To get the cheapest car insurance, start by comparing rates. You can use our list of the Cheapest Car Insurance Companies to see which company has the cheapest rates in our study for your situation. Don’t stop there, however. A company with cheap rates may not have the best service or very satisfied customers. Balance cheap auto insurance rates with the kind of service you want to live with when choosing an insurance company.
Next, take a good hard look at your driving record and credit report, and clean both up if they’re not in good shape. Moving violations, citations for driving under the influence, accidents, and a low credit score all tell car insurance companies you’re at higher risk of being in an accident, making a claim, and costing them money. Some car insurance companies will give you a discount if you can prove you’re a safe driver by installing a tracking device in your car, which can lead to lower rates over time (however, if the tracker shows you routinely drive in an unsafe manner, your rates might go up). A few years without a citation or an accident, as well as a steadily improving credit score, can help you save on car insurance.
You’ll notice that none of that liability coverage pays for your car or injuries, nor for any injuries your passengers sustain if you cause a wreck. This is why many people — particularly those whose car isn’t yet paid off — want “full coverage” car insurance. This isn’t actually a type of coverage, but instead typically refers to policies that include liability coverage, plus comprehensive and collision coverages.
Three car insurance coverage levels were used, as were credit tiers of good, fair, and poor. Clean driving records and records with one accident, one speeding violation, and one DUI were also used in the calculations of certain driver archetypes. To get the state-wide study rates shown here, we computed the mean rate for male and female drivers ages 24, 35 and 60 who drive 15,000 miles per year, have medium coverage, good credit and a clean driving record. The rates shown here are for comparative purposes only and should not be considered “average” rates available by individual insurers. Because car insurance rates are based on individual factors, your car insurance rates will differ from the rates shown here.
Deductible: A car insurance deductible is the amount of money you will be required to pay out of pocket to cover a claim. Let’s say a car rear-ends you in traffic, scratching your paint, damaging your bumper and breaking one of your tail lights. The total cost of repairs is $2,500 and your deductible is $500. You will pay the $500 and your insurance will pay out the remaining $2,000 to cover the cost of the repairs. Electing for a higher deductible is one-way drivers can secure cheaper car insurance.
Financial experts often say it’s smart to drop collision when you drive an old car, then put your car insurance savings in a fund earmarked for emergency repairs or buying a new car. However, when you’re trying to decide when to drop collision coverage, the answer really comes down to your personal finances. “If you’re not absolutely sure that you could deal with paying for repairs or completely replacing your vehicle at a moment’s notice, or else going without a vehicle until you could save for a replacement, it’s best to err on the side of caution and pay the extra premium for collision coverage,” The Simple Dollar advises.
Each insurance company evaluates personal factors in its own way, and they keep their methods as hidden as possible. So we can’t tell you which company puts high value in your occupation or emphasizes a clean driving history more than others. But to help you get going, we can show you a car insurance rate comparison for the same hypothetical driver and car, using average rates from across the country.
You pay a monthly or yearly fee in exchange for protection against the costs associated with vehicle damage or bodily injury resulting from a collision and certain other circumstances. If your car sustains damage in an accident, you will file a claim with your car insurance company, and they will pay you the amount specified in your policy minus your deductible. If you’re determined to be at-fault in an accident, your premium may go up.
Collision insurance is a coverage that helps pay to repair or replace your car if it's damaged in an accident with another vehicle or object, such as a fence or a tree. If you're leasing or financing your car, collision coverage is typically required by the lender. If your car is paid off, collision is an optional coverage on your car insurance policy.
Let's use the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy as an example to illustrate the differences between collision and comprehensive. Within that storm, let's consider two events that might have happened: 1) a heavy tree branch fell on your car, or 2) you swerved to avoid a falling tree branch and wound up crashing into a tree. In the first event, you had no control over when or why a tree branch would fall on your car. This kind of accident would get reimbursed under your comprehensive policy. In the second situation, you were driving the car and ultimately swerved into the tree, which makes it a collision, and collision insurance therefore pays for the damages. Events like the hypothetical ones stated above are why it's important to differentiate between the two types of coverage.
Liability auto insurance protects you from that worst case scenario by providing a cushion between your assets and the amount you’re on the hook for. For this reason, choosing the right auto liability limits is the most important part of your car insurance quote comparison. NerdWallet typically recommends having at least as much liability coverage as your net worth.
The main difference between collision and comprehensive coverage comes down to the question of what the driver controls. Collision insurance will cover events within a motorist's control or when another vehicle collides with your car. Comprehensive coverage generally falls under "acts of God or nature," or things that are typically out of your control when driving. These can include events such as a spooked deer, a heavy hailstorm, or a carjacking.
You can also save on car insurance by choosing the lowest amount of coverage you can get while still making sure that you’re meeting your state’s legal requirements for insurance and giving yourself the coverage you need if you’re in an accident. For example, let’s say you choose to get the legal minimum for liability coverage, which we’ll say is $30,000 for this example. If you are at fault for an accident that hurts someone, resulting in $100,000 in medical costs for them, you will be on the hook for the $70,000 difference between your insurance coverage and the harm you caused. You can be sued and lose assets, like your home or retirement savings, if this happens – so make sure you have enough insurance to keep your assets in the event of an accident where you are at fault.
How much car insurance you need depends on how much coverage you are legally obligated to get, as well as how much coverage you need for your situation. Each state has certain legal requirements for car insurance, and not meeting them can result in negative consequences. Check out our car insurance state guides to see the legal car insurance minimums in your state.