Understanding car insurance quotes

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If you own a vehicle, chances are you need to have car insurance. The first step to buying an auto insurance policy is to get a quote. Most insurance experts recommend that you get at least three quotes to compare, but if you aren’t familiar with how car insurance works, you might not know how to read and interpret the information. That’s where Bankrate can help.

Bankrate’s insurance experts can help you feel confident when getting car insurance quotes. Understanding what the coverage names mean, what the limits convey, how to compare quotes and how to purchase an auto insurance policy could help you secure the financial protection you need.

Key takeaways
  • Car insurance quotes are estimates of what you can expect to pay for a provider’s policy based on personal details like age, vehicle type, driving record and current or past insurance information.
  • Requesting quotes from multiple providers could help you determine the best rates for the coverage options you want.
  • It helps to provide consistent details regarding your personal information, coverage options, and history of tickets or traffic violations for accurate quote comparisons.
  • The rate you pay may still change after receiving a quote, depending on other selections you make, such as discounts or higher deductibles.

What is a car insurance quote?

So what are auto insurance quotes? Simply put, quotes are an estimate of your insurance premiums and coverage with a specific insurance provider. Many car insurance companies offer online quotes, or you can usually call a provider or visit a local agency.

Each quote is personalized to reflect the information you submitted about yourself and your vehicle. Because every auto insurance company assesses data differently, getting quotes from several companies for the same coverage could result in a significant price difference.

Fortunately, quotes are always free from reputable companies. Your quote will include at least your state’s minimum requirements as well as any coverage types and levels that you selected, including your liability coverage, potentially collision coverage and comprehensive coverage (if you are purchasing full coverage), and any add-ons you choose, such as roadside assistance or car rental coverage.

What does it mean to get a quote on car insurance?

Quotes are just that — quotes. Getting a car insurance quote doesn’t mean you have to buy coverage from that company or agree to get coverage at any point in the future. A quote is just a preliminary step in the process of buying car insurance.

Auto insurance quotes can help you gather information about different insurance providers. Most notably, getting quotes from multiple insurance companies for the same coverage allows you to compare the quoted premium so you know you are getting the best or cheapest price for the coverage you need.

Quotes also allow you to compare coverage types and policy features. Maybe one company offers a discount that another company doesn’t. Maybe your collision coverage is more expensive with one company than it is with another. Auto policies have a lot of moving parts. Comparing quotes side-by-side can help you find the options that are right for you.

How to get a car insurance quote

Quotes can be completed online, over the phone and in person for free. Some companies only offer quotes online, while others provide local agencies where you can go and speak with an insurance agent in person. No matter which option you choose, you will typically be asked for the same personal, vehicle and financial information.

Gather the information you need for a quote

  • Driver information: Insurers usually request the name, date of birth, driver’s license number and address with ZIP code for you and any household members or other regular drivers of the vehicles you are insuring. In many cases, providers will request your Social Security number to pull up your personal information, including credit score, although this rating metric is banned in some states.
  • Vehicle information: Insurance carriers also build quotes based on the details of your vehicle, including the year, make and model, vehicle identification number (VIN), safety features and annual mileage. You will be asked whether you own the vehicle or if it is being leased or financed. If you have a loan or lease, your lender will probably require you to carry comprehensive coverage and collision coverage, so keep that in mind when selecting coverage types during the quote process. Leased vehicles may require higher liability limits as well.
  • Driving history: Any prior tickets, accidents or driving violations on your record (typically within the past three to five years) should be reported to an insurance provider for an accurate quote. The insurance company will obtain this information when they review your motor vehicle report (which shows citations and suspensions) and CLUE report (which show claims), so being honest when requesting a quote is a good practice.
  • Insurance information: If you currently have auto insurance, you will likely be asked to provide information about your current policy, such as the company you are with, the policy number and the expiration date.
  • Payment type: If you plan to finalize the purchase of your policy immediately, you will need to have your payment information handy when requesting quotes.

How you decide to get your quote is up to you. If you are shopping around for insurance and comparing multiple providers, you could receive several quotes within minutes online as long as you have the necessary information. If you have more questions regarding your coverage, you may want to consider speaking with an agent in person or over the phone.

Decide what coverage you want

How much auto coverage you purchase is a personal decision. You have to buy at least your state’s minimum coverage types and limits to drive legally and if you have a loan or lease, you’ll likely have to purchase comprehensive coverage and collision coverage as well. Insurance is designed to provide financial protection if you get into an accident or if your vehicle is damaged. How much coverage you need will depend on your financial situation and your level of risk tolerance. In addition to deciding what coverage types to purchase, you’ll need to decide on your limits.

