Have your auto insurance rates gone up recently? If so, you aren’t alone — premiums are on the rise for a lot of drivers.
One of the best ways to get cheap car insurance quotes online is to shop around and compare quotes from 3-4 different insurers. And you can use NerdWallet’s online car insurance comparison tool to find quotes from multiple companies in minutes.
If you have questions about car insurance quotes, it’s best to get the answers before you start shopping. And if you have a specific question about auto insurance quotes, you can use this guide jump right to that section:
NerdWallet is not a car insurance company. Rather, we provide a tool that allows you to compare several carriers at one time. This includes some of the biggest insurers in the nation like Progressive, Geico, State Farm and Allstate, along with smaller, regional insurers.
What is an auto insurance quote?
Let’s keep it simple: A car insurance quote is an estimate of how much you’ll pay for a car insurance policy. Each insurer has a top-secret formula to calculate car insurance quotes, so even if you provide the same information to Geico, Progressive or any other company, no two quotes will be the same.
This is why shopping around can make a big difference. The more auto insurance quotes you get, the better chance you’ll have of finding the cheapest car insurance policy for you.
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Which factors determine car insurance quotes?
Several factors affect your auto insurance quote, no matter who it’s from. However, how they differ changes from company to company. For instance, one insurance company might raise your rates by 10% if you live in a high-crime area, while a different insurer might only charge 5% more. Both companies are looking at the amount of crime in your neighborhood, but they calculate your insurance risk differently.
Factors that affect car insurance quotes include:
Personal characteristics like your age, gender, marital status and education level can affect your quote, depending on where you live. This is because insurers use statistics about certain demographics to predict how likely a person is to crash. For instance, teen drivers generally have higher insurance rates because they’re more likely to get in a car accident than almost any other age group.
The coverage you choose can make a difference in your car insurance rate. Unsurprisingly, the more coverage you need, the higher your quote will be. In fact, NerdWallet’s research found that on average, “full coverage” car insurance costs more than double minimum coverage.
Your driving record, such as a history of accidents, speeding tickets and DUIs, will raise your car insurance rates. But the same is true if you’re a new driver and don’t have a driving record yet. To get the cheapest quote possible, you’d need a lengthy driving history with no recent traffic violations.
Details about your vehicle, including your car make and model, and whether it has features like a GPS system or safety equipment, all affect your car insurance quote. Why? Because luxury vehicles and cars with expensive features cost more to repair after an accident. (They’re also more likely to be stolen, making them a bigger liability for insurers.)
Location plays an important part in how much your coverage costs. The amount of coverage required to legally drive a car varies by state. As such, average rates for similar policies vary greatly. Other details about your location play a role in your insurance cost, too. Population density, crime and crash rates around your neighborhood are all factors insurers consider.
Your credit-based insurance score — which is similar but not the same as your credit score — can affect the cost of your auto insurance. According to the Insurance Information Institute, drivers with low insurance scores are more likely to file claims, which could be costly for an insurer. Further, insurance companies may assume there is a correlation between how well a person manages their finances and how well they drive and maintain a vehicle. However, California, Hawaii, Massachusetts and Michigan don’t allow insurers to use credit when determining car insurance rates. So if you live in these states, you’re in luck.
Your car insurance history plays a key factor in determining your auto insurance quote, including:
Whether your car insurance has lapsed. Drivers who have had an insurance lapse, even if they don’t own a car, may be classified as high-risk. Non-owner auto insurance can help customers avoid a gap in coverage.
Insurance claims. Generally, a recent at-fault accident will raise car insurance rates 50% or more for a full coverage policy. Look for policies with accident forgiveness to help reduce how much your rate increases.
How long you’ve been at your last insurer. Many companies offer a loyalty discount, but sticking with the same company without shopping around also has drawbacks. Some insurers use data algorithms to determine whether a loyal customer will compare rates with other companies. If they don’t think you’ll shop around, they may raise your rates — this is called price optimization.
Your previous insurance company. According to research from the Consumer Federation of America, if your last insurer was a nonstandard company that insures high-risk drivers, your new insurer may give you a higher quote.
What information do you need to get a free car insurance quote?
When you shop around for auto insurance quotes, make sure you understand what affects the price of your insurance premium and also have all the relevant information on hand, including and understand what goes into determining your final premium. That includes:
Basic information such as your name, address, occupation and birthdate.
Your current auto insurance company, if you have one.
Driver’s license information for you and anyone else on the policy.
Annual and current mileage on your car, as well as how often you drive and why (such as for pleasure or commuting to work).
Vehicle information, including whether you own or lease your car, the vehicle identification number and any safety features.
Driving history for the past five years for all drivers on the policy, including tickets, accidents and other violations. Keep in mind that any company you choose will find your driving history before issuing a policy, so it’s best to be upfront about it so you can get an accurate car insurance quote.
How much coverage you need. If you already have a policy, the declarations page of your policy lists the coverage you currently have. You can use this for reference.
Where do you get car insurance quotes
There are several ways you can get free auto insurance quotes (You can click on any of these links to jump straight to that section.):
But before you start making phone calls, remember these pro tips:
Look into car insurance companies’ complaint records and customer satisfaction to help find the best companies to work with. Auto insurance reviews are a good place to find that information.
