road in the Washington state mountains
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Washington state presents challenges that drivers in other states may not have to consider, such as fog or heavy snow. For the state’s 5.3 million drivers, safety is a serious consideration. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Washingtonians drove nearly 62 million miles in 2017. The state tallied 536 fatal motor vehicle crashes, resulting in 565 deaths.

While this placed Washington in the bottom fifth of states per capita for driving casualties, it does not trivialize the importance of car insurance. Having a sound but affordable policy that provides proper coverage at a decent price is key to protecting yourself and your loved ones on the road. The Insurance Information Institute argues that it is important to consider shopping around and considering all expected fees when looking for an affordable car insurance policy. One should also be aware of the policy features the insurer offers, if the insurer offers group insurance and how credit history and brand loyalty may affect pricing.

Best car insurance companies in Washington

It is a good practice to undertake your own research before choosing an insurer. Resources like the Better Business Bureau can help identify red flags in customer relations and in policy satisfaction. Per A.M. Best, the following insurance company providers were ranked as “superior” in Washington:

Per J.D. Power’s 2019 U.S. Auto Insurance Study, the following Northwest insurers ranked highest in overall satisfaction:

PEMCO Insurance

With a five out of five ranking in overall satisfaction, policy offerings, price, billing process and policy information, interaction and claims, PEMCO is J.D. Power’s top choice for auto insurer in the Northwest. PEMCO has held this distinction since 2013. The Seattle-based insurer only provides insurance to Washington and Oregon residents.

USAA

USAA also swept all six ratings factors in the 2019 rankings but was not eligible for top consideration since the company doesn’t meet study award criteria, as coverage is only available for military members and their families. If you’re eligible, USAA is a top option for Washington auto insurance.

The Hartford

Receiving an “among the best” rating in billing process and policy information and claims, the Hartford ranked “better than most” in the remaining four categories. This underwriter has been the preferred home and auto insurance carrier for AARP for the last quarter-century.

American Family

Scoring well in overall satisfaction, policy offerings and billing process and policy information, American Family scored poorly in claims. The Madison, Wisconsin insurance carrier has a poor online customer review history, with the majority of negative responses from Yelp being due to sub-par customer service during the claims process.

State Farm

State Farm ranked well on interactions and average on the remainder of the testing categories. The Bloomington, Illinois underwriter has had a controversial history regarding its treatment of its policyholders.

Finding the right cheap car insurance in Washington for you

Not every insurer is best for every driver. As drivers’ situations change through life, their needs in auto insurance will change, as well.

For students, insurance rates will be higher, as young drivers are a higher risk. Companies that offers safe driver discounts, like Geico and Allstate, may offer the best rates for drivers with few or no traffic infractions and accidents. While, per the Zebra, neither of these companies’ rates are among the cheapest, the discounts offered may make them the best deals in the long run. More budget-minded individuals should consider PEMCO, which – at an average annual premium of $984 – is the best-priced J.D. Power-ranked insurance option available.

Similarly, good drivers can benefit from carriers that reward safe driving. While there may be a temptation to disregard claims ratings in favor of a better premium, good drivers are encouraged not to do this. As accidents are unavoidable and unpredictable, it is best to be prepared for the worst. A good moderately-priced policy that covers all the bases is better than a cheap policy that skimps in a crucial area.

Drivers with poor or bad credit or poor driving histories, however, may have challenges getting a competitive premium from some underwriters. Insurance companies use a formula to determine a potential policyholder’s risk, and they typically read credit scores as an indicator of a customer’s ability to pay bills on time. While there are insurance companies that specializes in high risk customers, poor credit or a high number of accidents may disqualify you from enrolling with low-risk companies like PEMCO. Other companies may require that you pay a higher premium until you establish a history of on-time payment.

It is best to get multiple rates or to use online insurance premium aggregators to quickly compare rates when choosing an insurer. Factors such as a short-expected work commute, military service or location can have significant effects of how much you may be asked to pay.

Average car insurance cost in Washington

In collaboration with Quadrant Information Services, U.S. News & World Report analyzed the insurance rates of all 50 states for the top ten largest national car insurance companies. Based on data from a 2015  Honda Civic, a 2015 Toyota RAV44 and a 2015 Ford F-150, with mileage ranging from 6,000 to 12,000 miles, U.S. News calculated the average insurance cost for both a male and female 25, 35, and 60 years old driver in Washington.

25-year old 35-year old 60-year-old
Company Male Female Male Female Male Female
Allstate $1,476.37 $1,426.62 $1,330.76 $1,343.66 $1,299.16 $1,243.05
American Family $1,577.34 $1,163.18 $1,163.18 $1,163.18 $1,058.77 $1,058.77
Farmers $1,677.03 $1,599.72 $1,204.42 $1,160.79 $1,188.23 $991.93
Geico $1,272.55 $1,924.91 $1,036.34 $983.77 $901.98 $901.98
Nationwide $1,071.26 $976.82 $812.86 $788.70 $757.14 $723.86
Progressive $943.45 $945.78 $693.55 $749.81 $649.65 $634.20
State Farm $1,277.93 $1,122.60 $993.07 $993.07 $906.60 $906.60
USAA $912.72 $835.75 $674.83 $683.36 $658.51 $657.70

Car insurance discounts in Washington

Depending on the Washington insurance company you choose, providers may offer discounts for:

  • Military service
  • Enrollment in an accredited college or university
  • Working as a first responder (police, EMT, fire fighter)
  • Working as a teacher
  • Having multiple policies with the same company
  • Policy longevity
  • Taking safe driving courses
  • Agreeing to install a monitoring device
  • Signing on to a group insurance policy
  • Club or group membership discount
  • Safe driving history

State minimum insurance requirements in Washington

A Washington driver must carry for a registered vehicle a minimum coverage of:

  • $25,000 of bodily injury or death of one individual in an accident
  • $50,000 of bodily injury or death of two individuals in an accident
  • $10,000 of property damage coverage in an accident

Comprehensive insurance coverage is not mandatory, but encouraged, as it may protect you from costly repair and medical bills. Failure to show proof of coverage at an accident can result in a fine up to $450.

Frequently asked questions

What is the cheapest car insurance available in Washington?

According to the Zebra, the cheapest car insurance rate in Washington is from Capital at an average of $769 per year.  The lowest top-rated insurance provider in the state is Nationwide at an average of $971 per year.

What is needed to get car insurance in Washington?

To get a Washington auto insurance policy, you will need a valid driver’s license, your social security number, a major credit card or your checking account information, the vehicle identification number and make of the vehicle to be insured, the registration information on the vehicle, your date of birth and your current state residency information.

What are the factors that influence car insurance premiums?

Auto insurance premiums are based on the perceived risk of the policyholder. This is based on the policyholder’s location, how the insurance will be used, the age of the policyholder, occupation, marital status, time without an accident, credit score, employment, riders and additional policy coverages chosen.

Is there a way to avoid having to buy car insurance in Washington?

An individual can opt to self-insure if he/she has 26 vehicles or more. Proof of this self-insurance must always be carried by drivers of the vehicles. A driver can also opt to have a liability bond of at least $60,000 from a surety bond company authorized by Washington or a certificate of deposit to pay your liability insurance in lieu of auto insurance. Motor scooters and mopeds do not need auto insurance, but motorcycles do.