Generally, the higher the limits of your coverage, the higher your premium will be. Opting for a robust policy that includes comprehensive, collision and other optional coverage types, such as gap insurance, will generally cost more than purchasing liability-only insurance. You may want to make a list of what is most important to you before requesting quotes. Speaking with a licensed insurance agent could help you better understand all the options a particular provider offers.

Comparing insurance quotes from different companies

Before you request quotes from different car insurance companies, here are a few tips to maximize your comparison shopping experience when you compare quotes:

  • Request the coverage you need: Determine how much car insurance you need to protect yourself financially if you have an accident and any additional coverage that fits your specific needs. Speak with an agent if you are having trouble determining what you need.
  • Get similar quotes: For an apples-to-apples comparison, request the same coverage from each company you submit a quote request to when possible.
  • Get several quotes: Insurance providers’ websites usually have online quote tools, making comparisons easy and efficient. You may also want to consider quotes from smaller, local companies with first-hand knowledge of the factors related to driving in your area.
  • Investigate customer service levels: Researching customer service when comparing quotes could provide a good indicator of the experience you will have when filing claims. Trusted companies like J.D. Power rank carriers based on customer and claims satisfaction.

Incorporating these steps will help you efficiently evaluate multiple providers. Bankrate has provided average annual and monthly premiums for several well-known providers — gathered from the most up-to-date data from Quadrant Information Services — that rate highly in customer satisfaction below. We have also included a link to each provider’s Bankrate review, where we examined financial strength, coverage options, available discounts and customer satisfaction scores to help make your search for auto insurance easier.

Auto insurance quotes by company

Insurance provider Average annual full coverage premium Average monthly full coverage premium
Allstate $1,921 $160
Amica $1,378 $115
Erie $1,233 $103
Auto-Owners $1,351 $113
Geico $1,405 $117
Farmers $2,000 $167
Nationwide $1,485 $124
Progressive $1,509 $126
State Farm $1,457 $121
Travelers $1,325 $110
USAA $1,225 $102

What factors impact auto insurance quotes?

Although each insurance company has its own formula for determining your quoted car insurance rate, certain factors will almost always contribute to your premium.

Your driving record

The better your driving record, the lower your rate will typically be. The key concept is risk. If an insurer thinks that you are at high risk of filing a claim, the provider will likely charge you more to compensate for that risk. A clean driving record often results in a lower premium than if you have tickets, accidents or DUI convictions.

Average annual full coverage premium
Clean driving record $1,674
DUI conviction $3,139
Accident $2,311
Speeding ticket $2,062

Your personal characteristics

Insurers in most states take into account your age, gender and marital status to calculate risk. Providers know, for example, that male drivers statistically cause more accidents than female drivers. Additionally, teens are statistically riskier drivers than older adults. To account for that, premiums will typically be higher for men and young drivers. Rates for young drivers generally start higher and decrease until about age 60 if the driver’s record stays clean. Then, they begin to rise again. The table below demonstrates average rates for male and female drivers at different ages.

Average annual full coverage premium for males Average annual full coverage premium for females
18-year-old $5,646 $4,839
25-year-old $2,181 $2,036
40-year-old $1,648 $1,701
60-year-old $1,552 $1,537
70-year-old $1,701 $1,670

Your car

Providers will use the make and model of your car to calculate your rates. Your VIN will give insurance companies specific information about your vehicle. Your make and model are critical because some types of cars are more expensive to repair than others and may be statistically more likely to get into accidents. Someone driving a Tesla Model S, for example, will likely pay more than a driver with a Honda Civic. Your car’s age is also important. Newer cars may be more expensive to insure because they tend to cost more to repair or replace, but they also might have more safety features that lessen the risk of claims, which could lower the cost of premiums.

Where you live

Car insurance is primarily regulated at the state level and every state has different laws. Insurance providers also consider whether you live in an urban or rural area to calculate your premium. Accidents are typically more likely to happen in metropolitan areas with higher traffic than in rural areas, so your rates will likely be higher if you are in a large urban area. Providers will also look at things like theft and vandalism rates in your area to help calculate your premium. While most states use your ZIP code as a rating factor, California and Michigan ban the use of ZIP codes to assess premiums.

The table below lists average full coverage car insurance premiums by state.