Get at least three car insurance quotes online or from an agent so you can evaluate whether you’re getting a good price with your current insurance for the coverage you want.
Understand coverage limits. When comparing quotes, check that each policy has comparable liability limits and deductibles.
Looking to buy a new auto insurance policy, but not sure where to start? Here’s our guide on how to buy car insurance.
Direct quotes online or over the phone
Getting free auto insurance quotes online is one of the most convenient ways to shop for car insurance. Most companies, like State Farm and Allstate, offer free quotes, letting you start online but then assigning you a captive agent to finalize your quote over the phone.
Purchasing a policy online (or over the phone) is referred to as buying car insurance “direct” from the insurer.
Buying insurance directly without the help of an agent gives you more freedom to adjust coverages and see auto insurance quotes for yourself. However, there may be follow-up calls and emails or you may find that websites can provide less information than speaking directly with an agent.
Captive insurance agents
You could also get a free car insurance quote through a captive agent. These folks work for one specific insurance company, such as Allstate, Farmers Insurance or State Farm.
Any agent’s job is to help figure out what policy is best for you and provide a car insurance quote. In return, he or she earns a commission — or percentage of your premium — when you buy a policy. Unlike other agents, however, a captive agent may also receive a salary from the company they work for.
Direct sales agents are similar to captive agents, except they are employees of an insurance company. Meanwhile, captive agents own or work for separate agencies that sell insurance from a single insurance company.
If your insurance needs are relatively complex, like if you have multiple cars or need several types of policies, you may want to work with a captive agent because they can help navigate your unique situation. But keep in mind that captive agents are limited to selling from one company, so they may be motivated to upsell to receive a larger commission.
Independent insurance agents and brokers
If you want to talk through your car insurance options but don’t want to limit yourself to one company, getting an auto insurance quote from an independent broker or agent might be a good option.
Independent agents and brokers work with multiple insurers and can offer a wide range of options and policies. Big-name insurance companies such as Travelers and Progressive, as well as smaller local companies, sell policies through independent agents. And because independent agents work on commission, they may be more motivated to provide you the best customer service possible. The downside is that they may also be incentivized to steer you toward more expensive policies.
Independent brokers differ from independent agents in that they charge a broker’s fee and must disclose commission rates to customers. This transparency allows you to know exactly how much the broker is making from your business.
If you want to get quotes from multiple companies online for free, consider using a comparison website. NerdWallet’s auto insurance comparison tool matches you with several insurers so you can easily compare prices and find the cheapest quote. This can be especially helpful if you already know the kind of coverage you want.
Drivers who have had DUIs, speeding tickets or multiple accidents may need to find a nonstandard insurance company that specializes in policies for high-risk drivers. Many local and national agencies exist just to serve this customer base. These agencies find car insurance quotes specifically from companies willing to cover individuals with poor driving histories.
How much is the average auto insurance quote?
Car insurance quotes can vary widely from person to person because of all the factors involved. And because we don’t know details about your car, location and driving record, we can’t predict the exact auto insurance quote you’ll receive. But our analyses of national car insurance rates helped us determine these averages:
Average auto insurance costs for a 35-year-old driver
One at-fault accident, good credit
One speeding ticket, good credit
Why you can trust NerdWallet:
Our writers and editors follow strict editorial guidelines to ensure fairness and accuracy in our writing and data analyses. You can trust the prices we show you because our data analysts take rigorous measures to eliminate outliers and inaccuracies in pricing data, which include rates from every locale in the country where coverage is offered and data is available. When comparing rates for different coverage amounts, ages and backgrounds, we change only one variable at a time, so you can easily see how each factor affects pricing. Read our methodology.
How do you get the cheapest car insurance quote possible?
Regularly shopping around is the only way to find the best policy for you. Even if you have a clean record and are happy with your insurance company, you might find a cheaper price elsewhere. The only way to know is to compare car insurance rates.
Besides shopping around (at least once a year), there are other strategies you can try to keep your premium down:
Work on your credit. Building your credit isn’t always easy, but it can make a big difference in lowering your auto insurance rate. For example, our rates analysis found that drivers with poor credit and a good driving record pay almost as much for car insurance as drivers with good credit and a DUI.
Shop for insurance before buying a car. Insurers will charge you more (or less) depending on the type of car you drive. A recent NerdWallet study found that the cheapest cars to insure include the Subaru Outback and Forester and the Honda CR-V.
Drive cautiously. Car insurance is almost always expensive for drivers with a history of car accidents, speeding tickets, DUIs or other violations in the past three to five years.
Look for discounts. You can save on your car insurance if you own a home, take a driver’s safety course or belong to certain organizations.
Raise your deductibles. Opting to pay more out of pocket if you file a collision or comprehensive claim will help reduce your monthly premium.
What is the average car insurance quote?
Why should you use NerdWallet to compare quotes?
How do you get free car insurance quotes?
Can you get an auto insurance quote before buying a car?
Does getting a car insurance quote affect credit?
Why is car insurance so expensive?