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Car insurance rates can go up 51% a year on average if you cause an accident, NerdWallet’s analysis found.
But if you switch to the cheapest insurer in your state, you may find better rates.
How an accident affects your car insurance rates
An accident affects your car insurance rates for three to five years on average, although this varies by state and insurance provider. Even if it was a minor crash, insurers perceive you as a greater risk and will almost always increase your rates.
To give you a better idea of how much more you’ll pay after an accident, NerdWallet compared average car insurance rates nationwide for 35-year-old drivers with a recent at-fault crash to those with no recent accidents, keeping all other factors the same. We used full coverage insurance policies for a 2019 Toyota Camry and a hypothetical accident that resulted in $10,000 worth of property damage and no injuries.
Type of policy
One at-fault accident
Our analysis found that:
Nationwide, a driver with an at-fault accident pays $832 more a year on average than a driver with no traffic violations.
In 44 states and Washington, D.C., average annual rates were more than $500 higher for drivers who’d caused a recent accident than for those who had not.
In 18 states, average rates increased at least 50% after an at-fault accident.
In California, Floria, Louisiana and Texas, average rates increased by more than $1,200 per year after an at-fault accident.
However, these are based on average rates. Your rate may differ depending on factors like your age, location and insurer.
» MORE: Average car insurance costs
Cheap car insurance after an accident by company
Car insurance companies have wildly different viewpoints on how much to raise rates due to a crash. In some states, a few companies in our analysis didn’t charge more after a small accident.
At the other extreme, we found several companies with rates more than twice as high for a driver who’d caused an accident than for an identical driver who hadn’t. And in a couple cases, average rates were more than $2,000 a year higher after an at-fault accident.
That’s why, to get cheap car insurance after an accident, it’s essential to compare car insurance rates from several companies.
State Farm, Geico, Progressive and Allstate, the nation’s four largest car insurance companies, together make up more than half of the auto insurance market. The fifth-largest car insurance company, USAA, is available only to active military members, veterans and their families.
To see how the largest insurers price policies after at-fault accidents, we looked at average rates across 45 states and Washington, D.C., where we have rates for all four of the largest companies.
State Farm returned the lowest average rates for drivers who’d caused an accident, as well as for drivers who had not, and also showed the smallest percentage increase in rates between drivers with a clean record and those with a recent crash.
Average rates from the biggest auto insurers after an at-fault crash
For drivers who qualify, USAA frequently has some of the lowest rates we found, both before and after an accident. But in some cases, USAA is no longer the cheapest option once a driver has caused an accident. In Alaska, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Dakota and Wisconsin, for example, USAA is cheapest for drivers with a clean record, but other companies return the lowest rates for drivers with an at-fault crash.
So whether you’re insured with USAA or another company, it’s smart to compare car insurance rates after an accident.
Cheap car insurance after an accident by state
Wondering which companies are the most likely to offer cheap car insurance after a crash? Find your state below to see the cheapest car insurance rates after an accident on average based on where you live.
Average annual rate after an accident
Southern Farm Bureau Casualty
Southern Farm Bureau Casualty
Mississippi Farm Bureau
Missouri Farm Bureau
Farmers Mutual of Nebraska
Main Street America
North Carolina Farm Bureau
It’s possible to get a lower rate after an accident
Shopping around after an accident is the best way to ensure you are getting the cheapest rate, and our analysis shows why:
Shopping for the cheapest car insurance after a crash could save you big. Our analysis shows that shopping for the cheapest possible rate after a crash could potentially save you more than $1,350 a year, depending on your state.
No single car insurance company is cheapest for everyone. Across all 50 states and Washington, D.C., 23 different insurers tied for cheapest option after an accident.
The cheapest insurer before an accident may not be the cheapest afterward. In about half of the states we looked at, some drivers who were insured with the cheapest company available would need to switch insurers to continue getting the lowest possible rates after an accident.
Big-name insurance companies aren’t always cheapest. Although the nation’s 10 largest auto insurance companies together account for nearly three-fourths of the car insurance market, smaller companies returned the lowest rates after an accident in 22 states and Washington, D.C. A state’s Farm Bureau insurance, for example, showed the lowest rates after an at-fault crash in three states. Some smaller insurers are available in only a few states.
» MORE: Compare car insurance rates
How to find cheap car insurance after an accident
Shopping around is the best way to find the cheapest rate, but there are other ways to ensure you are getting the lowest rate possible. You may be able to lower the rates on your current policy by:
Raising your deductible, which is the amount reduced from a potential claim check from comprehensive or collision insurance. This will cause a greater out-of-pocket cost to repair your own car if you get into an accident in the future.
Adding discounts to your policy could help offset the increase in your rate from the accident. Check with your insurer or agent to see if any more are available to you.
Improving your credit. While improving credit is a long-term strategy, a healthy credit report will likely result in a more affordable car insurance rate in most states.
» MORE: Cheapest car insurance companies
What if the accident wasn't your fault?
If you weren’t to blame for an accident, you might see an increase in your auto insurance rate anyway. A study by the Consumer Federation of America found that some companies raise rates 10% or more for not-at-fault accidents.
In the 12 no-fault states, everyone involved in an accident files a claim to their own insurer for injuries. Because of this, residents of those states are more likely to see rate increases after an accident, no matter who is at fault.
If you have accident forgiveness on your policy and this is your first accident, it’s likely that your rate won’t go up. And a few states, including Oklahoma and California, don’t allow insurers to increase your rates if a crash was not your fault. Some companies, such as USAA, even say they won’t raise rates if you aren’t responsible for an accident.
But regardless of whether the accident was your fault, it’s always a good idea to compare car insurance quotes to make sure you’re getting the lowest price.
Alternative car insurance for high-risk drivers
If you have multiple accidents or other serious marks on your record, you may be classified as a high-risk driver. High-risk drivers generally have a harder time finding coverage because they are considered risky to insure.
If no one will sell you a policy, you may need to look for a state-run assigned risk plan. To find an insurer, locate your state in the directory of the Automobile Insurance Plan Service Office, an industry organization, or ask your auto insurance agent for help. This is considered a “high-risk insurance pool,” in which the state assigns an insurer to you.
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 any 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” and “poor” credit rates are based on credit score approximations and do not account for proprietary scoring criteria used by insurance providers.
These are average 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. For drivers with minimum coverage, we adjusted the numbers above to reflect only the minimum coverage required by law in the state. For drivers with one at-fault crash, we added a single at-fault crash costing $10,000 in property damage.
We used a 2019 Toyota Camry L in all cases and assumed 12,000 annual miles driven. We analyzed rates for drivers of the following ages: 20, 30, 35, 40, 50 and 60.
These are rates generated through Quadrant Information Services. Your own rates will be different.