Car insurance quotes: what you need to know to find a policy

Car insurance is required in almost every state, but finding the right policy at a good price can be a challenge. Many drivers find themselves wondering which insurer provides the best rates or how much coverage they might need. The answers to these questions depend on a number of factors and vary from driver to driver. Fortunately, viewing car insurance quotes and comparing coverage options is no longer difficult. Learn more about comparing auto insurance quotes and the most common policy types by reading our guide.

 

Table of contents:

  1. How to get car insurance quotes
  2. What goes into auto insurance rates?
  3. How to save on car insurance
  4. Car insurance quote FAQs



How to instantly compare free auto insurance quotes online

If you don’t want to spend your entire day dealing with car insurance companies, have the following information on hand to get an accurate online auto insurance quote.

  1. Driver's license and personal information for any drivers on the policy: Necessary info includes date of birth, address, occupation, and marital status.
  2. Vehicle Identification Number (VIN): If you're getting a car insurance quote for a new car, reach out to the private seller or dealership to get the VIN. If you can't provide an exact VIN, you'll need to provide the year, make, and model of your car to get a preliminary quote.
  3. Mileage
  4. Date of vehicle purchase
  5. Driving history: Your recent driving history — and that of any other driver(s) on the policy — with accidents, citations, claims, and any completed driving courses.
  6. Insurance record: Some car insurance companies require at least six months of continuous auto insurance prior to issuing a policy. Have on hand a brief history of your auto insurance background.

 

What is a car insurance quote?

A car insurance quote is an estimate of what you can expect to pay for insurance coverage from a specific company. Auto insurance quotes are determined by the personal information you provide. Factors such as credit score, driving history, and age contribute to auto insurance rates.

The more information you provide upfront, the more accurate your insurance quotes are likely to be.

 

Are car insurance quotes free?

Many companies advertise free auto insurance quotes. Any car insurance quote you receive is and should be completely free. Insurance companies want to incentivize you to purchase a car insurance policy from them, so they won't charge you for an upfront assessment (the quote). When comparing insurance rates, remember: you can find cheap online car insurance quotes for free from a variety of sources.

 

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What goes into car insurance quotes?

It's important to understand the primary goal of an insurance company is to predict risk and assign premiums based on the risk a particular driver may pose. Car insurance companies assess your entire driving profile to estimate this risk, including factors such as location, demographics, insurance history, driving record and vehicle.

  1. Where you live
  2. Who you are
  3. Insurance history
  4. How you drive
  5. What you drive



1. Where you live

Because most forms of insurance are regulated at the state level, state legislation influences car insurance premiums. For instance, in Michigan, a no-fault state, the law requires an unlimited amount of Personal Injury Protection coverage, a requirement that increases the cost of car insurance. Although each state legislates insurance differently, auto insurance prices may vary on a ZIP code-by-ZIP code basis. Below is an analysis of the cheapest and most expensive states for car insurance (from The Zebra's State of Insurance report).

Most and Least Expensive States_2020.png

Whether you can get a cheap car insurance quote may come down to your ZIP code. If you live in a densely populated area with a high number of auto insurance claims, your premium will be more expensive than that of a person living in an area of town in which fewer claims are filed. Even if you haven’t filed any claims, you could pay more based solely on your neighborhood.

 

2. Who you are

"Who you are" is a broad way to estimate the risk you represent to an insurance company. Every company takes different traits into consideration, including these common rating factors:

  1. Gender
  2. Age
  3. Marital status
  4. Homeowner status
  5. Education level
  6. Credit score

 

How gender affects car insurance quotes

Unless you’re a teen driver, your gender isn’t a significant auto insurance rating factor. In fact, the national difference between car insurance premiums paid by women and men is less than 1%. For teenagers, this premium difference is much more dramatic: male teen drivers pay $1,000 more per year than do female teens. Again, this comes back to the main goal of an insurance company — anticipating and limiting exposure to risk. Car insurance companies' historical data says young male drivers are more likely to take risks while driving than are female drivers in the same age group.

