus, they’re cheaper clients. On average, moving from one credit tier to the next among our selected insurers saves you an average of $344 a year.
Annual Premium by Credit Score
|Company||Very Poor (300-579)||Fair (580-669)||Good (670-739)||Very Good (740-799)||Great (800-850)|
If you have bad credit, you should consider Farmers and Nationwide in your search. While you as a driver may not exactly fit the rest of our profile, it's a good place to start. This is especially true considering the average of "bad credit" is more than $1300 more expensive than the "excellent" group. If you have excellent credit, Nationwide is $140 cheaper than the average for that credit group.
Across the board, the longer and with the higher limits you have insurance, the cheaper your premium will be. Using historical data, insurance companies see those with above state minimum requirements as less likely to file a claim or get into an accident. Because of the decreased risk you present, insurance companies tend to lower your rates. In essence, the longer you've been insured for, the lower your rates will be, with all other metrics kept constant.
If you're new to the world of insurance, you should start your record with higher than state minimum limits. This will not only help protect your liability but also start a good relationship with insurance companies. Looking at the information below, you can see that having 5 years with 100/300/100 liability limits can save you an average of $219 a year!
Annual Premium By Insurance History - 5 Years
|Company||None||State Minimum Limits||100/300 BI Limits||Diff from None to 100/300|
If you're looking for insurance and you either don't have an insurance background or only have a history of the state minimum, Nationwide might be the cheapest company for you.
While the majority of people use their vehicle for pleasure, using your personal auto policy for business use can bump up your premium quite a bit. This has to do with the way your insurance companies views the risk - the increased use of the vehicle as well as unpredictable exposures to risk.
Annual Premium by Vehicle Use
As we can see, if you're using your vehicle for business use, the best place to start your search for cheap car insurance is Nationwide. By business, we aren't referring to a commercial policy but when you use your vehicle both personally and with some business use. While most companies will have their own versions of these rules, it can encompass delivery drivers or salespeople.
How much you drive, or your annual mileage, is a huge rating factor in places like California but can still positively and negatively affect your premium in other states. If you live in California, you can expect a 25% gap in average annual premiums between those who drive 0-7,500 miles a year and those who drive more than 15,000 miles a year. On average, however, the less you drive, the more it saves you — but not by much.
Annual Premium by Annual Mileage
|Company||0-7,500 Miles||7,501 to 10,000 Miles||10,001 to 15,000 Miles||15,501 Miles & Above|
Car insurance companies can raise your rates for above-average annual mileage because they see the more time on the road opens you (and by consequence, themselves) to additional risk. So, if you're someone who drives above 12,000 miles a year (what is considered to be the national average), your best bet for car insurance is Nationwide.
For more information on annual mileage and car insurance, see our guide to low mileage auto insurance here.
Now that we’ve looked at some of the big rating factors, we should talk about ways to save on car insurance. Unlike the data we presented above, these tips aren't company-specific.
You’re not going to save the real big buckets by adding a bundling or good driver discount to your policy, but it helps. Here are some discounts with potential discount options (if applicable):
The phrase “use it or lose it” is actually pretty contradictory in the world of insurance. For most violations and claims, your insurance company will rate (i.e., charge) you for 3 years. Meaning, you’ll be paying for at collision claim through an increased premium for quite some time.
Given this, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons before filing a claim. Namely, is the damage significant enough to warrant the increased premium you will receive? Here’s how you can tell:
Although owning a car is a major financial investment, it’s still a depreciating investment. Meaning, the same coverage you had on your 1999 Honda Accord might no longer be necessary. Namely, physical coverage like comprehensive and collision. Here’s how to tell:
If it is determined you do still need physical protection, consider raising your deductible. By raising your deductible, you lower your premium as your insurance company takes less of a financial responsibility in the event something happens to your vehicle. Consider, however, what this would mean if your vehicle is totaled.
The moral of our analysis is pretty straightfoward: the only way to find the absolute best rate for you is to shop around frequently. By frequently, we are referring to any time your driving profile changes. Whether that's because of the driving factors we listed above but also if you had a birthday, if you moved, changed vehicles, got married, or even bought a house. Because you’re not locked into a contract with your insurance company, if you find a better rate elsewhere you are able to cancel your insurance and move on to a cheaper company. Use our insurance calculator here to see which company best fits your driving profile.
Between September and December 2017, The Zebra conducted comprehensive pricing analysis using its proprietary car insurance 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.
Finally, some rate data may vary slightly throughout report based on rounding.