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How to Estimate Car Insurance Before Buying a Car

Your next car will have costs beyond the monthly payment. Find out how to estimate car insurance before you buy.
July 20, 2018
Auto Insurance, Insurance
How to Estimate Car Insurance Before Buying a Car
NerdWallet adheres to strict standards of editorial integrity to help you make decisions with confidence. Some of the products we feature are from partners. Here’s how we make money.
We adhere to strict standards of editorial integrity. Some of the products we feature are from our partners. Here’s how we make money.

Even the savviest car shoppers can forget to estimate car insurance costs before buying.

The type of car you drive is just one variable car insurance companies plug into their formulas to determine how much to charge you. Depending on the vehicle and insurance company, the cost of car insurance can vary by hundreds of dollars a year for the same driver.

The type of car you drive is one variable car insurance companies use to determine your rate.

That’s why 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 premiums are an important consideration when calculating the total cost of owning a car.

If you want to see average rates for drivers in your state, try this car insurance cost estimator.

Why some cars cost more (or less) to insure than others

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. The reason sports cars cost more to cover, for example, is because they’re more likely to be driven fast and crashed hard by their owners.

Here are some specific characteristics that affect the cost of auto insurance:

  • Retail price: Generally, the pricier the car, the more expensive it will be to insure. Assuming 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, which 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 get car insurance estimates

In your search for a car, follow these steps for estimating the cost of car insurance.

  • Narrow down your top choices for vehicles. Find tips for picking a car here.
  • 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.
  • 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. You don’t have to provide personal information to get initial estimates.

Now you can factor in the cost of car insurance to help you make a final choice.

Shop around for coverage

When you shop for car insurance, remember to compare quotes for the same levels of coverage.

Do some comparison shopping when you’re ready to buy insurance. Look at car insurance quotes and 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.

Although the cost of insurance may not make or break your final car decision, it’s important to know how much you’ll pay for coverage before you make an offer on a vehicle.

NerdWallet averaged rates for 30-year-old men and women for 10 ZIP codes in each state and Washington, D.C., from the largest insurers, up to 12 in each state. Rates for minimum coverage represent the limits required by law in each state.

For full coverage, we averaged rates from the largest insurers for 30-year-old men and women in 10 ZIP codes and with 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

Our sample retired driver was 67 and drove 50% fewer annual miles than other groups. Our sample young driver was 22 and carried only the minimum required coverage levels. In states where required, minimum additional coverage was added. We used a 2014 Toyota Camry in all cases. These are sample rates generated through Quadrant Information Services. Your own rates will be different.