 

AVERAGE 6-MONTH CAR INSURANCE COSTS BY GENDER

Age

Male

Female

16

$3,021

$2,721

17

$2,574

$2,301

18

$2,264

$2,006

19

$1,638

$1,443

 

How age influences auto insurance rates

Your age helps to determine your car insurance premium. Statistically, a young driver is less experienced and more likely to receive a citation or file a bodily injury or property damage claim. In the eyes of an insurance company, that means more risk and a greater need for financial protection, i.e., a more expensive premium.

Your likelihood of getting cheap auto insurance quotes increases once you turn 19 — and again at age 25 — as you gain experience behind the wheel. This remains consistent until you get into your 60s, when your car insurance rates may rise.

Car Insurance Premiums by Age Group.png

How marital status affects car insurance quotes

While the difference is small, married drivers are more likely to get affordable car insurance quotes than singledivorced or widowed drivers. Car insurance companies assume married drivers are more likely to share driving responsibilities and less likely to file claims.

CAR INSURANCE RATES BY MARITAL STATUS
Marital Status
Average 6-Month Premium
Single
$741
Married
$694
Divorced
$743
Widowed
$718

Learn more about how your marital status affects how much you pay for your insurance policy.

 

How homeownership changes auto insurance coverage costs

On average, renters face higher car insurance premiums than do condo owners or homeowners, but not by much. The difference in car insurance rate between a renter and a homeowner is only about $15 per six-month policy. Homeowners earn cheaper car insurance rates because they're considered more financially stable and less likely to file a claim.

 

CAR INSURANCE RATES BY HOMEOWNER STATUS
Homeowner Status
Average 6-Month Premium
Renter
$741
Condo Owner
$726
Homeowner
$726
Renter with Multi-Policy
$702
Condo Owner with Multi-Policy
$665
Homeowner with Multi-Policy
$653

For more information regarding renters, condo or home insurance, consult our guides:

 

How education affects auto insurance quotes

A driver with a Masters or Ph.D. can save $30 per year on car insurance premiums, compared to those without a degree. Car insurance companies see clients with higher levels of educational attainment as less risky, rewarding that decreased risk with a lower premium. The only states that do not consider education when determining rates are CaliforniaMassachusettsGeorgia, Hawaii and Montana.

 

CAR INSURANCE RATES BY EDUCATION LEVEL
Education Level 
Average 6-Month Premium
None
$763
High School
$754
Bachelors
$741
Masters
$739
Ph.D
$739

 

How credit score impacts car insurance premiums

Unlike your education level or gender, your credit has a big impact on your insurance rate.Drivers within the "worst" credit tier pay more than twice what those with excellent credit pay for auto insurance — about $914 per six-month policy. Again, this has to do with how insurance companies view drivers with poor credit in terms of risk. A driver with poor credit is more likely to file a claim than a driver with excellent credit. Moreover, when a claim is filed by a driver with poor credit, the claim payout by the insurance company tends to be higher. Insurance companies cover this risk by charging those with poor credit scores higher rates.

Car Insurance Premiums by Credit Score.png

California, Hawaii and Massachusetts are the only states that do not allow your credit score to be utilized in your car insurance quote. One way to get lower car insurance premiums by looking at usage-based programs. UBI, backed by telematics, use the way you drive in order to determine your premium.

 

3. Your insurance history

It’s important to consider how your previous auto insurance record reflects on your car insurance quotes. Gaps in insurance — or periods spent with bare minimum coverage or no coverage at all — can increase your rate, as insurance companies see those who have been uninsured or underinsured as financially unstable and riskier to insure. A lengthy insurance history with high limits and minimal claims can lead to cheap online car insurance quotes.

Premiums by Time Insured_2020.png


4. How you drive

An insurance company's assessment of how you drive entails more than you might think. When assigning a quote, an auto insurance company will look at the primary way you use your vehicle, how many miles you drive annually, and your driving record.

  1. Vehicle use
  2. Annual mileage
  3. Driving violation



Primary vehicle use and car insurance quotes

How you use your vehicle can impact the affordability of car insurance quotes. Using your vehicle for pleasure — the most common usage — results in an average premium of $741.

