10 tips on how to lower car insurance rates in 2018
Car insurance rates have been increasing, overall, for the past few years, and that trend is expected to continue in 2018.
The number of customers receiving an annual rate increase of more than $200 per vehicle has more than doubled during the past four years, according to J.D. Power’s 2017 U.S. Auto Insurance Study.
Why is car insurance is so expensive?
Spiking rates are due to a variety of factors. In addition to insurers having to recoup losses from hurricanes, people are driving more, which is causing more accidents, and that means higher costs for insurance companies, which is then passed on to you in the form or rate hikes. Also, repair and medical costs are increasing, making accidents generally more expensive. Consider the following:
- More car collisions, more claims: The percent of car crashes classified as “one vehicle colliding with another” climbed to 73 percent in 2014, a 20-year high, according to the National Safety Council’s annual report, “Injury Facts.” So, more accidents means more claims. According to Nielsen, 22.2 percent of households filed at least one auto insurance claim in 2017, an increase from 20.5 percent in 2014. It predicts that the percentage will further rise to 22.5 percent by 2022. More accident claims means costs go up for insurers, who then pass some of that expense back to you in the form of overall higher premiums.
- Rising repair costs: High-tech headlights and safety features, such as lane-departure alerts and parking sensors are now standard fare on most new-model vehicles. They may help save lives and prevent injuries, but these modern devices are more expensive to repair when accidents do happen. Since 2005, the cost of body work has risen nearly 40 percent more than overall inflation, and the size of collision claims increased 8.2 percent from 2014 to 2016, according to State Farm. Again, that means, in general, 2018 will see higher insurance costs.
10 tips on how to lower car insurance costs
Despite this troubling trend, the road ahead in 2018 won’t be without savings if you take the following advice on how to lower car insurance costs, courtesy of Insurance.com Consumer Analyst Penny Gusner.
1. Maximize your auto insurance discounts
Car insurance discounts vary by insurance company, but typically the standard ones are for safety features, low-mileage, having more than one car insured with the same company and remaining with the same insurance company over a period of years. Here we outline some of the more common ones, and our “Guide to car insurance discounts” explains the topic in detail, providing examples of how much you save and how the discounts are applied to your policy.
Low mileage: If you drive less than 7,500 miles per year, you may qualify for a low-mileage discount on your auto insurance, typically 5 to 15 percent. And, some car insurance companies offer a commuter discount if you use public transportation during the week.
Multi-car: If you insure more than one car on your policy, you get a multi-car discount. Expect 10 to 25 percent savings off your collision, comprehensive and liability premiums.
Safety features: Car insurance companies offer a variety of discounts for anti-lock brakes, automatic seat belts, and airbags. Similarly, anti-theft devices such as car alarms and tracking systems (e.g., LoJack) may also get you an insurance discount because they reduce the chances of your car being stolen or vandalized. These types of discounts range from 5 percent to 30 percent.
Also good to know: In addition, you can earn a price cut through affiliate group memberships, for example being an AAA member or buying though a college alumni group, or staying with the same auto insurance company for a number of years.
2. Take a defensive driving course
If you’ve got a clean driving record and want to take a traffic class to get a lower car insurance rate, insurers typically offer a 5 percent to 15 percent discount on liability and collision coverages for three years.
There may be some caveats, however, depending on your state laws and insurance company. For example, only drivers over age 25 may be eligible for the discount or sometimes all drivers of the insured vehicle must take the course to qualify.
Traffic school courses vary but typically they’re four to six hours, are offered either in person, online or both, cost between $25 and $75, and cover a series of lessons about traffic safety.
In most cases, taking a driver safety class will either remove points from your record for minor violations or give you a discount, but not both.
New York is one exception. Empire State drivers are allowed to reduce their violation point total by up to 4 points and save 10 percent on auto liability and comprehensive insurance by taking a DMV-approved accident-prevention course. Points in New York may be reduced only once in any 18-month period.
