Personal Finance

The NerdWallet guide to finding the best car insurance rate

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Comparison shopping is crucial if you want to save money on car insurance. Here’s why: Insurers look at similar factors, but they have their own “secret sauce” when it comes to setting rates. So two companies can charge wildly different rates for the same driver.

Auto insurance prices tend to inch up over time, but they can also go down. By shopping around, you might find that your current insurer offers the cheapest rate for you, or you might find that it’s time to switch.

Several factors go into an auto insurance rate: ZIP code, marital status, annual mileage, driving history and vehicle make, year and model. In most states, your gender and credit history could also be used to determine rates.

That’s why every year, NerdWallet analyzes car insurance rates for men and women with various driving and credit histories, in every state and for every major auto insurance company, so you can compare auto insurance rates with ease and get the cheapest price for you.

Table of contents

Compare car insurance rates

Each insurance company evaluates personal factors in its own way, and they keep their methods as hidden as possible. So we can’t tell you which company puts high value in your occupation, or emphasizes a clean driving history more than others.

But to help you get going, we can show you average annual rates for minimum and full coverage car insurance by state and by company, from many of the largest insurers in each state. Although it’s one of the largest insurers in the country, Liberty Mutual is not included in our rates analysis due to a lack of publicly available information.

Compare car insurance rates by age

Your driving history isn’t the only factor carriers look at when calculating your car insurance rate. Your age can have a big effect on what you pay. For example, you likely know teen drivers have some of the highest car insurance rates on average, but they aren’t the only ones. Drivers 75 years and older tend to have higher car insurance rates than most age groups, after teens and 20-somethings.

To get more insight, we compiled average annual rates from nine of the 10 largest private passenger auto insurers in the country based on market share data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

Compare minimum and full coverage rates for 25-year-olds

Drivers around the age of 25 typically get higher car insurance rates because as a group they get into more accidents on average than older drivers.

Rates vary from company to company. For example, full coverage from Geico for a 25-year-old costs $1,420 a year, on average, while the average price from Allstate is $2,588.

Below you can compare annual rates for 25-year-olds by company and by state. Rates are averaged across the country separately for full and minimum coverage.

Drivers with a clean record

Drivers with a DUI

American Family

Nationwide

Progressive

State Farm

*USAA is only available to military, veterans and their families.

Average car insurance rates for a 25-year-old driver vary significantly from state to state. Some states, like Hawaii and Maine, have average rates under $1,250 a year for full coverage. In other states, such as Louisiana and Nevada, insurance costs more than $2,900 a year, on average, for the same driver.

See how your state stacks up below.

Drivers with a clean record

Drivers with a DUI

California

Connecticut

Massachusetts

Mississippi

New Hampshire

New Jersey

New Mexico

North Carolina

North Dakota

Pennsylvania

Rhode Island

South Carolina

South Dakota

Washington

Washington, D.C.

West Virginia

Compare minimum and full coverage rates for 40-year-olds

Drivers around the age of 40 are in a car insurance sweet spot. Because this age group tends to get in fewer accidents than others, they typically can get lower rates. Aside from USAA, which is only available to military, veterans and their families, Geico provides the lowest price for full coverage for 40-year-olds at $1,210, on average.

Allstate comes in the highest at $2,368, on average.

Compare national average annual car insurance rates for 40-year-olds by company and by state below. Keep in mind that not all of these companies are available in every state.

Full coverage

Minimum coverage

American Family

Nationwide

Progressive

State Farm

*USAA is only available to military, veterans and their families.

While average car insurance rates fluctuate by state, 40-year-olds in several states, including Maine, Ohio and Idaho, can pay less than $1,050 a year, on average, for full coverage policies. Similar drivers in other states could pay less than $2,500 a year for full coverage, on average. Only two states have rates higher than $2,500 a year for 40-year-old drivers with full coverage car insurance: Nevada and Louisiana.

See how your state stacks up below.

