Find the cheapest car insurance quotes. Learn how to get an auto insurance quote, what they are, and how to save.
One of the best ways to find cheap car insurance quotes online is to shop around and compare coverage and rates from multiple companies. Enter some basic information about your vehicle and the drivers in your household, and you can typically get auto insurance quotes in a few clicks.
Drivers are required to have auto insurance in almost every state. But if you find yourself with a handful of questions about car insurance, you’re not alone — and it’s wise to learn about insurance before you get quotes. Here’s everything you need to know about auto insurance quotes before you shop.
What are auto insurance quotes for car insurance?
A car insurance quote is an estimate of how much you’ll pay for a policy. An insurance quote is calculated based on the information you provide, including your age, the car you drive, your driving history, and where you live, among other factors.
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.
How to get free car insurance quotes
There are several ways you can get free auto insurance quotes. You can buy directly online or over the phone, from a “captive agent” (who works for only one company), or from an independent agent or insurance broker.
First, some pro tips. Whichever option you choose, make sure you:
- 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.
Auto insurance 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 offer free online auto insurance quotes, including State Farm and Allstate, which let you start online but assign you a captive agent to finalize your quote on 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 coverage and see auto insurance quotes for yourself, but there are also drawbacks.
Pros and cons of getting Auto insurance quotes online
Captive insurance agents
You could also get a free car insurance quote through a captive agent. A captive agent works 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, a captive agent may or may not also receive a salary from the company they work for.
Pros and cons of captive insurance agents
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 insurance 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 with 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.
Pros and cons of independent agents and brokers
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. For drivers who have a hard time getting coverage, these agencies can find car insurance quotes from companies willing to cover them.
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 calculate your insurance risk differently.
Factors that affect a car insurance quote include:
Personal characteristics such as your age, gender, marital status, and education level typically affect auto insurance quotes because insurers can use statistics to predict how likely you are 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 will, not surprisingly, affect your car insurance quote. The more coverage you need, the higher the cost. TOF research found that on average, “full coverage” car insurance will cost more than double what minimum coverage costs.
Full coverage car insurance refers to a combination of coverages, including higher liability limits, and collision and comprehensive insurance. Still, it’s best not to base the amount of coverage you buy strictly on price. Your driving record and how often you drive can make a big difference in the final insurance quote you’re given. A history of accidents, speeding tickets, and DUIs can obviously raise your car insurance rates, but you’ll also get higher insurance quotes if you don’t have a driving record yet.
If you don’t drive very often, you may want to consider usage-based car insurance as a way to lower your insurance costs.
Details about your vehicle, including the 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 safety features or high-end audio cost more to repair, hiking up your rates. The likelihood of your cars being stolen will also factor into your insurance quote.
Location plays an important part in how much your coverage costs. Population density, crime, and crash rates around your neighborhood can all factor into the price of your insurance. In addition, the amount of coverage required to legally drive a car varies by state, as do average rates for similar policies.
For example, drivers with good credit and no recent accidents in Maine had the cheapest full coverage car insurance at $1,006 a year. Meanwhile, Louisiana was the most expensive state, with an annual rate of $2,915, according to NerdWallet’s 2021 state-by-state car insurance rate analysis.
Your credit history will likely affect the cost of your auto insurance. Insurers look at your credit-based insurance score to determine how likely you are to file a claim. This score is similar (but not identical) to your regular credit score.
California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Michigan don’t allow insurers to use credit when determining car insurance rates.
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 full coverage insurance. 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. Still, some insurers will raise rates on loyal customers if they don’t think they’ll switch companies. 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.
What information do you need to get a free car insurance quote?
No matter how you decide to 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, how often you drive and why (such as for pleasure or commuting to work). Note: If you drive for a ridesharing company like Uber or Lyft, you’ll want to buy rideshare insurance or get a quote for a business auto policy. [Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many insurance companies are extending coverage to automatically include a driver’s personal vehicle when they are delivering food, medicine and other essentials for a delivery company. For more information, see NerdWallet’s coronavirus and car insurance guide.
- 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 to compare.
Choosing the right coverages for your car insurance quote
Beyond the coverage required by law, the amount of insurance you need is determined by your personal needs.
As discussed, full coverage car insurance can be expensive, and generally includes a combination of coverage types including liability, collision, and comprehensive insurance. You may need to purchase collision and comprehensive coverage if you have a car loan or you lease your vehicle, per your financing contract.
Full coverage might be worth the investment if:
- You own a new or expensive vehicle.
- You drive in heavy traffic as part of your daily commute.
- You can’t pay for repairs to your car if it gets wrecked or stolen.
- Your location is prone to extreme weather, animal collisions or high theft rates.