State Average annual full coverage premium
Alabama $1,623
Alaska $1,559
Arizona $1,547
Arkansas $1,914
California $2,065
Colorado $2,016
Connecticut $1,845
Delaware $1,775
Florida $2,364
Georgia $1,982
Hawaii $1,127
Idaho $1,045
Illinois $1,485
Indiana $1,254
Iowa $1,260
Kansas $1,698
Kentucky $2,128
Louisiana $2,724
Maine $965
Maryland $1,877
Massachusetts $1,223
Michigan $2,309
Minnesota $1,643
Mississippi $1,782
Missouri $1,661
Montana $1,737
Nebraska $1,531
Nevada $2,245
New Hampshire $1,275
New Jersey $1,757
New Mexico $1,419
New York $2,321
North Carolina $1,325
North Dakota $1,264
Ohio $1,034
Oklahoma $1,873
Oregon $1,346
Pennsylvania $1,476
Rhode Island $2,018
South Carolina $1,512
South Dakota $1,642
Tennessee $1,338
Texas $1,823
Utah $1,306
Vermont $1,207
Virginia $1,304
Washington $1,176
Washington, D.C. $1,855
West Virginia $1,499
Wisconsin $1,186
Wyoming $1,495

How to save on auto insurance quotes

The average American driver pays $565 annually for minimum coverage car insurance and $1,674 annually for full coverage. If you are budget-conscious, you could do several things to try to find a cheaper premium. Some factors like age, gender and marital status are largely out of your control. However, you can help yourself get the best rate possible by taking a number of steps.

  • Discounts: Most major insurers offer a range of discounts, including loyalty, driver-based and vehicle-based discounts.
  • Telematics: Many insurers offer telematics-based savings programs that monitor your driving habits or how much you drive to provide potential discounts.
  • Deductibles: Choosing a higher deductible is an easy way to reduce your premium, but may require extra consideration. Be sure to think about whether you can afford the higher out-of-pocket costs if you need to file a claim for damage to your vehicle.

Frequently asked questions

What insurance companies offer the cheapest rates?

Since car insurance rates are based on personal factors, such as driving record and insurance history, there is not one company that will be the cheapest for every driver. Shopping around to compare quotes from several providers could help you determine which company offers the best rates for your needs.

How do I know what types of coverage I need?

You will need to carry at least the minimum required coverage and limits for your state. Required coverage usually includes bodily injury liability and property damage liability, but can also include uninsured motorist coverage, underinsured motorist coverage, personal injury protection (PIP) or medical payments coverage, depending on where you live. You may also want to consider collision and comprehensive to pay for repairs to your car after a covered loss. If your vehicle is financed or leased, your lender will likely require it. Consider checking with a licensed insurance agent from several providers to determine what type of coverage you need before getting quotes.

What cars are the cheapest to insure?

Generally, the cheapest cars to insure are SUVs and midsize vehicles. Topping our list of the cheapest cars to insure is the Subaru Outback, followed by the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. Rates for different cars can change frequently, so getting multiple quotes can still be a good idea, even if your car is typically cheap to insure. If you are heading out to shop for a vehicle, consider getting quotes for the types of cars you are looking at so that you know what to expect.

Methodology

Bankrate utilizes Quadrant Information Services to analyze 2021 rates for all ZIP codes and carriers in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Quoted rates are based on a 40-year-old male and female driver with a clean driving record, good credit and the following full coverage limits:

  • $100,000 bodily injury liability per person
  • $300,000 bodily injury liability per accident
  • $50,000 property damage liability per accident
  • $100,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury per person
  • $300,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury per accident
  • $500 collision deductible
  • $500 comprehensive deductible

To determine minimum coverage limits, Bankrate used minimum coverage that meets each state’s requirements. Our base profile drivers own a 2019 Toyota Camry, commute five days a week and drive 12,000 miles annually.

To determine alternate rates, our base profile has been adjusted for the following scenarios:

  • Driving history: rates were calculated by evaluating our base profile with the following incidents applied: clean record (base), at-fault accident, single speeding ticket, and single DUI conviction.
  • Age: rates were calculated by evaluating our base profile with the ages 18-60 (base: 40 years) applied. 18-year-old drivers reflect renters on their own policy. Age is a banned rating factor in Hawaii.
  • Gender: the following states do not use gender as a determining factor in calculating premiums: California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania.

These are sample rates and should only be used for comparative purposes.

Written by
Cate Deventer
Insurance Writer & Editor
Cate Deventer is a writer, editor and insurance professional with nearly a decade of experience in the insurance industry as a licensed insurance agent.
Edited by
Insurance Editor
Reviewed by
Senior compliance associate, Bankrate