Car insurance rates can go up more than 50% — or $839 a year, on average — if you cause an accident with just $5,000 in damage, NerdWallet’s analysis found.
To get cheap car insurance after an accident, it’s time to shop around.
How an accident affects your car insurance rates
NerdWallet compared average car insurance rates nationwide for 40-year-old drivers with no accidents and those with a recent at-fault crash, keeping all other factors the same. We used full coverage policies and a relatively minor hypothetical accident, resulting in $5,000 worth of property damage and no injuries.
In 16 states and the District of Columbia, average rates are more than $1,000 a year higher for drivers who’ve caused a recent accident than for those who have not.
See how your state fares:
Car insurance rate increases after an at-fault crash
|States ranked by average % increase||Average annual rate after accident||% increase from accident-free rate|
|2. North Carolina||$2,034||83%|
|4. New Hampshire||$2,070||75%|
|5. New Mexico||$2,814||75%|
|6. District of Columbia||$2,841||73%|
|9. South Carolina||$2,260||67%|
|20. New Jersey||$3,668||58%|
|22. West Virginia||$2,263||56%|
|29. South Dakota||$1,752||52%|
|36. Rhode Island||$3,332||49%|
|48. North Dakota||$1,775||41%|
|49. New York||$3,652||40%|
» MORE: Average car insurance costs
Cheapest car insurance companies after a crash
Car insurance companies have wildly different viewpoints on how much to raise rates due to a crash. A few companies in our analysis didn’t even charge more after a small accident in some states.
At the other extreme, several companies showed rates more than twice as high for a driver who’d caused an accident than for an identical one who hadn’t. In a few cases, rates were more than $3,000 a year higher after an accident resulting in $5,000 in property damage.
State Farm returned the lowest average rates after an at-fault crash.
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.
To see how they price policies after at-fault accidents, we looked at average rates across 30 states and the District of Columbia, areas where all four companies have a significant presence.
In our analysis, State Farm returned the lowest average rates for drivers who’d caused an accident, as well as for drivers who had not. State Farm also showed the smallest difference in rates between drivers with a clean record and those with a recent crash.
The fifth-largest car insurance company, USAA, is available only to active military members, veterans and their families. USAA frequently has the lowest rates we find, both before and after an accident, for drivers who qualify.
But in some cases, USAA is no longer the cheapest option once a driver has caused an accident. In Georgia, New Mexico and Tennessee, for example, USAA is cheapest for drivers with a clean record — but other companies return the lowest rates after an at-fault crash.
So if you’re insured with USAA and you get in an accident, it’s smart to check rates.
How to find cheap car insurance after an accident
Our analysis shows why it’s important to shop around for cheap car insurance after an accident:
- No single car insurance company is cheapest for everyone. Across all 50 states and the District of Columbia, 23 different insurers were the cheapest option after an accident in at least one state.
- The cheapest insurer before an accident may not be the cheapest afterward. In a third of states, at least some drivers who were already 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. Erie, for example, showed the lowest rates after an at-fault crash in Indiana, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Some smaller insurers are available in only a few states.
» MORE: Compare car insurance rates
Rates after an accident that wasn’t your fault
You might see an increase in your auto insurance rate anyway.
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.
A few states, including Oklahoma and California, don’t allow insurers to increase your rates if a crash was not your fault. And some companies, such as USAA, say they don’t raise rates if you aren’t responsible for an accident.
In the 12 no-fault states, all parties in an accident make a claim to their own insurance policies for injuries. Residents of those states are more likely to see rate increases after an accident, regardless of who is to blame, due to that.
But if you’ve been in a crash, regardless of whether it’s your fault, it’s a good idea to compare car insurance quotes.
Alternative car insurance for high-risk drivers
If you have multiple accidents or other serious marks on your record, it could be hard to get car insurance.
If no one will sell you a policy, you may need to look for a state-run assigned-risk plan. To find your state’s high-risk insurance pool, locate your state in the directory of the Automobile Insurance Plan Service Office, an industry organization, or ask your auto insurance agent for help.
To rank states for rate increases after at-fault crashes: NerdWallet averaged rates for 40-year-old men and women for 20 ZIP codes in each state and Washington, D.C., from the largest insurers, up to 12 in each state. “Good drivers” had no moving violations on record and credit in the “good” tier as reported to each insurer. For the other profile, we added one at-fault accident, resulting in $5,000 worth of property damage and no injuries, keeping everything else the same. 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 2015 Toyota Camry in all cases.
To rank the largest companies for rate increases after at-fault crashes: For the nation’s four largest insurers, we averaged rates for each company for 20 ZIP codes in 30 states and Washington, D.C., for drivers with no moving violations and credit in the “good” tier as reported to each insurer, and for drivers with one at-fault accident resulting in $5,000 worth of property damage and no injuries, keeping everything else the same. The same vehicle and coverage limits were used as listed above. The 30 states, in which each insurer had a significant presence, are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.
These are sample rates generated through Quadrant Information Services. Your own rates will be different.