How to compare car insurance rates
Getting a car insurance quote has become a more straightforward process after the growth of online quote tools. But before quote shopping, you'll have to do some legwork to ensure you're making appropriate car insurance price comparisons. Make sure you take the following three steps before comparing auto insurance companies.
Collect relevant personal information before comparing rates
Online car insurance quote tools and insurance agents can provide you with an estimate of your rates, but the estimate will only be as accurate as the information you provide. Make sure you have the following information about you and your vehicle before seeking out a quote.
To obtain an accurate car insurance quote you need the following information:
- full name
- current insurer (and your policy's declaration page)
- license number
- equivalent information of any other drivers on the policy
- model (including year and make)
- vehicle information number (VIN)
- date of purchase
- ticket and accident history
- any license suspensions
Decide on fixed coverage levels before comparison shopping
Perhaps the most important factor affecting the price of your car insurance policy is how much coverage you choose to buy. Car insurance policies can include the following types of coverages, and when comparison shopping you should make sure you select the same coverage limits for each. In the cases of collision and comprehensive insurance — which don't have limits — you should ensure you select the same deductibles.
- Liability coverage (for both bodily injury and property damage)
- Collision and comprehensive insurance
- Personal injury protection (PIP)
- Uninsured/underinsured driver coverage
At the end of this piece, we break down when state law means you need to purchase these coverages (liability insurance is usually required by state law, for example), when they're optional and how much of them we recommend should buy.
When you compare vehicle insurance online across multiple insurers, the most important thing is that you keep these coverages and their limits consistent with each insurer. Then you can compare auto insurance quotes side by side knowing that your coverage will be equivalent.
Collect and compare quotes
Once you have all your personal information and have decided on appropriate coverage limits, it's time to shop. If you're looking to compare cheap car insurance, you can use our insurance comparison tool at the top of the page. Or you can go to multiple insurer websites, use their quote tools and compare quotes from different companies. A good place to start are our recommendations for the best and cheapest car insurance companies below.
Read on if you're looking to learn how about what factors affect car insurance rates and by how much.
Comparing factors that affect car insurance rates
The primary factor that affects car insurance rates is the amount of coverage you select. But beyond your elected coverage, many variables will affect your rates including your age, location, vehicle type, accident and violation history and credit score.
We took a sample driver and altered his location, characteristics and driving history to create a comprehensive car insurance price comparison analysis. These quotes apply to our sample driver and should serve as a guide rather than a prediction of what your auto insurance rates will be.
compare rates by: state | accident history | age | credit score
Compare car insurance rates by state
Insurance is regulated on a state level, and comparing auto insurance rates by state can show how drastically state regulations affect the price of car insurance where you live. Below, we've ranked the 50 states and Washington, D.C., from cheapest to most expensive for a sample policy.
Policy with comprehensive and collision insurance
Comparing the cheapest state, Maine, where our sample driver is charged $1,268 per year, to the most expensive state, Michigan, where our sample driver is charged $8,723 per year, shows the potential range in quotes. Note that car insurance prices in your area may vary significantly.
The rates here are for a policy with comprehensive and collision insurance, but what if you just want a policy that only meets your state's minimum requirements? In any individual state, this would be the cheapest auto insurance policy you can get. Next, we compare car insurance rates by state for policies that only meet the respective state minimums.
Cheapest policy meeting your state's minimum requirements
Michigan ($5,282) still ranks as the most expensive state for minimum coverage, much pricier than the cheapest state: Iowa ($357 per year).
Compare car insurance rates by accident history
Curious how your rates might change after you get into an accident? We compared rates before and after an accident for the five biggest car insurance companies.
Average annual insurance rates for five major insurers before and after an accident
Allstate saw the largest increase in rates after an accident, while State Farm tends to penalize drivers less.
What if you wanted to compare the states in which insurance companies tend to impose the biggest rate increases after an accident? Below, we compare how average insurance rates change after a sample at-fault accident by state, showing the five states where insurers penalize drivers the most, and the five states that are most forgiving of drivers with an accident history.
New York residents are in luck: Their rates only go up by 6% after the sample accident. Every other state sees an average annual rate increase of at least 20%.