Full coverage

Minimum coverage

California

Connecticut

Massachusetts

Mississippi

New Hampshire

New Jersey

New Mexico

North Carolina

North Dakota

Pennsylvania

Rhode Island

South Carolina

South Dakota

Washington

Washington, D.C.

West Virginia

Compare car insurance rates for drivers with a DUI

After a DUI, your auto insurance rate will go up — in some cases, 75% or more. But one thing you can control that can affect rates the most is your insurance company. A DUI can affect car insurance rates for 3 to 10 years, so it’s best to shop around for the best price after getting one.

Below you can compare company averages for 40-year-olds before and after a DUI. Keep in mind that not all of these companies are available in every state.

Drivers with a clean record

Drivers with a DUI

American Family

Nationwide

Progressive

State Farm

*USAA is only available to military, veterans and their families.

While your rate will increase after a DUI, how much it does depends in part on which state you live in. In Florida, the average rate for drivers with a recent DUI is 40% higher, on average, than for similar drivers with no incidents — $981 more a year. However, a DUI in Hawaii more than tripled average rates in our analysis, adding more than $3,000 to the annual cost of full coverage car insurance for 40-year-old drivers.

See below for how your state measures up.

Drivers with a clean record

Drivers with a DUI

California

Connecticut

Massachusetts

Mississippi

New Hampshire

New Jersey

New Mexico

North Carolina

North Dakota

Pennsylvania

Rhode Island

South Carolina

South Dakota

Washington

Washington, D.C.

West Virginia

Compare car insurance rates for drivers with poor credit

Your credit history is one of the largest factors affecting your car insurance quote in all states except California, Hawaii, Massachusetts and Michigan. Carriers use credit history to determine how likely you are to file a claim.

While rates can double in some cases, it’s important to note that every company considers credit very differently, and even among insurers this factor fluctuates by state. Drivers with poor credit insured by Nationwide could pay an average of 38% more — $497 more a year — compared to similar drivers with good credit. Meanwhile, State Farm’s average price for full coverage more than doubles for drivers with poor credit compared to those with good credit.

Below you can compare average full coverage rates for 40-year-old drivers with poor credit by company.

Drivers with good credit

Drivers with poor credit

American Family

Nationwide

Progressive

State Farm

*USAA is only available to military, veterans and their families.

Certain states prohibit the use of credit in setting rates, and how insurers treat credit differs from state to state. For example, state regulators in one state may allow more wiggle room for credit-based pricing than others, leading to variations by state.

Our analysis found that:

In Alaska and North Carolina, a driver with poor credit could pay about 38% more than a good credit driver.

Having poor credit in Nevada, Idaho, Oklahoma and Oregon raises the average insurance rate about 60% compared to drivers with good credit.

Average rates for poor credit drivers in Wisconsin were about 2.6 times the average rates for good credit drivers.

Below you can compare average full coverage rates for 40-year-old drivers with poor credit by state.

Drivers with good credit

Drivers with poor credit

California*

Connecticut

Massachusetts*

Mississippi

New Hampshire

New Jersey

New Mexico

North Carolina

North Dakota

Pennsylvania

Rhode Island

South Carolina

South Dakota

Washington*

Washington, D.C.

West Virginia

*Credit-based pricing is banned in California, Hawaii, Massachusetts and Michigan. In Washington, the legal code around this issue is being debated.

Compare minimum and full coverage rates for drivers with an accident

Among the largest companies, your history of accidents will affect your auto insurance quote in very different ways. Check out how each insurer’s average rates for drivers with an accident stack up before you start comparison shopping for auto insurance. If you have an on-record accident, make sure to compare car insurance quotes one, three and five years after the date of the incident to continue to get the best and cheapest rate possible.

The cheapest car insurance company for a driver with a clean history might not be the cheapest company after an at-fault accident occurs. For example, while Geico typically has the best price for drivers with a clean driving history, our data shows that American Family has the cheapest average rates for drivers with a recent at-fault accident — with rates after an accident only 10% higher, on average, than for our base profile.

Below you can compare average full coverage rates for 40-year-old drivers with a recent at-fault accident by company.

