The Brief

Depending on who and where you are and what and how you drive, you could pay as little as $560 or more than $36,900 annually for car insurance. That’s nearly a 6500% difference. The auto insurance industry is incredibly complex (and often volatile) and is regulated differently in each state. This gives way to a national total of 655 carriers (insurance companies) using a mix of 43,520 rating factors. Any given person could conceivably choose from millions upon millions of car insurance quotes.

But external factors, too, are now driving change in the current state of car insurance. How is the insurance industry reacting to changes in technology, economics, and driving behaviors and the potential risks they pose?

The Zebra is the nation’s largest car insurance comparison marketplace and an unbiased source for pricing, coverage, and all things car insurance. We explored current and trending car insurance rate data*, broke it down by state, and pulled millions of rates to examine the current state of car insurance pricing, what causes car insurance prices to skyrocket or plummet, and what consumers should know as they shop for insurance. See some of the key findings below...

2016 Car Insurance Rates Up 11% Over Past 5 Years

Nationally, 2016 car insurance rates are nearly 11% higher than the national average rate of $1,194 in 2011*. Although changes from year to year were at most 6.9%, several states and years showed more volatile rate changes. Rates rose 7% between 2011 and 2015, but 2012 rates jumped up nearly as high as 2015 rates. Current 2016 rates are up 3.3% over 2015. Massachusetts saw the greatest decline in auto insurance rates, with 2016 rates 20% lower than they were in 2011, and Colorado saw the greatest increase, with current 2016 auto insurance rates 48% higher than they were in 2011.

National Average Annual Auto Insurance Premium

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The national average annual insurance premium in 2016 is $1,323. Ohio has the lowest rates nationally ($764/annual premium) and Michigan has the highest ($2,087/annual premium).

What’s The Cheapest Car To Insure?

Among the top-selling vehicles in the U.S., these are the least and most expensive to insure:

  Honda CR-V $1,232
  Honda Odyssey $1,260
  Jeep Cherokee $1,265
  Ford Escape $1,269
  Dodge Caravan $1,271
  Chevrolet Equinox $1,278
  Jeep Wrangler $1,288
  Kia Sedona $1,308
  Subaru Forester $1,321
  Toyota Sienna $1,321
  Mercedes-Benz E-Class $2,173
  Mercedes-Benz C-Class $1,934
  BMW X5 $1,830
  BMW 3-Series $1,762
  Audi Q5 $1,712
  Lexus ES $1,709
  Cadillac SRX $1,699
  Lexus RX $1,637
  Acura MDX $1,627
  Nissan Titan $1,626

Nationally, the Honda CR-V is the most affordable car to insure among all types of vehicles.

5 Least Expensive Sedans

  Chevrolet Cruze $1,376
  Honda Accord $1,418
  Hyundai Elantra $1,437
  Ford Fusion $1,445
  Hyundai Sonata $1,457

5 Least Expensive Trucks

  Toyota Tacoma $1,363
  Ford F-Series $1,409
  Nissan Frontier $1,423
  GMC Sierra $1,435
  Chevrolet Colorado $1,438

5 Least Expensive SUVs

  Honda CR-V $1,232
  Jeep Cherokee $1,265
  Ford Escape $1,269
  Chevrolet Equinox $1,282
  Jeep Wrangler $1,288

Least Expensive Van

  Honda Odyssey $1,260

Least Expensive “Green” Car

  Toyota Prius $1,469

Least Expensive Luxury Car

  Acura RDX $1,429

Using 2016 rates for current year models of the most popular* cars (sedans), trucks, SUVs, vans, luxury cars, and “green” (hybrid/electric) vehicles:

  • Luxury cars are the most expensive vehicle types to insure, followed by "green” cars (hybrids, electric, etc.), trucks, sedans, SUVs, and vans.
  • A 5-year-old car is about 11% less expensive to insure than its current year model.
  • Rates for luxury cars rose 20.7% between 2011 and 2016.
  • Each type of vehicle saw a decrease in rates in 2013 and an increase in 2016.

*By top U.S. 2015 year-end sales.
See current model year and trending data for all vehicles in full report.

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Who You Are vs. How You Drive

What really matters when it comes to car insurance?