3. Increase your deductible
According to the Insurance Information Institute, increasing your deductible from $200 to $500 can make you eligible for a 15- to 30-percent premium discount, while raising the deductible to $1,000 can save you up to 40 percent. But bear in mind this typically applies just to the comprehensive and collision portions of your policy, not the baseline amount you pay for the entire policy. And, your savings from hiking deductibles varies widely depending on the state in which you live, the cost of your coverage after taking any other discounts, your driving record and your car’s cost to repair or replace, so remember to keep that in mind should you decide to go this route.
4. Keep an eye on your credit report
Your credit history is one of many “risk factors” that most auto insurance companies evaluate when setting rates (in states where it’s permissible by law). Paying your bills on time and maintaining a solid credit history will help keep your auto and home insurance rates lower – a LOT lower. Insurance.com commissioned Quadrant Information Services to compare full-coverage rates for drivers with average or better credit, fair credit and poor credit. Nationwide, the average difference in rates between good credit and fair was 17 percent. The difference between drivers with good credit and drivers with poor credit was 67 percent.
If you have poor credit, don’t despair. You can find tips on how to improve your credit and trim auto insurance costs in our “Car insurance guide for bad credit.”
5. Drive safely
You may be eligible for a price break on your car insurance policy if you have no accidents or traffic violations for a specified period (usually three years — but a few companies will look back five years). Even a single speeding ticket can increase your car insurance rates 11 to 13 percent, depending on how fast you were going, the speed limit and your state laws.
6. Buy a safe car
Cars are rated on a risk scale for auto insurance purposes. Generally, the fewer accident claims people file for a particular car model, the lower the rate will be to insure it. Insurance companies also take into account the safety features. You can research how well vehicles protect occupants in a crash and see what crash-avoidance safety features vehicles have how by visiting the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Vehicle Safety Ratings page.
7. Bundle with home insurance
Married drivers and homeowners get cheaper rates because insurance companies deem them as lower risk, meaning they file fewer claims, but you can save even more by purchasing your home insurance and auto insurance policies from the same provider.
According to data gathered for Insurance.com by Quadrant Information Services, the nationwide average car insurance discount given for bundling home and auto insurance is 8 percent. By bundling renters and car insurance a discount also applies, with the nationwide average being around 5 percent. The nationwide average homeowners insurance discount given for bundling is 20 percent.
8. Pay-in-full discount
If you pay your car insurance policy premium up front and in full, before the policy effective date you usually get a 5 percent to 10 percent discount.
9. Drop comprehensive and collision if you don’t need it
Collision and comprehensive coverages are optional. And while collision pays to fix your car if you have an accident, and comprehensive pays out for damage due to fire, flooding, animal strikes, hail, you may not need the protection if you don’t own a new car. If your vehicle is more than 10 years old or worth less than $3,000, you don’t need these coverages. Collision costs an average of $488 a year, comprehensive costs $172 annually, on average, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
10. Shop around by comparing car insurance quotes online
No two car insurance companies will charge the same amount for a policy, so it pays to shop around to get the lowest rates. Each car insurer uses its own formula to set rates, so the price for car insurance can vary by hundreds of dollars. Your current insurer may assess life changes and accidents differently, so you may find a cheaper rate with a different company. That’s why it literally pays to compare car insurance quotes at least 45 days before your current policy is set to renew, but also at these times:
- You got married
- You moved
- You had an accident
- You bought a car
- You’re adding a teen driver to the household
You should always get at least three quotes and be sure to compare the same amount of coverage across the board. You’ll also want to take into account the customer service ratings of companies you’re considering.
Which auto insurance company has the best rates?
What you pay for car insurance will depend on your particular situation, but below you’ll see in the chart what you can expect to pay in your state for full coverage from major companies.
Best Car Insurance Companies of 2018
For most Americans, car ownership is a fact of life: Collectively, we traveled more than 2 billion miles by car in 2017. That means auto insurance is pretty much a given, too, so we’ve compiled a list of the best car insurance companies out there — so you can be sure you receive great coverage at a fair price.
When it comes to auto insurance companies, the best ones are the most versatile in their coverage options and services. To compile our list of the best car insurance companies, we scoured the most reputable industry sources to find details about customer service, shopping experience, and more. Since the best car insurance companies aren’t always available nationwide, you can also take advantage of our quotes tool to find the best coverage available in your area:
Find the Best Car Insurance
Enter your ZIP code below and be sure to click at least 2-3 companies to find the very best rate.