AVERAGE 6-MONTH CAR INSURANCE PREMIUM BY VEHICLE USE
Primary Vehicle Use
Average 6-Month Premium
Farm
$699
Pleasure
$741
Work
$747
Business
$825

It’s important to consider the difference between a business-use personal policy, outlined above, and a commercial car insurance policy. If you’re using your vehicle to transport goods or lending your vehicle to employees, you may need a commercial insurance policy.

If you’re a rideshare driver working for Uber or Lyft, consult your insurance company about getting a rideshare endorsement. This endorsement protects you from being denied coverage if you’re in an accident while working.

 

How annual mileage affects car insurance quotes

How much you drive reflects how much risk you represent to your insurance company. If you live in California, your annual mileage makes a big difference: there is a 30% difference between those who drive fewer than 7,500 miles per year and those who drive 15,000-plus miles per year. This amounts to around $549 per year.

If you live anywhere else in the U.S., mileage driven may have less of an impact, but it isn’t ignored altogether.

AUTO INSURANCE COSTS BY MILEAGE DRIVEN
Average Annual Mileage
Average 6-Month Premium
0-7.5K
$716
7.5-10K
$741
10-15K
$753
15K+
$763


If you'd like more information regarding car insurance by how much you drive, see our related articles below.

 

Violations: how driving safety impacts auto insurance quotes

Among the factors that go into generating online car insurance quotes, driving history could be the most significant. To an auto insurance company, how you have driven is a good indicator of how you will drive. If your driving résumé includes speeding tickets, at-fault accidents, driving without insurance, or other violations, expect your premium to reflect that. In other words, you're going to pay a lot.

Speeding tickets, DUIs and other violations will make it tough to get cheap car insurance quotes. A DUI may raise your rate by as much as 65% — with some states penalizing drivers by more.

Car Insurance Premiums by Violation.png

Depending on the specific violation and your state, the number of years these violations will remain on your premium can vary. Most companies will charge you for an at-fault accident for three to five years. However, a DUI can stay on your insurance record for up to 10 years. For more information on finding car insurance with a bad driving record, consult our guide.

 

5. The vehicle you drive

The car you drive affects your insurance rates. A vehicle built for performance, with a high MSRP (manufacturer's suggested retail price), or a foreign-built model, may be costlier to insure. Vehicles that don't cost as much to repair or aren't built for faster driving — such as vans and sedans — are correspondingly cheaper to insure. Learn more about the average costs of insuring specific makes and models.

 

AUTO INSURANCE RATES BY VEHICLE CLASSIFICATION
Vehicle Type
Average 6-Month Premium
Truck$849
Van$808
SUV$959
Car$1,129
Luxury$1,058
Green$1,112

 

How to keep your insurance rates low

Now that we’ve outlined why insurance can cost so much, let’s look at some ways to save.

 

File insurance claims wisely

At-fault accidents can lead to expensive insurance rates. If you’re not familiar with the way insurance companies price policies, you might be inclined to use your collision coverage if you’ve damaged your vehicle. But unless you’ve done significant damage, it may be worth paying for damages yourself and declining to involve your insurance company.

Should you file a claim? Follow the steps below to find out:

  • Get an estimate for the repairs at a local mechanic.
  • Use The Zebra's State of Insurance analysis to determine what the average premium increase would be if you were to file a claim in your state. Remember: this cost could persist for three years.
  • Compare the cost of repairs to the total rate of increase plus your deductible to the total cost of repairs.

If you're unsure of whether or not to file a claim, see our guide.

 

Consider your insurance coverage carefully

Unlike your home, your vehicle will rapidly depreciate in value, meaning the coverage you once had might not be necessary after a few years. For example, collision and comprehensive coverage are designed to protect your vehicle from damage. But if your vehicle is worth less than $4,000, the value of insurance payout you would receive might not justify the cost of your insurance premium.

When shopping for affordable car insurance quotes, arrive with a good idea of your vehicle's value via Kelley Blue Book or NADA. If you determine your vehicle is worth more than $4,000 but you need to save money, consider raising your deductible. Because your car insurance deductible and premium are inversely related, you can lower your bill by raising your deductible. Looking at the chart below, you can see how your premium is affected by adjusting your deductible.

