How to Estimate Car Insurance Costs Before Buying a Car

Your next car will have costs beyond the monthly payment. Here's how to estimate a car insurance premium before you buy.
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Written by Kayda Norman
Lead Writer
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Reviewed by Brenda J. Cude
Professor Emeritus, University of Georgia
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Edited by Ben Moore
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Fact Checked
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Nerdy takeaways
  • Before estimating costs, narrow down your top vehicle choice and decide how much coverage you'll need.

  • Get quotes from several insurers to see rate estimates, or use an online car insurance comparison tool.

  • Your age, driving record, location and the car you drive all factor into your car insurance estimate.

Even the savviest car shoppers can forget to estimate car insurance costs before buying. Depending on the vehicle and insurance company, the cost of car insurance can vary by hundreds of dollars a year for the same driver.

NerdWallet's car insurance calculator can help you see how much full coverage may cost in your area.

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It pays to get some initial car insurance quotes for models you’re thinking about buying. Along with gas mileage and maintenance costs, car insurance costs should be included when calculating the total cost of owning a car.

NerdWallet's car insurance estimator

Estimate full coverage rates by ZIP code

Enter your ZIP code to find the average car insurance rate for your area. Rates are for policies that include full coverage for a 35-year-old driver with good credit and a clean driving record.

Average car insurance rate in your ZIP code:

$0

The national average car insurance rate is $1,718 per year for full coverage, according to NerdWallet’s rate analysis. But your rates will differ based on the car you buy, among other factors.

Full coverage car insurance isn't a specific type of policy. Rather, it refers to a combination of coverages. For our rate analysis, full coverage includes liability, comprehensive, collision, uninsured/underinsured motorist protection and any additional state-mandated coverage.

How to estimate car insurance costs

Follow these steps for an accurate auto insurance estimate:

  1. Narrow down your top choices for vehicles. Learn how to pick the right car for you.

  2. Decide how much coverage you need. If you’re buying a new car, include collision and comprehensive, which cover damage or loss of the vehicle. If you get a car loan for a used car, you’ll need this coverage because the lender will require it. If you’re unsure, some insurers’ websites feature car insurance calculators to help you determine your coverage needs.

  3. Get quotes for the same amount of coverage for the vehicles you’re thinking about buying. NerdWallet’s car insurance comparison tool can help you get started.

Factors that affect the cost of car insurance

Your car make and model aren’t the only factors that go into an auto insurance quote. Others include:

  • Personal characteristics like age, gender and marital status. For example, teen drivers have higher car insurance quotes on average than any other age group.

  • The coverage you choose. The more coverage you have, the higher your insurance rates are likely to be.

  • Your driving record. A recent DUI, speeding ticket or at-fault accident can raise your rates.

  • Your location. Every state has different car insurance minimums, and factors like your neighborhood's crime rate and population density will affect your insurance price.

  • Your credit score. Drivers with poor credit typically have higher car insurance rates. Insurers use a credit-based insurance score, which is different from your regular credit score, to determine the likelihood you’ll file a claim. A credit-based insurance score is determined by factors like payment history and outstanding debt, but not personal information like income or occupation. California, Hawaii and Massachusetts have banned insurers from using credit scores when calculating car insurance rates.

  • Your car insurance history. This can include whether your car insurance has lapsed, insurance claims, how long you’ve been with your insurer and your last insurance company.

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Easily compare personalized rates to see how much switching car insurance could save you.
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How much car insurance you need

Most states require a minimum amount of car insurance, but you’ll likely want to have more than minimum coverage. Some drivers opt to get full coverage to help protect themselves against any type of accident. Remember, full coverage isn't a type of policy, but generally a combination of required and optional coverages. But full coverage doesn't include everything. Extras like roadside assistance and gap coverage may have to be added separately.

Full coverage car insurance may include:

Coverage type

What it pays for

Bodily injury liability

Medical costs due to injuries or deaths from an accident you caused.

Property damage liability

Repair costs for property you damaged in an accident.

Uninsured motorist bodily injury liability

Medical costs after an accident with an uninsured driver.

Uninsured motorist property damage coverage

Repair costs after an accident with an uninsured driver.

Collision coverage

Repair expenses from traffic-related accidents, regardless of who is at fault.

Comprehensive coverage

Repair costs from events outside your control — including weather events, hitting an animal while driving, theft and vandalism.

Why some cars cost more to insure

Certain cars cost more to insure than others because carriers use crash and theft statistics to help set rates for each model separately. So if the car you choose tends to be stolen or crashed more, chances are you’ll pay more for insurance. For example, the reason sports cars cost more to cover is because they’re more likely to be driven fast and crashed hard by their owners.

Here are some specific vehicle characteristics that affect auto insurance costs:

  • Retail price. Generally, the pricier the car, the more expensive it will be to insure. If you buy comprehensive and collision coverage, the insurance company will be on the hook to pay out the car’s market value if the vehicle is stolen or wrecked beyond repair.

  • Cost of parts. High-end models often use parts made from carbon fiber and other specialized materials that are expensive to repair. This drives up the cost of damage claims.

  • Safety. Over time, cars that do a good job of protecting drivers and their passengers bring down insurance costs. Fewer injuries mean fewer claims for medical payments and personal injury protection.

How to save on car insurance

The best way to find the cheapest car insurance rates is by shopping around. Check car insurance quotes and look for a company with a good reputation for customer service.

When you shop for car insurance, remember to compare quotes for the same levels of coverage. A company that offers a particular discount might still be more expensive than an insurer that offers low-cost coverage overall. And be sure to ask your insurer about any discounts you might be missing from your policy.

Frequently asked questions

The best way to find cheap car insurance is by shopping around for car insurance quotes. Look for a company with a good reputation for customer service.

When you shop, remember to compare quotes for the same levels of coverage and look closely at discounts. A company that offers a particular discount might still be more expensive than an insurer with generally low-cost coverage, but you have to get quotes to know.

To find the cheapest auto insurance company for you, compare auto insurance rates from at least three providers. Because rates depend on several factors including your driving record, age and gender, rates vary widely among companies.

Location can also make a big difference. To get a good benchmark for price comparisons, check out average rates in your state along with the car insurance cost calculator.

Methodology

NerdWallet averaged rates based on public filings obtained by pricing analytics company Quadrant Information Services. We examined rates for 35-year-old men and women for all ZIP codes in all of the 50 states and Washington, D.C. Although it’s one of the largest insurers in the country, Liberty Mutual is not included in our rates analysis due to a lack of publicly available information.

In our analysis, “good drivers” had no moving violations on record; a “good driving” discount was included for this profile. Our “good” credit rates are based on credit score approximations and do not account for proprietary scoring criteria used by insurance providers.

These are median rates, and your rate will vary based on your personal details, state and insurance provider.

Sample drivers had the following coverage limits:

  • $100,000 bodily injury liability coverage per person.

  • $300,000 bodily injury liability coverage per crash.

  • $50,000 property damage liability coverage per crash.

  • $100,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage per person.

  • $300,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage per crash.

  • Collision coverage with $1,000 deductible.

  • Comprehensive coverage with $1,000 deductible.

In states where required, minimum additional coverages were added.

We used a 2021 Toyota Camry L in all cases and assumed 12,000 annual miles driven.

These are rates generated through Quadrant Information Services. Your own rates will be different.

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