While price is the single most important factor for a lot of car insurance shoppers, we recommend you look at other factors as well. Choosing a policy based on rates alone could cost far more out of pocket when it comes time to file a claim — which is bound to happen eventually. We firmly believe it pays to get the right amount of coverage no matter how much you use your car, as reducing the miles you drive won’t always decrease your premiums.
The Simple Dollar’s Top Picks for Best Auto Insurance Companies
- Best Overall:Amica
- Best Customer Service:State Farm
- Best Policy Options:The Hartford
- Best for Military:USAA
What Car Insurance Is Required by Law?
In virtually all states, drivers are required by law to have mandatory liability insurance coverage. This is done as a way to ensure that the driver can cover the cost of damages to other people or property in the unfortunate event of an accident. Some states implement a “proof of financial responsibility” requirement, which is a little more flexible.
How We Picked the Best Car Insurance Companies
First, we conducted an in-depth analysis of 15 auto insurance providers. We gathered data on 86 different features (like a 24/7 claims center or discounts for electric vehicles), organized them into 12 categories, and scored each company on a 100-point scale. Below are the categories I used, along with the weight each one was given in the test.
Next, we incorporated learnings from auto experts, insured drivers, and third-party studies into our evaluation and calculated the final scores. We organized this research into three distinct categories, which are outlined below.
- Claims and Price Satisfaction: We looked at J.D. Power’s 2018 Auto Claims Satisfaction Reports, Insure.com’s Best Car Insurance Companies for 2018, and Consumer Reports’ 2017 Car Insurance Ratings to get a bird’s-eye view of the industry across the nation. We also conducted a survey of 100 insured drivers who had filed a claim within the past 12 months.
- Ease of Shopping: I applied for quotes from over 15 auto insurance companies to evaluate the shopping experience. I also considered J.D. Power’s 2018 Auto Insurance Purchase Experience Ratings, which asked customers about their personal take on local agents, call-center representatives, and websites.
- Financial Strength Ratings: We used A.M. Best to gauge financial stability. Any company with a “B” grade or below is considered vulnerable, so we chose companies with an “A-” or above.
The Best Car Insurance Companies of 2018
Amica: Best Overall Car Insurance Company
Amica was the strongest company overall in our research, and ranked number two in J.D. Power’s 2018 customer satisfaction report — that means out of 44,622 surveyed drivers, it had the second highest satisfaction rating among more than 20 different companies. It also received the highest Consumer Reports rating among auto insurance providers — as it has every year since at least 1999. Consumer Reports even noted that an overwhelming number of customers reported “relatively few” problems during the claims process.
- A high J.D. Power satisfaction rating: With a score of 879, Amica Mutual ranked as the No. 1 car insurance company in the New England region in J.D. Power’s 2018 auto insurance study and among the very best in the nation.
- High financial stability ratings: Amica boasts a “Superior” financial stability rating from A.M. Best, which is the highest rating available.
- No repair facility restrictions: Unlike most every other insurer, Amica has zero restrictions on which body shop you use for repairs.
- “Platinum Choice” coverage: Amica offers an additional tier of coverage called Platinum Choice, which costs more, but includes identity fraud monitoring, full glass coverage, prestige rental coverage, and rewards for good driving.
- Best array of coverages: Amica offers the most driver and vehicle coverages of all my top recommendations. Its list includes GAP insurance and interior vehicle coverage, which aren’t offered by State Farm, The Hartford, or USAA.
- Quoteprocess is less than desirable: Whether you start online or over the phone, you will eventually wind up on the phone to get an official quote — that can tack an extra 20 to 30 minutes to the process.
- Fewer driver discount opportunities: Amica is missing a few key driver discounts, including pre-pay, low mileage, and military discounts. Consequently, it scored only 46 out of 100 in our driver discount evaluation.
- Few online resources: There are a few FAQs on the site, but Amica lacks in-depth online materials to help customers get a complete grasp on their purchases without having to talk to someone. Additionally, some policy changes require direct assistance from an Amica agent, which can be time-consuming.
