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Ava Lynch

Insurance Analyst

Credentials
  • 7+ years of Experience in the Insurance Industry

Ava joined The Zebra as a writer and licensed insurance agent in 2016. She now works as a senior insurance contributor, providing insights and data a…

When should you shop for car insurance quotes?

This depends on two variables: you and the car insurance industry. The best time to shop for car insurance quotes is immediately after any life event or change that might impact your rates. Looking at the car insurance industry as a whole, December is typically a good time of year to shop around.

Key takeaways:
  • Shop for a new policy after any major life event
  • December is often a good time to shop as auto insurers set their rates for the next year
  • Shop for car insurance every six months — or at least once a year

The best time to get quotes depends on your personal situation

Car insurance companies use aspects of your life — rating factors — to determine your premium. When these rating factors change, it can lead to big shifts in your rates. Primary insurance rating factors include age, driving record, and credit score.

 

Age

Because the number of years of driving experience is a major rating factor used by all insurers, a birthday can result in discounted insurance rates. A driver in their 20s pays $457 more per year for car insurance than does the average driver in their 30s.

Age Group Average Annual Premium Difference
16-19 $5,022 --
20-29 $1,990 153%
30-39 $1,532 30%
40-49 $1,474 3%
50-59 $1,364 8%
60-69 $1,384 -1%
70-79 $1,610 -14%
80-85 $1,880 -14%

Overall, drivers between 16 and 19 years old pay the most for car insurance, but prices drop steadily as the driver ages. In fact, insurance rates drop by more than $100 per month when a driver celebrates their 19th birthday. If you’re a young driver or a parent insuring a teen driver, keep these key birthdays in mind.

Average annual rates by age for teens

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Age Avg. Annual Premium
16 $6,700
17 $5,634
18 $5,063
19 $3,962

Source: The Zebra

Average annual rates for the 20s age group

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Age Avg. Annual Premium
20 $3,396
21 $2,744
22 $2,535
23 $2,379
24 $2,255
25 $1,978

Source: The Zebra

The Zebra’s Dynamic Insurance Rating Tool data methodology

The Zebra’s Dynamic Insurance Rating Tool for home and auto insurance rates utilizes the latest ZIP code-level rate filings from across the U.S., sourced from Quadrant Information Services and S&P Global. These filings, typically updated annually or biennially by insurers, are verified through Quadrant’s QA process and then integrated into The Zebra’s estimator.

The displayed rates are based on a dynamic home and auto profile designed to reflect the content of the page. This profile is tailored to match specific factors such as age, location, and coverage level, which are adjusted based on the page content to show how these variables can impact premiums.

For a comprehensive understanding, see our detailed methodology.

Driving record

Every state and every insurance company uses driving history to set its rates. Insurance companies use a driver's previous behavior as a way of predicting future driving outcomes. "Previous driving history” does not include your entire driving history. While the statute varies by state and violation, most at-fault accidents, tickets, and other citations will only impact your premium for three to five years.

An example: after colliding with a pole in August 2018, you file a collision claim with your current car insurance provider. By August 2021, your premium should no longer be rated for that at-fault accident. However, if your policy doesn’t renew in August, it’s very unlikely your premium will reflect the accident “falling off” your record. This is why it’s important to shop for new car insurance occasionally.

Because your current insurance company will not automatically update your premium, you should shop for car insurance after any type of chargeable violation falls off your insurance record.

See below to see the impact that at-fault accidents, speeding tickets, and other common charges have on insurance premiums.

Average annual rates by violation type

Updating data...

Accident/Violation Avg. Annual Premium
None $1,759
Cell phone violation $2,135
Texting while driving $2,140
Speeding 16 - 20 MPH over limit $2,190
At-fault accident - greater than $2000 $2,605
Reckless driving $3,187
Driving with a suspended license $3,195
DUI $3,441

Source: The Zebra

For more information on how your driving record can impact your car insurance policy, see our guides below.

Credit score

In most states, changes to a driver's credit score affect their insurance rates. Credit history is used by most insurance companies as a risk indicator and pricing lever. Insurance companies maintain that drivers with poor credit file claims more often than do drivers with better credit. As a result, drivers with lower credit tend to pay more for car insurance.

California, Hawaii, Michigan and Massachusetts prohibit insurance companies from using credit score to price policies. 

credittier_avgpremiums.png

If a driver's credit score improves between insurance policy periods, this presents a great opportunity to shop for insurance. 

For more information on car insurance and credit, see our additional resources:

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The best time to get insurance depends on your company

While not as impactful as rating factors directly related to you, understanding the way auto insurers price premiums can be helpful. Car insurance companies use end-of-year claim filings to set their rates moving forward. If in the prior year, the insurance company paid out more in claims than it earned in premiums, you can expect to see a rate hike as a result.

These "rate revisions" occur every year. An increase in insurance premiums is common after natural disasters, such as hurricanes or wildfires, in which an insurance company had to pay out a large number of claims in a short period of time.

Although this is difficult to predict, you can set aside time in December to shop for car insurance for the coming year.


How often should you shop for car insurance? 

It's recommended that you shop around for car insurance quotes at least once a year. However, to make sure you're getting the absolute best rates, consider shopping for new quotes every six months — the length of a standard policy. An easy way to remember when to shop is to watch for the end of your current policy.

Car insurance is a state-regulated industry, so you typically won't find holiday savings or other promotions. Trying to anticipate insurance companies' rate revisions can be hit or miss. The best time to shop for car insurance occurs immediately following life events that result in personal rate revisions. If you celebrate a birthday, improve your credit score, or have a violation fall off your record, you should consider that a sign to shop around.

While we only mentioned three key life events, there are many others that can impact your rates. If you've just bought a home, for instance, many auto insurance providers will likely give you a better rate for car insurance as homeowners are generally seen as less risky.

Below are common events that may impact insurance rates:

If you’ve experienced one of these life events, you should consider shopping for car insurance.

How to shop

When looking for a new policy, comparison shopping is vital. Get car insurance quotes from as many companies as possible to get the best rates.

It's also a great time to revisit your coverage limits. If you currently have comprehensive or collision coverage, make sure that your levels are appropriate. If you purchase a new car, your lender may require you to keep these coverage types in place.

Some auto insurers may offer insurance discounts that can reduce your auto insurance rates.

Shop today and find an affordable policy!

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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 editorial 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.