If you live in Maine, you should take extra care to be careful on the road! Compared to other states, insurance rates went up by 70% after an accident.
States with the smallest increases in rates after an accident ...
… compared to states with the biggest increases in rates.
Compare car insurance rates by age
Age is a major factor when comparing car insurance rates. Younger drivers — considered the riskiest drivers, according to insurance company calculations — pay comparatively more for auto insurance than older drivers, all else equal.
Taking three specific ages as an example: 18, 25 and 30, you can see how insurance rates change over the course of the average young adult's driving life.
- Our sample 18-year-old driver pays an average of $7,179 per year for car insurance.
- The same driver at 25 years old pays $3,207 per year for car insurance, a decline of 55%.
- But as drivers reach adulthood, rates tend to level out. The same driver pays $2,399 per year at 30 years old, only 25% less than a 25-year-old, but easily the lowest car insurance rates of this group.
Our graphic below shows how average auto insurance rates compare for ages ranging from late teens to 30 years old. Car insurance rates generally decline as you age but then spike again in your later years, as senior drivers are thought of as riskier than middle-aged drivers.
Average annual car insurance rates by age
Compare car insurance rates by credit score
Credit scores can also be a key factor in determining your auto insurance quote. Insurance companies use a proprietary calculation — called a credit-based insurance score — to rate their customers. Policyholders with good credit scores tend to be offered lower car insurance premiums, while those with poor credit scores tend to be offered higher premiums, all else equal.
We found that drivers with excellent credit can save an average of 35% off their premium compared to those with poor credit. Below, we compare average annual insurance rates for 13 major insurers, showing how annual rates change between the same drivers if they have either poor or excellent credit.
- Farmers provides the biggest discount for excellent credit profiles, decreasing its rates by 54%.
- Metropolitan (or MetLife) provides the smallest discount, only decreasing rates by 12% if our sample driver had an excellent credit history instead of a poor one.
Annual insurance rates for select insurers for poor and excellent credit ratings
|Insurer||Poor credit||Excellent credit||Difference|
|Farm Bureau Mutual (IA Group)||$436||$320||-27%|
|Auto-Owners Insurance Co||$649||$347||-46%|
Some states have outlawed the use of credit scores in determining insurance rates. If you live in one of the following states, the quality of your credit score will not affect your car insurance rates.
How to estimate how much car insurance you need
Before you begin insurance shopping, you'll have to decide on fixed coverage levels so that you can make like-for-like comparisons across auto insurers. Below, we've provided a quick cheat sheet for how much state law may require you to buy — and how much we recommend you actually do buy — of the main coverages offered in a car insurance policy. Ultimately, the choice is up to you in balancing the expense of increased coverage with the comfort of more protection.
Comprehensive and collision insurance
Personal injury protection (PIP)
Uninsured or underinsured motorist insurance
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We gathered rates through 50 states and Washington, D.C., for 51 insurance companies. To ensure some level of availability for our recommendations given differing state insurance markets, an insurer is only noted in the lists above if it is available in at least five states.
Our sample driver was a 30-year-old male who drove a 2015 Honda Civic EX, and rates used all available ZIP codes in each state. The driver was profiled as having no credit history, which makes him equivalent to a driver with below-fair to poor credit, according to our data source, Quadrant Information Services.
When our driver had a full coverage policy, we gave him coverage limits slightly above any one state's minimum requirements.
Full coverage policy
|Coverage type||Study limits|
|Bodily liability||$50,000 per person/ $100,000 per accident|
|Property damage||$25,000 per accident|
|Uninsured/underinsured motorist BI||$50,000 per person/ $100,000 per accident|
|Comprehensive & collision||$500 deductible|
|Personal injury protection||Min. when required by state|
- Our rates for minimum coverage policies represent the average cost of a policy that meets any state's minimum required auto insurance coverage.
- Rates by age were drawn solely from the 10 most populous states.
- ValuePenguin's analysis used insurance rate data from Quadrant Information Services. These rates were publicly sourced from insurer filings and should be used for comparative purposes only — your own quotes may be different.