State Farm: Best Car Insurance Company for Customer Service and Interaction
State Farm is the largest car insurance company in the nation, per the Insurance Information Institute in 2018. Fortunately, it’s also one of the best — especially when it comes to the customer service experience. In 2018, State Farm received high praise from J.D. Power for its service interaction and claims handling. And of all the insured drivers I surveyed, it received the most positive remarks by far.
It is incredibly easy to get in touch with State Farm. You can call one of the company’s 18,000 agents, go online, or even send a picture of your damaged car with your smartphone using the Pocket Agent mobile app. Compare that to Amica, which doesn’t allow you to connect with an agent via an app, or file a claim through an agent. State Farm also gets high marks for a pain-free shopping experience that lets prospective customers call their local agent or chat with a representative online if they have any questions.
- Superior claims handling: No other insurer makes it easier to file a claim — a fact corroborated by its high service rating, 18,000 agents nationwide, and excellent mobile app. Sure, most other auto insurers offer the basic trifecta of phone, app, and email contact to agents, but State Farm’s is the easiest to use.
- Great financial standing: State Farm has an A.M. Best outlook of stable, and a “Superior” overall rating — the highest given.
- Best online quote tool: Out of all the competition, State Farm has the simplest online quote tool. In less than five minutes, their tool will guide you completely through the process, replete with thorough examples of coverage options.
- Missing a few common driver discounts: Like Amica, State Farm lacks two extremely common discounts: pay-in-full, and automatic pay. These two discounts don’t save a ton of money, but they are definitely nice options to have. (And they are offered by our third pick, The Hartford.)
- Lacks a couple of important coverages: Unlike its competitors, State Farm doesn’t offer stacked uninsured motorist or new car replacement coverages. That could be a deal breaker for someone who lives in a state with a very high rate of uninsured drivers.
The Hartford: Best Car Insurance Company for Policy Options
The Hartford is only the nation’s 11th largest insurer, but it still packs a punch. In fact, it had the highest score in my 12-category feature evaluation (92 out of 100). It also offers a wide range of policy options and benefits (including rates based on how much you actually drive your car and a new car replacement program for cars totaled shortly after purchase) and was the only insurer to score a perfect 100 in our vehicle-discount evaluation.
- Mechanical breakdown coverage: Mechanical breakdown insurance helps cover the cost of repairs that aren’t covered by your car’s warranty. The Hartford is the only one of our top picks that includes this coverage.
- Useful policy benefits: The company provides not only a solid set of coverage but also a great selection of policy benefits. For instance, frequent travelers will appreciate The Hartford’s towing and roadside assistance programs.
- Excellent purchase experience: The Hartford is one of two national providers to receive a perfect “Overall Purchase Experience” score from J.D. Power.
- Merely average claims satisfaction: The Hartford received a perfect score in my claims management evaluation, but according to J.D. Power, customers are less impressed — it received a middle-of-the-pack 3-star rating for service interaction.
- Fewest online educational resources: The Hartford offers the fewest online learning materials among this field of competitors.
USAA: Best Car Insurance Company for Members of the Military
Throughout my research, I found that the company’s stellar reputation holds true. If you are a member of the US armed forces, or are related to one, there is no better option than USAA.
It is one of the three highest-rated automotive insurers in the country. The only downside is its limited availability: USAA only services the immediate families of active and former members of the military. Given those restrictions, the quote process is a bit more intense compared to its competitors, but that’s a small price to pay for its exemplary service.
- Rated no. 1 nationally for purchase experience: USAA received a perfect score in J.D. Power’s 2018 report.
- Solid financial stability: A.M. Best gives USAA the highest possible stability rating: “Superior.”
- Membership restrictions: USAA is only available to members of the military and their immediate family.
- Missing three key vehicle coverages: USAA doesn’t offer GAP insurance, interior vehicle coverage, or new car replacement coverage.
Other Car Insurance Companies to Consider
Not all of our top picks for the best car insurance companies are available in all areas of the country, so here are some other good insurers worth checking out (including some great smaller, regional companies).
Progressive is worth noting due to its variety of discounts and special coverages that could shave a decent amount of green off your monthly bill. For example, the Snapshot tool allows Progressive to reward you based upon your driving habits.
