Why you can trust The Zebra

The Zebra partners with some of the companies we write about. However, our content is written and reviewed by an independent team of editors and licensed agents. Reference our data methodology and learn more about how we make money.

Author profile picture

Ava Lynch

Insurance Analyst

  • 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…

Author profile picture

Jean Lucey, CPCU

Faculty, IIAA Virtual University

  • CPCU, Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter

Jean Lucey has researched and written about insurance matters for well over 30 years. A current member of The Zebra's Insurance Expert Review Bo…

Author profile picture

Beth Swanson

SEO Content Strategist

  • Licensed Insurance Agent — Property and Casualty

Beth joined The Zebra in 2022 as an Associate Content Strategist. She is a licensed insurance agent whose goal is to make insurance content easy to r…

Should you buy a 6-month or 12-month car insurance policy?

Car insurance policies typically come in two durations: six months and 12 months, with six months being more common. The policy duration you choose should depend upon your unique driving history, financial situation, and personal preferences. To help you navigate this choice, we've teamed up with Nathan Foster, one of The Zebra's licensed insurance agents and a Senior Agency Trainer:

Nathan Foster, licensed insurance agent and The Zebra's senior agency trainer
Agent insight:

"The primary reason someone might want an annual policy is because it locks in the price for an entire year. Rates have been on the rise so it benefits customers by keeping the rate consistent for an entire year as opposed to running the risk of having your rates increase every 6 months."

Nathan Foster — Licensed insurance professional at The Zebra

While it may look good at first glance, locking in your rate is not the best option for everyone. Below, we've provided you with some guidelines to make this decision easier.

The Zebra recommends a 6-month policy if:

  • Your insurer provides discounts for 6-month policies.
  • You expect a driving violation to fall off your record or anticipate paying off substantial debt within the next six months.
  • You appreciate the flexibility that a 6-month policy offers.
  • You are a young and relatively safe driver.
  • You wish to pay your insurance premiums in full but are on a budget.

The Zebra recommends a 12-month policy if:

  • Your insurer offers discounts on 12-month policies.
  • You have a relatively clean driving record and good credit, aiming to avoid rate increases.
  • You prefer the stability and predictability of a 12-month policy.
  • Budgeting for the entire year in advance suits your financial planning.
  • You tend to forget important dates (i.e. your insurance renewal)

Keep in mind that some companies offer only one policy duration option. This means your choice may also be influenced by which insurers are available to you. Now, let's dive into the benefits of each policy length to help you better understand our recommendations.

Six-month auto insurance policy benefits

In 2024, an average six-month auto insurance policy costs $880. A term of six months is what you'll likely be quoted unless you specifically ask for a different policy period length. This is because six-month policies give insurers the flexibility to update rates in response to shifts in pricing trends and your driving history. 

A six-month car insurance policy comes with two primary upsides: benefiting from positive rate revisions more quickly and greater flexibility in making policy adjustments. Read more below.

insurance rates
Faster realization of rate drops

Most at-fault accidents typically stay on your record for three to five years, and insurers often won't adjust your rate until your policy ends. By going with a 6-month policy, you can often clear these penalties and enjoy lower rates faster.  It's a smart way to put more money back in your pocket!

Other reasons your auto insurance rates might be revised downward:

Added flexibility

If you’re unhappy with your current insurer but want to avoid cancellation fees or a lapse in coverage, you can simply non-renew at the end of your six-month term.

We also recommend shopping around about every six months, so this duration itself can be a good reminder to see what factors may have changed and get new quotes.

zebra answering insurance question

Q: But what is a rate revision?

A: A rate revision is when your insurer adjusts your premium at the end of a policy period. Insurers compare the previous year's claim payouts to their revenue and adjust prices accordingly. If the previous period resulted in a deficit, the insurance company may raise rates going forward. 

If you have a six-month policy, you can expect this twice per year. If you've opted for a 12-month policy, you can avoid a rate revision (other than changes you've made personally) until the following year.

