Car insurance quotes provide an estimate of how much you’d pay for an auto policy.
Auto insurance quotes are personal to you and are based on multiple factors such as your car make and model, your age, location and driving history.
You can get an online car insurance quote for free using a comparison tool, an independent agent or by visiting an insurer’s website.
Did your auto insurance rates go up? You’re not alone — premiums are up for many. One of the best ways to find cheap car insurance quotes online is to shop around and compare quotes.
If you have questions about car insurance quotes, it’s best to get the answers before you start shopping. Here’s everything you need to know, from what auto insurance quotes are to how to get the cheapest one possible.
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 are auto insurance quotes for car insurance?
A car insurance quote is an estimate of how much you’ll pay for a policy. Insurers each use their own unique formula to calculate a car insurance quote, so even if you provide the same information to Geico, Progressive or any other company, no two quotes will be the same. The more auto insurance quotes you get, the better chance you’ll have of finding the cheapest car insurance company for you.
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What goes into a car insurance quote?
Several factors affect your auto insurance quote, and they differ from company to company. For instance, one insurance company might raise your rates by 10% for living in a high-crime area, while a different insurer might charge only 5% more. Both companies are looking at the amount of crime in your neighborhood, but they calculate your insurance risk differently.
Factors that affect a car insurance quote include:
Personal characteristics like your age, gender, marital status and education level will affect your quote. 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 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? 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 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 by 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. If you live in California, Hawaii, Massachusetts or Michigan, however, you’re in luck. Insurers there are not legally allowed to factor in credit scores when calculating your car insurance quote.
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 prevent a sharp increase.
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 practice 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.
Questions you’ve asked an insurance agent, even if you didn’t file a claim. Raising insurance rates based only on an inquiry is banned in some states, but not all.
How to get car insurance quotes
There are several ways you can get free auto insurance quotes:
Before you start making phone calls, though, remember these pro tips:
Look into car insurance companies’ complaint records and customer satisfaction. Auto insurance reviews are a good place to start.
Get at least three car insurance quotes online or from an agent so you can evaluate whether you’re getting a good price 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 easiest ways to shop for car insurance. Most companies, such as 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 drawbacks such as follow-up calls and emails. In addition, websites often provide less information than an agent, who can answer questions face to face.
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.
If your insurance needs are relatively complex, such as if you have multiple cars or need several types of policies, you may want to work with a captive agent since they can help navigate your unique situation. But keep in mind that because captive agents are limited to selling from one company, 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 choice.
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 companies, sell policies through independent agents. Because independent agents work on commission, they may strive to provide you the best customer service possible or, alternatively, 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. For instance, NerdWallet has an auto insurance comparison tool that matches you with several insurers so you can easily compare prices and find the cheapest quote. If you know the kind of coverage you want and are looking for a quick way to shop around, this method could work for you.
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. They find car insurance quotes specifically from companies willing to cover individuals with poor driving histories.
What information do you need to get a free car insurance quote?
When you shop around for auto insurance quotes, make sure you have all the relevant information on hand 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, 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. Bear in mind — any company you choose will find your driving history before issuing a policy, so it’s best to be upfront to get an accurate car insurance quote.
How much coverage you need. If you already have a policy, the declarations page lists the coverage you currently have. You can use this for reference.
How much should my car insurance be?
Because car insurance quotes can vary widely from person to person depending on your car, location and driving record, among other factors, we can’t predict the exact auto insurance quote you’ll receive, but our analyses determined these averages.
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.
Rates shown below are for full coverage insurance and include liability coverage, uninsured motorist protection, comprehensive and collision insurance.
Average auto insurance costs for a 35-year-old driver
One at-fault accident, good credit
One speeding ticket, good credit
How to 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 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.