Do you have an anti-theft device? Progressive offers a discount for that too. The company also offers pet injury coverage — which is included with collision and comes standard in most states. However, Progressive’s scores across the board were only average, and I couldn’t justify recommending it over my top picks.
Despite what Flo (Progressive’s famous spokesperson) would lead you to believe, its mobile app ratings average out to just under 3 out of 5 stars.
If you live in the South, Midwest, or Mid-Atlantic regions, Erie Insurance is worth your consideration. Erie has consistently received high marks from J.D. Power and Consumer Reports, but didn’t make it into my top four recommendations due to limited availability — it only serves residents in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and certain parts of DC.
Outside of that, Erie is one of the best commercial auto insurers, offering policies that come standard with coverage for road service, lawyer fees, and loss of earnings. It also has particularly comprehensive coverage options that include extras such as money toward rental cars after a crash (this is usually an add-on policy with most insurers).
Auto-Owners Insurance is available in 26 states located primarily in the South and Midwest. It uses an agent-only model that promotes customer relationships, so if you prefer talking to a human being, Auto-Owners is a great choice. The company also scored a nearly perfect score in J.D. Power’s 2018 satisfaction report, falling short only in the realm of its rental car experience.
Here are the states serviced by Auto-Owners:
Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Choosing the Right Amount of Coverage
Let’s say you live in Florida and cause an accident that injures another person to the tune of $40,000. If you only have the state’s minimum bodily injury protection ($10,000 per person, $20,000 per accident), you’d be responsible for the remaining $30,000. But, if you had purchased more than Florida’s minimum — say $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident — you wouldn’t have to pay a single dime out of pocket.
Sure, upgraded coverage means a higher monthly premium. But would you rather pay a bit extra each month, or wind up owing a lump sum of $30,000 out of pocket? The average American will file a collision insurance claim about every 18 years, according to insurance industry statistics. Hopefully, it’s nothing more than a fender bender, but if the worst should happen, you’ll appreciate being fully covered.
That’s why it’s incredibly important to understand what type of coverages you need, and how much coverage you need, before you start shopping for a policy.
In the same vein, it’s also crucial to compare rates that include more than your state’s minimum required coverages (which you can find online at your state’s DMV). You do not want to be the victim of a serious accident only to find out after the fact that you’re underinsured.
Below is a comparison of the coverages offered by my top four auto insurance companies, and a breakdown of each type of coverage.
Types of Auto Insurance Coverages
Bodily Injury Liability: Coverage against bodily injuries to others in an accident that is your fault.
Personal Injury Protection: Coverage for injuries sustained by the driver or any passengers, often including medical bills and lost wages.
Property Damage Liability: Coverage against property damage to another party in an accident that is your fault.
Rental Car Coverage: Coverage for your rental car if it is damaged or stolen.
Stacked Uninsured Motorist Coverage: Coverage that allows you to combine or “stack” the individual limits of coverage on multiple insured vehicles in the same household.
Uninsured Motorist Property Damage Coverage: Coverage that protects against property damage caused by an uninsured or underinsured motorist.
Pet Injury Coverage: Coverage for injuries to your pets sustained in an auto accident.
Collision: Coverage against any damage resulting from a collision.
Comprehensive: Coverage against any non-collision vehicle damage including fire, theft, or vandalism.
GAP Insurance: Coverage that pays the difference between the actual value of a totaled car and the balance remaining on an auto loan.
Interior Vehicle Coverage: Coverage of personal belongings inside of the car, like your clothes, sound system, or purse.
New Car Replacement: Coverage that will replace a totaled car with a brand-new version if it is less than one year old.
Are car insurance extras worth it?
Car insurance extras are coverage options that usually do not come with a standard policy. Examples include roadside assistance and accident forgiveness. These coverages can be added to a policy for an extra cost. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide if they are worth it. By carefully assessing your coverage needs, you can come to a conclusion whether the extras are worth the cost or not.
You should shop for a policy every two years.
Contrary to popular belief, car insurance companies don’t just calculate rates on risk alone. It goes much deeper than that. Welcome to the world of “price optimization,” which is the practice of setting rates based upon how much insurers think customers are comfortable paying. Simply put, it’s a way to maximize profit.