Benefits of an annual (12-month) auto insurance policy

Annual car insurance policies can be hard to come by, so you may need to get quotes from a regional or local provider versus a larger national company. Those who can opt for a 12-month policy may enjoy the benefits of the stability offered by such a policy, namely peace of mind, easier annual budgeting, and potential delays in rate increases, especially for those with clean records and good credit. 

calendar highlighting annual policy
Peace of mind

Do you have a busy schedule or often feel overwhelmed by your to-do list? An annual policy is essentially "set it and forget it," until the following year. For many people, the ease of only dealing with renewals and changes once a year is quite valuable.

rate increase
Potential delayed rate increases

As noted by Foster, "If you have a claim in the first couple of months of your [12-month] policy, your rate won't increase until the policy renews that next year [instead of 6 months]." This can be especially useful for drivers with no claims or violations in the past five years.

wallet with money for budgeting
The ability to budget for the entire year

Prefer to budget for an entire year? Choosing an annual policy means you'll know exactly what you're paying each month.

Auto insurance premiums typically get more expensive as the years go by. Although you will most likely experience a rate revision when your policy renews each year, you can avoid a twice-annual revision by purchasing a longer 12-month policy.

Which is cheaper: 6-month car insurance or a 12-month policy?

As noted earlier, not all companies offer year-long policies, and everyone's rates are a little different. However, our analysts gathered rates (via a methodology outlined here) to compare average six and 12-month rates for a typical driver.

We always suggest that you compare quotes to find the best price and policy to meet your needs.

Average Car Insurance Premiums for Minimum Coverage: 6-Month vs. Annual
Company Avg. Annual Premium Avg. 6 Mo. Premium
USAA $434 $217
GEICO $451 $226
State Farm $583 $291
Nationwide $603 $301
American Family $665 $332
Progressive $692 $346
Farmers $718 $359
Allstate $729 $364
Average Car Insurance Premiums for Full Coverage: 6-Month vs. Annual
Company Avg. Annual Premium Avg. 6 Mo. Premium
USAA $1,365 $683
Nationwide $1,476 $738
GEICO $1,542 $771
American Family $1,568 $784
State Farm $1,569 $785
Farmers $1,786 $893
Progressive $1,882 $941
Allstate $2,413 $1,206
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.

Q: Is getting a 12-month policy cheaper?

A: Not necessarily. According to Nathan, "Every carrier is a little bit different. Some might offer you a cheaper rate if you select a 12-month policy, while others might make it cheaper if you select a 6-month policy. In some instances, the prices are the same, but it isn't uncommon for prices to change when you select a 6-month vs 12-month policy."

However, if you have the funds, The Zebra always recommends asking your insurer if there is a discount for paying a year's premium in full as this can save you 4% on average.

How to keep car insurance rates low

Though the price may differ slightly based on how long your policy lasts (from more frequent increases, or possible discounts), your car insurance rate is individualized based on your driving profile. About 39% of drivers feel like they're paying too much for auto insurance, so it's helpful to understand the factors that influence your price. Here are common examples insurance companies will analyze: 

  • Age
  • Driving record
  • ZIP code/location
  • Credit score
  • Years of experience
  • Gender
  • Insurance/claims history
  • Marital status
  • Annual mileage
  • Coverage level

If you want to lower your car insurance rates, focus on the factors that are within your control. Taking steps to improve your credit score, maintaining insurance (no gaps in coverage), and being safe behind the wheel is key to saving money on car insurance.


Find affordable car insurance today: compare rates.

Location pin icon
No junk mail. No spam calls. Free quotes.


Typical auto insurance policies are for six months at a time. As noted, annual (12-month) policies are available with some companies, but weekly or monthly car insurance isn't usually an option. If you don't drive your vehicle often, looking into pay-per-mile insurance options may benefit you.

No, not all insurance companies will offer annual policies. 6-month policies are the norm and you'll likely have to ask specifically if a company offers longer terms. Some of the companies offering 12-month policies include SAFECO, USAA, MetLife, and Liberty Mutual.

Some companies do offer a discount by paying for the whole six-month policy in full, but monthly payments are more common, and depending on the company, it may be the same overall price as paying up front. It's important to ask your agent or company representative for specific payment information, such as whether or not you can get a discount by paying all at once.

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.