Baltimore vs. Washington, D.C.: Car Insurance Smackdown

Auto Insurance, Insurance
Baltimore vs. Washington, D.C.: Car Insurance Smackdown

Baltimore and Washington, D.C., are remarkably similar in certain ways — but not when it comes to car insurance rates.

It takes only about an hour to drive from Baltimore’s Inner Harbor to the White House. The two cities are nearly the same size — Baltimore has a population of 622,793 and Washington has one of 658,893 — and their baseball teams ended the 2014 season with nearly identical records (81-81 for the Baltimore Orioles and 83-79 for the Washington Nationals).

In terms of the cost of car insurance, however, Washington, D.C., is the clear winner.

[Compare car insurance quotes through NerdWallet’s Car Insurance Comparison Tool.]

The smackdown

NerdWallet analyzed insurance rates for five car models in each city. All five models were significantly cheaper to insure in Washington, by an average of 14%.

 BaltimoreWashington, D.C.D.C. savings
Honda CR-V$2,090$1,77015%
Hyundai Elantra$2,459$2,14513%
Nissan Altima$2,445$2,19110%
Smart ForTwo Pure$2,107$1,63922%
Toyota Camry$2,364$2,13110%
Average$2,293$1,97514%

Methodology: We averaged rates from five large insurers in Baltimore and four in Washington, D.C., using 10 ZIP codes in each city. Rates are for 30-year-old single people with clean records, driving 10,000 miles a year. Coverage includes liability limits of $100,000 per person, $300,000 per accident and $50,000 in property damage, plus comprehensive and collision with a $500 deductible, and uninsured motorist coverage. Your rates will be different.

Our analysis also reveals the importance of shopping around, because rates can vary widely among companies. The chart below shows the average rates from different companies for all five cars in both cities. USAA’s prices were similar in Baltimore and Washington, but Geico and State Farm offered considerably cheaper premiums in Washington, D.C. Allstate’s Washington average was such an outlier that we excluded it from our “smackdown” comparison of the two cities (shown in the first chart above).

 BaltimoreWashington, D.C.D.C. difference
Allstate$2,329$3,45648%
Geico$2,547$1,341-47%
State Farm$3,128$1,687-46%
USAA$1,248$1,179-6%

Source: NerdWallet research

Why car insurance rates vary

Your car insurance company bases your premium on personal details, including your driving record, vehicle and location. If there’s a particularly high rate of accidents, vandalism, theft or natural disasters in your area, or if lawsuits tend to result in high damage awards, you’ll likely pay more for coverage. State insurance laws also affect rates, dictating the coverage types you must buy, the factors insurers can consider when setting rates and how much companies can charge.

Baltimore, for instance, had 232 car thefts per 100,000 residents in 2014, a rate 29% higher than Washington, D.C.’s. This might partly account for the city’s high average car insurance rates.

No matter where you live or what kind of car you drive, shopping around is the only way to ensure you’re getting the best rates. NerdWallet’s car insurance comparison tool can help with that.

Aubrey Cohen is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: acohen@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @aubreycohen.


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