Large insurance companies analyze a huge amount of customers’ personal data (like social media posts, credit scores, and even your web shopping habits). Then, they churn the data through a proprietary algorithm that estimates how likely you are to shop around or just renew your existing policy each year. By doing so, they can increase your premium just enough to raise their profit margins without attracting your attention and prompting you to shop for a new policy.
The Washington Post found that auto insurance rates have climbed 20 percent since 2011, in part due to price optimization.
The best way to prevent falling victim to this practice is to shop for a new policy every one to two years. Even if you like your current car insurance company, they’re likely aware of your online activity, so the more quotes you get, the less likely you are to be tagged as someone who won’t jump ship for a better deal. Plus, it helps you find a policy rate that reflects you as a person and isn’t based on predictive analytics.
Find the Best Car Insurance Rates
Enter your ZIP code below and be sure to click at least 2-3 companies to find the very best rate.
Should I use an agent or go online?
Depending on which companies you consider, you will have to decide whether to do business with an insurance agent or to purchase a policy online. If you value face-to-face relationships and personal service, it’s hard to beat an agent. But all agents aren’t created equal. Some are “captive,” meaning they sell car insurance for only one company. Others are “independent,” meaning they can sell car insurance for multiple companies. Here are a few things you should consider for each scenario.
Using Captive Agents
The biggest benefit to captive agents is that many aren’t primarily motivated by commission. That means they have less of a reason to “sell you” and more of a reason to spend quality time educating you. That being the case, going with a captive agent makes sense if you’re already committed to a particular company. These agents will know their company’s policies and coverages from top to bottom.
Using Independent Agents
Independent agents have special access with several companies and help you to find the best rate available. However, some companies pay higher commissions than others, and that means you may face pressure to choose a particular company or coverage plan.
During our research, we interacted with several independent agents who refused to give us a single detail about higher-priced plans. Despite our persistence, we were repeatedly asked, “Why would you want to consider something that costs more?” and we did not get the information we wanted. On the flip side, if your rates go up after committing to a policy, independent agents are best-suited to help you negotiate a lower price.
Some companies allow customers to do business directly online. If you’re a self-starter, this could very well be the most convenient option. In some cases, it will be the cheapest option.
The biggest downside to buying a policy on your own is the risk of underinsuring yourself. Buying the wrong policy, or a policy that doesn’t have state-mandated coverage levels, could cost you quite a bit of money should the worst should happen.
What are some helpful tips for keeping insurance costs down?
Selecting the right insurance company for you doesn’t mean your work is done. There are still some steps you can take to keep insurance costs down. Some are obvious – such as shop around and compare insurance costs before purchasing a car. But here are a few others to consider:
- Explore options for group insurance: Getting insurance through your employer or other professional group can lead to lower costs. Some insurance companies, like Liberty Mutual, specialize in collective discounts for members of various groups, from college alumni to Subaru owners.
- Think about purchasing additional insurance at one company: Some companies offer good discounts to drivers who bundle multiple forms of insurance, or have more than one car insured with them. This isn’t a guarantee, but it doesn’t hurt to find out if the option is available.
- Request a higher deductible: This is dependent on your financial standing. You want to make sure you have enough finances saved to cover the expense. But, requesting higher deductibles up front can lower coverage costs anywhere from 15%-20%, depending on the amount you pay up front.
- Keep an eye on your credit score: Maintaining a solid credit score is recommended no matter what, but it’s especially important when your score is being referenced to develop your auto insurance policy. Just as you investigate a car’s accident history before purchasing, insurers are investigating your payment history before doing business with you. The higher the risk, the higher the policy costs.
The Bottom Line
In the end, you’ll need to determine your exact needs when it comes to coverage and then shop for an affordable policy. Always remember: just because an auto insurance policy is cheap doesn’t mean it’s the best. Picking a policy based on price alone would be like picking a restaurant based on price alone, then being forced to eat there every day for the next year.
Our quote tool can help you put together a list of good auto insurance candidates. All you need to do is input your ZIP Code and start comparing rates from our top picks (State Farm, USAA, Amica, The Hartford) and more.