Coverage Level
Average 6-Month Premium
State Minimum Liability Only
$291
50/100/50 with $500 deductible
$741
50/100/50 with $1,000 deductible
$658

For more information on car insurance coverage options, see our related content:

 

Seek out car insurance discounts

Some car insurance discounts are automatically added to your auto insurance policy when they pull your driving report. You should make sure they’re not forgetting anything. Here are some potential discounts and cost-cutting programs in which you can participate. Restrictions may apply.

 

Be aware of your auto insurance options

Below are common types of car insurance, along with some additional coverage options. Being well-versed in these details will help you find a great deal, whether you're getting auto insurance quotes online or with the help of an agent. You can also add endorsements to supplement or tailor your coverage to suit to your needs as a driver.

 

Shop around and compare insurance quotes

Your auto insurance quotes may vary based on your circumstances. You should shop around for new car insurance quotes online at six-month intervals to make sure you're with the right insurer. Car insurance policies are usually non-binding. If you find a better rate elsewhere, consider canceling your current policy and moving on to another insurer. The remaining outstanding premium should be refunded. Opportunities to find cheap auto insurance quotes include when you move from state to state, when you add a car to your insurance policy, when you get married, or when you celebrate a birthday.

 

Compare insurance quotes and find an affordable policy.

or
Location pin icon
glyph-shield-checkmarkNo junk mail. No spam calls. Free quotes.

 

How to get cheap car insurance quotes

Auto insurance companies try to predict the risk you and your vehicle pose in order to reduce their exposure. Keeping in mind the factors we just covered, the riskier your driving behavior, the more you will pay for auto insurance. Factors like age, marital status, and homeowner status are more difficult to change — but in most cases, they're less impactful.

Avoiding unnecessary claims, being smart with your coverage, and shopping around for car insurance quotes are the best ways to save when comparing car insurance.

For more information on auto insurance rates, reference our State of Insurance Analysis. To learn more about insurance costs in your area, consult our state-by-state auto insurance rate analysis.

 

Car insurance quote FAQs

What is The Zebra?

The Zebra is an insurance advisor, partnering with companies like GEICO, Progressive, Allstate and Liberty Mutual to provide side-by-side quote comparisons. The Zebra makes it easy to shop for car insurance and save on your next policy.

 

How does The Zebra help you find cheap car insurance?

The Zebra is known as the Kayak of car insurance: an independent insurance comparison site that allows shoppers to compare car insurance quotes from more than 100 auto insurance companies online.

Is The Zebra free?

The Zebra is completely free to use. Unlike other comparison sites, The Zebra doesn't ask for your phone number or sell your information.

 

What is the best way to find affordable car insurance?

Compare auto insurance quotes from as many companies as possible to find the best rate. The Zebra allows you to view rates side-by-side to find the best coverage at the right price.



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Recent Questions:

Free Car Insurance Quotes

How can an insurance company add an accident to your record that never happened?

I would contact the insurance company that listed the claim and start a dispute. They really shouldn't be able to put you down for this claim.

Should I stay with my car insurance company even if I'm getting a better quote from elsewhere?

It's possible that your agent is simply trying to keep your business. However, he may actually be correct.

What is the average cost of car insurance in Virginia?

That's a difficult question to answer. Below are some answers based on the information you have given me.

Why am I being asked for my personal information for a car insurance quote?

According to our data, the average cost of minimum liability car insurance in California is $573 per year. Below are some additional coverage options you can consider: State Minimum — Liability Only $573 State Minimum — $1,000 Comprehensive/Collision $1,297 State Minimum — $500 Comprehensive/Collision $1,481   That said, this is based on a 30-year-old male driver with no accidents or violations and good credit.

Kristine Lee LinkedIn

Kristine is a licensed insurance agent and one of The Zebra’s in-house content strategists. With a background in copywriting, she covers the ins and outs of the home and car insurance industries. She has contributed to numerous publications focused on the nuances of insurance, including Automoblog, USInsuranceAgents.com, and BestCompany.com.