Insurance companies consider rating factors about you, such as your age, gender, marital status; about your financial reliability, such as your credit score or history of prior insurance; about your driving behavior, such as annual mileage or history of traffic violations; and about your vehicle, such as its tech and safety features.

Who Pays More For Car Insurance?

Pay More

  • Men
  • Single, Divorced,
    or Widowed
  • Renters
  • No Education
  • Low Credit
  • Drive For Business
VS

Pay Less

  • Women
  • Married
  • Homeowners
  • Higher Education
  • High Credit
  • Commute Or Use Their
    Car On A Farm

The ideal insurance customer in most states? Female, married, age 59, homeowner with excellent credit who has had insurance for five years with no traffic violations on her record.

Does Age Matter?

Teen drivers pay a national average annual premium of nearly $5,000, which is more than three times the average rates of anyone ages 30 to 85.

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Certain states, including California and Massachusetts, do not factor non-driving information such as credit score, level of education, and whether drivers rent or own their homes. See full report for more.

Telematics & New Technology Have Little To No Impact On Car Insurance Rates

Drivers using telematics have seen very little impact to their rates as the products have been slow to take off, despite the data they can provide about driver behavior.

Of nine common safety devices, only one lowers rates for drivers who use them, and by just $5 per year.

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  • $1,323

    National average
    annual premium

  • $1,314

    With Telematics

  • $1,309

    With Telematics +
    Electronic Stability
    Control

  • $1,309

    With Telematics+ blind spot warning device, collision preparations system, driver alertness monitoring device, heads-up display, lane departure warning device, night vision device, parking assistance device, and rear-view camera.

A DUI raises rates 3,200% higher than texting while driving does.

Texting and driving is one of the most dangerous behaviors behind the wheel, but insurance companies by and large are not penalizing those distracted drivers. Across all 50 states and Washington D.C., cell phone and texting violations have the least impact on auto insurance premiums, raising rates about 2% nationally. One cell phone use violation raises rates an average of about $30 annually, but a single DUI raises rates more than $1,000.

Violations & Average National Premiums

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A DUI raises car insurance rates 80%.

This is more than rate increases for any other accident or violation, including at-fault collisions, reckless driving, and high speeding. In fact, a DUI will raise rates over 100% in seven states, over 200% in Hawaii, and over 350% in North Carolina. And although DUIs increase average annual premiums the most nationally, 23 states cite racing as the most costly violation.

Pro Tips: How To Save On Car Insurance

Although some of your behaviors may not seem to matter much to insurance companies, there are some things you can do to lower your insurance rates.

Pro Tips From The Zebra

Purchase your policy at least 10 days before you need it activated, pay in full up front, and pay online = save 10% on car insurance.

Buy an older car. A 5- year-old version of a certain model is nearly 13% less expensive to insure than its current model year version.

Bundle your auto policy with homeowner or renter’s = save 7.5%.

Don’t let your insurance coverage lapse. Even after being insured for just a year, rates drop at least 7.7%. Maintain continuous coverage and shop around for insurance every 6 months (and especially after 1, 3, and 5 years of being insured) to see what new quotes might work best for you.

Pinching pennies? These tips will save you under 1% on your premium:

  • Cars with anti-theft devices or telematics.
  • Signing your policy electronically.
  • Listing your highest level of education.

Drive safely! For your own well-being and that of others around you, of course, but you’ll also save yourself a minimum 40% increase in rates by avoiding your state’s most costly violation (often DUI or racing).

Increase your credit score by one tier = save 17%.

Auto insurance is a huge portion of your total cost of ownership (TCO) of a vehicle. In fact, with lower gas prices, in many cases, insurance is the largest car-related expense after the car itself, so make sure you factor insurance into your budget and can afford your coverage. (It will hurt you later to have gaps in coverage or miss payments). Also, make sure to get the coverage you need - it’s not just about the lowest rates.

Compare insurance quotes free at TheZebra.com

Methodology

In June 2016, The Zebra explored auto insurance pricing data using its quote engine, comprising data from insurance rating platforms and public rate filings. Analysis includes annual auto insurance premium data across all United States zip codes for a base driver profile: 30-year-old single male driving a 2012 Honda Accord EX. For more detail on methodology, see The Zebra’s 2016 State of Auto Insurance Pricing Report.

Contact The Zebra if you have a specific data request or would like more info on auto insurance research. Contact Us