Drivers with a clean record

Drivers with a recent at-fault accident

American Family

Nationwide

Progressive

State Farm

*USAA is only available to military, veterans and their families.

State regulators set limits on how much a company can increase your rates after a crash. Our hypothetical accident resulted in $10,000 worth of damage. That caused average annual rates to spike by $1,000 or more in some states, while others jumped by far less. For example, rates in Hawaii for full coverage policies and drivers with a recent at-fault accident were $415 per year more, on average, than for drivers with no accidents. Meanwhile, rates in California averaged over $1,475 more after causing an accident than for incident-free drivers.

One thing’s for sure: Your rates will likely increase after an at-fault accident, so be sure to compare car insurance rates if you have one on record. Below you can compare average full coverage rates for 40-year-old drivers with a recent at-fault accident by state.

Drivers with a clean record

Drivers with a recent at-fault accident

California

Connecticut

Massachusetts

Mississippi

New Hampshire

New Jersey

New Mexico

North Carolina

North Dakota

Pennsylvania

Rhode Island

South Carolina

South Dakota

Washington

Washington, D.C.

West Virginia

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How to compare car insurance quotes

First of all, every car insurance quote you receive should be free — whether it’s from Geico, Farmers or a small insurer you’ve never heard of. Some auto insurers require a down payment to start your policy, but whether you’re buying car insurance online or with an agent, a simple quote estimate should always be free of charge. Here’s how to start comparing quotes.

1. Gather your information

To quickly and easily compare car insurance online, have the following on hand:

Personal information, which includes the address, date of birth, occupation, driver’s license and marital status of everyone you want included on the policy.

Vehicle information: Mileage, date of purchase and vehicle identification number (VIN) for each car. Or, if you haven’t purchased the car yet, have mileage, make, model and year handy.

Driving history: Include all claims, violations and tickets you’ve had over the past five years, plus any completed driving courses.

Current or previous insurer’s name for anyone on the policy or in your household. Some insurers won’t cover you without some coverage history, and if you want to exclude anyone living with you from the policy, you’ll need to prove they’re covered elsewhere.

2. Choose the right liability car insurance coverage levels

Auto insurance is financial protection, and not just for the investment you made when you bought your car. After a really serious accident, bills for damage and injuries can easily reach into hundreds of thousands of dollars. If you happen to cause such a wreck, the victims could sue you. In the worst case scenario, assets such as your savings and home could be seized.

Liability auto insurance protects you from that worst case scenario by providing a cushion between your assets and the amount you’re on the hook for. For this reason, choosing the right auto liability limits is the most important part of your car insurance quote comparison. NerdWallet typically recommends having at least as much liability coverage as your net worth.

But liability coverage levels come in threes — you’ll probably see something like 50/100/50 up to 250/500/250 in typical policies. You can think of these limits like: individual injuries / total injuries / property damage. Insurers are a little more technical, calling them bodily injury liability, total bodily injury liability and physical damage liability.

Liability insurance comes in thousand-dollar increments, so when you choose an auto insurance policy with 100/300/100 limits, you’ll be choosing:

  • $100,000 for bodily injuries per person you injure in a crash.

  • $300,000 total for all bodily injuries you cause in a crash.

  • $100,000 for damage to any property you cause in a crash, including cars, buildings and objects like mailboxes and lampposts.

When choosing liability car insurance coverage, try to make sure the highest, middle number is equal to or greater than the value of your net worth.

Understand car insurance requirements in your state

In certain states, you may be required to have a car insurance policy that includes personal injury protection (PIP), medical payments coverage (medpay) or uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage — or two of the three. If you have medpay you don’t need PIP, and vice versa.

Any car insurance comparison tool you look at should have your state’s minimum car insurance requirements pre-loaded into its options. States requiring PIP or medpay are generally referred to as “no-fault” states, meaning that when injuries occur, each driver in a crash makes a claim with their own insurance company to pay for them. Beyond the PIP or medpay limit, the at-fault driver’s liability insurance kicks in to cover the rest.

