Whether you’re buying only liability insurance or a full coverage car insurance policy, the thought of cheap car insurance is enticing. And there’s no better way to find the best deal than by shopping around and comparing quotes.
To help you find the cheapest car insurance, NerdWallet did a car insurance comparison of rates for incident-free drivers from the five largest auto insurers across the 12 most populous states in the country.
Here’s how the big guys stack up.
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» COMPARE: Auto insurance rates
Rankings: Car insurance rates among the five largest companies
AVERAGE QUOTE: $918 PER YEAR
You may already recognize USAA for its highly rated customer service. But the company has more to offer than a friendly bedside manner — it also notched the cheapest car insurance rates in our study, at $918 a year. USAA offers several discounts to help you save more, including for going more than five years with a clean record and for taking an approved defensive driving course.
USAA is open to active and retired military members and their families, and offers car insurance and other insurance products in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.
AVERAGE QUOTE: $1,297 PER YEAR
For drivers without a military connection, Geico offers the cheapest car insurance quotes on average nationwide. NerdWallet found an average rate of $1,297 a year in our study, which translates to about $32 a month more than USAA.
Geico also provides a variety of easy-to-score discounts that can cut costs. Motorists who’ve gone five years without an accident qualify for the company’s good driver discount. There are also opportunities to save by insuring multiple vehicles, driving a car with air bags, always wearing seat belts and taking advantage of various other discounts.
3. State Farm
AVERAGE QUOTE: $2,296 PER YEAR
State Farm ranks third for pricing among the five largest companies, but with an average price nearly $1,000 per year higher than Geico. The good news is drivers have ample opportunity to trim their costs, especially if they have a clean driving record. Among other savings opportunities, State Farm offers four separate discounts that deal with safe and accident-free driving.
State Farm is the nation’s leading car insurance provider in terms of market share, offering a vast array of insurance products and financial services in every state plus Washington, D.C.
AVERAGE QUOTE: $2,821 PER YEAR
Progressive returned an average quote of $2,821 per year, which comes out to $235 a month. That’s $525 a year higher than State Farm, more than double the cost of Geico and more than triple the rate of USAA.
Progressive may appeal to drivers looking for a paper- and agent-free experience. You can manage your policy entirely online. Starting a quote online and signing policy documents electronically are also two ways to qualify for discounts, along with things like bundling auto and home insurance and insuring multiple cars.
AVERAGE QUOTE: $3,182 PER YEAR
Of the five largest insurers, Allstate had the highest average annual quote for good drivers at $3,182, or roughly $265 per month. Although ponying up that kind of cash is a lot to ask, the company has solid finances and relatively few complaints from policyholders. Allstate holds an A+ (Superior) financial strength rating from A.M. Best and has a customer complaint ratio of 0.77, better than the industry median of 1.00, according to data compiled by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
Among other discounts, Allstate offers price breaks for safe driving, including savings once you’ve gone accident- and violation-free for three years, and again for five years.
» COMPARE: Car insurance quotes
Check out smaller insurers, too
Finding cheap car insurance doesn’t mean you have to stick with large, national insurance companies. Regional and small insurers may beat the lowest offers from the big guys. For example:
- Grange Mutual offered the lowest car insurance in Ohio at $701 a year.
- Erie Insurance had a rate of $796 for Pennsylvania car insurance, second-lowest behind only USAA.
Tips for anyone to get cheap car insurance
No matter who your auto insurance company is, here are tips for saving on your policy:
- Look for discounts — even ask for them. There could be discounts you’re not taking advantage of. For instance, maybe you now work from home and are driving less than when you bought your policy. Mention it and you might get a low-mileage discount.
- Rethink your insurance limits and deductibles. Don’t strip away your coverage just for the sake of a lower price. But consider accepting a higher deductible on collision and comprehensive if it makes sense. Raising deductibles means you would owe more out of pocket if you had to file a comprehensive or collision claim. If you rarely drive or are financially comfortable with that risk, though, it’s a surefire way to get cheaper car insurance.
- Cash in on major life changes. Certain life events could translate to cheaper car insurance. For instance, many companies offer a lower rate for married couples or domestic partners. Or perhaps you moved to a new city with stellar public transportation. If you’re commuting by train instead of car, your risk for accidents will go down — and your rates just might, too.
NerdWallet’s comparison tool makes it easy to see quotes from top companies side by side and possibly save hundreds on your rates.
Alex Glenn is a staff writer for NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article has been updated. It originally published Dec. 8, 2015.