We always advise drivers to compare quotes from at least three different auto insurance companies to find affordable rates. That's because insurers can view and charge the same driver very differently based on their experience. In our research, the most expensive insurer's quotes can be 2 - 4x quotes from the cheapest car insurance company. The only way you'd know is if you compared quotes across several insurers.
We reviewed annual rates from eight insurers with the largest national market shares to highlight how much car insurance quotes can vary for drivers. The graph below shows the range of quotes between insurance companies, using a blend of four different motorists from our car insurance analysis in California as a benchmark.
Your actual quote is going to be very different since the rates above are an average of four driver scenarios in California: two single drivers in their early 30s, a young married couple in their early 20s, and a married senior couple.
Using the four driver profiles as a benchmark, we can see that rates vary quite widely. We calculated that the eight largest insurers' averages for our four CA drivers ranged from $623 on the low end to $1,225 on the high end. The highest quote could pay for nearly two years of coverage from the cheapest insurer. Note that USAA only insures militar members and their families. If we exclude this specialty insurer, the difference narrows, but is still substantial, by $400+ in annual premiums; the most expensive quote would be 50% higher than the cheapest among the eight.
Price is but one factor in picking a company to insure with, but you can see why it makes a big difference for motorists looking for the cheapest auto insurance. If cost is important to you, get three quotes at a minimum so you have some basis of comparison, or even leverage. Beyond the eight largest car insurers in the U.S., there are a lot of independent local and regional companies that drivers can get quotes from.
Car Insurance Quotes by Driver Type
How about comparing quotes for specific drivers? This graph shows how the sample motorists got different quotes from four of the largest insurers. The four profiles represent a mixture of California motorists and include: a 31 year old single man, a 31 year old single woman, a husband (29 years old) and wife (27 years old), and a senior couple with a 67 year old husband and a 65 year old wife. Each profile captures driving experiences from a clean record to getting a speeding ticket and being in an at-fault accident in the previous 3 years.
With this view, we can see that the company with the cheapest auto insurance quotes isn't the same by driver. Out of the four carriers, GEICO generally quoted the lowest amount for our single drivers in California, Progressive had the best quotes for our young married couple, while Allstate ranked with the most affordable quotes for our senior married couple here. The difference between the highest and lowest quotes was $166 for the single female driver to $258 for the married senior couple; on a percentage basis, that means that the most expensive quotes are between 24% to 33% higher than the cheapest quotes, respectively.
Quotes can be obtained several ways, such as in person, over the phone, or online. Most national companies have tools on their website that allow consumers to get a quote directly. Some companies like Progressive let you compare their rates to competitors’ rates so that you can find the best price. If you can’t get a quote online, try calling an agent at the insurance company you’re interested in.
Getting quotes online can be more convenient for drivers who prefer using the internet, while calling up an agent can be more comforting and serve as one point of contact for your auto policy. With online quotes, you generally just get one insurance company's proposed rates. With agents, you can either get one company's quotes or quotes from multiple carriers, depending on whether the agency is in-house / captive, or independent.
Companies with Online Quotes
Getting an insurance quote online - called a direct quote - is probably the fastest and most convenient way to shop for auto insurance. Most of the national insurance companies will quote you a premium for your policy, and even close the deal with you online. Here is a table with a list of the largest national insurers that quote online:
Companies that Quote through Agents
Most of the largest auto insurance companies also either employ their own in-house (captive) agents, or partner with independent agents to secure leads. State Farm, Allstate and Farmers generally employ what are known as captive agents - their agents can only quote for their own company (Allstate, in fact, is one of our favorite agent-based insurer). GEICO has agents as well, to a certain extent, that are scattered across your state.
Other large carriers can operate through a network a hybrid of captive and independent agents, while smaller auto insurance companies rely exclusively on independent agencies to handle their quotes.
Independent agencies typically have relationships with several companies, and can provide you with multiple quotes and help you compare quotes. The consideration to keep in mind is that their carriers: generally tend to be smaller, might have fewer consumer resources online, and generally don't include quotes from the three insurers with the most business (State Farm, Allstate and GEICO). There are a lot of independent agencies that operate as small mom-and-pop or family-run businesses within each state, and are typically named after the lead agent.
Whether you choose to get a quote online or through an agent, aim for at least three quotes from three different companies. The more quotes you get, the more options you have, and the more you understand the market rate for your business. Based on your profile (age, gender, driving record, etc.), some insurers might provide you with a cheaper quote than others for the same coverage. Certain insurers will not offer coverage to drivers who have gotten a speeding ticket and been in an at-fault accident within the last 3 years (which puts you into high-risk territory).
A quote is the estimated price of your auto insurance policy from a specific carrier based on certain information you have provided. It's a good predictor of what your annual premium would be for a specific carrier, but your final rates could be cheaper or more expensive once your carrier has received additional information about you.
When asking for a quote, or submitting a form for a quote online, you’ll need to have some personal information about you as a motorist on hand. This is a list of the information you’ll commonly be asked for when inquiring about a quote:
- Your address
- Your date of birth
- Your gender
- Your Social Security Number
- Your current insurance information (if any)
- Your credit score (where permitted by law)
- Your marital status
- The make, model, and year of the car you drive
- Whether you purchased the car new or used
- Your car’s odometer reading / how much you drive in a year
- Your car’s license plate number
- Your driver license number
- Your driving history (any claims, violations, or accidents)