3. Decide if you need full coverage car insurance

Liability coverage doesn’t pay for your car or injuries, or for any injuries your passengers sustain if you cause a wreck. This is why you may want “full coverage” car insurance, especially if your car isn’t paid off yet. Note that this isn’t actually a type of coverage, but typically refers to policies that include liability coverage, plus comprehensive and collision coverage.

In other words, you can’t just click a “full coverage” button when comparing insurance quotes online or buy something called a full coverage auto insurance policy. You’ll need to add collision and comprehensive coverage in the amounts you want.

Collision insurance pays for

  1. Damage to your car in an accident you cause.

  2. Damage to your car if you hit an object such as a fence or pole.

  3. Damage to your car if someone else hits you. Another option in this case is to make a claim against the other driver’s liability insurance.

Comprehensive insurance pays for

The value of your car if it’s stolen and not recovered, and damage from:

  1. Weather such as tornadoes or hail.

  2. Falling objects.

  3. Explosions.

  4. Crashes with an animal, such as striking a deer.

  5. Riots and civil disturbances.

Auto insurance quote comparison tip: Whatever coverage you choose, make sure you compare the quotes for the same type and amount of coverage so you can find the best price.

4. Collect and compare car insurance quotes

You’ll want to get car insurance quotes from at least two or three companies available in your area to be sure you’re getting a good deal. Consider comparing quotes from regional companies as well as the big companies such as Allstate, Progressive and State Farm. While shopping, make certain that each insurance quote includes:

  1. The same levels of liability and uninsured/underinsured motorist protection.

  2. The same deductibles for collision and comprehensive coverage, if you’re buying them.

  3. The same drivers and cars.

  4. All discounts you’re eligible for (most insurers list the discounts they offer on their websites).

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Compare car insurance frequently asked questions

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Compare car insurance companies

Use NerdWallet’s reviews to compare car insurance companies and find the best one for you. NerdWallet has researched policy options, consumer complaint data, customer satisfaction ratings, financial stability and more for all of the country’s top auto insurance companies as well as many smaller, regional insurers.

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See what you could save on car insurance

Easily compare personalized rates to see how much switching car insurance could save you.

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Methodology

NerdWallet averaged rates based on public filings obtained by pricing analytics company Quadrant Information Services. We examined rates for 40-year-old men and women for all ZIP codes in any of the 50 states and Washington, D.C. Although it’s one of the largest insurers in the country, Liberty Mutual is not included in our rates analysis due to a lack of publicly available information.

In our analysis, “good drivers” had no moving violations on record; a “good driving” discount was included for this profile. Our “good” and “poor” credit rates are based on credit score approximations and do not account for proprietary scoring criteria used by insurance providers. These are average rates, and your rate will vary based on your personal details, state and insurance provider.

Sample drivers had the following coverage limits:

  1. $100,000 bodily injury liability coverage per person.

  2. $300,000 bodily injury liability coverage per crash.

  3. $50,000 property damage liability coverage per crash.

  4. $100,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage per person.

  5. $300,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage per crash.

  6. Collision coverage with $1,000 deductible.

  7. Comprehensive coverage with $1,000 deductible.

In states where required, minimum additional coverages were added. We used the same assumptions for all other driver profiles, with the following exceptions:

  1. For drivers with minimum coverage, we adjusted the numbers above to reflect only the minimum coverage required by law in the state.

  2. We changed the credit tier from “good” to “poor” as reported to the insurer to see rates for drivers with poor credit. In states where credit isn’t taken into account, we only used rates for “good credit”

  3. For drivers with one at-fault crash, we added a single at-fault crash costing $10,000 in property damage.

  4. For drivers with a DUI, we added a single drunken-driving violation.

  5. $300,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage per crash.

  6. Collision coverage with $1,000 deductible.

  7. Comprehensive coverage with $1,000 deductible.

We used a 2018 Toyota Camry LE in all cases and assumed 12,000 annual miles driven.

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