When you cause a car accident, repair bills may not be the only expense you’ll face.
Car insurance rates can go up more than 50% — or $839 a year, on average — for those who stay with the same company after causing a minor accident, a NerdWallet analysis of rates nationwide found.
But if you switch to the cheapest insurer in your state after your fender bender, you may pay less for car insurance than you paid before your crash.
The bottom line: After a car accident, it’s time to go shopping for auto insurance.
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. The analysis used full coverage policies and a relatively minor hypothetical accident, resulting in $5,000 worth of property damage and no injuries.
On average, auto insurance rates are more than 50% higher for drivers with an at-fault accident, our analysis found. 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 car insurance rate increase|
|Average increase by state||$909|
|5. North Dakota||$519|
|9. South Dakota||$600|
|22. West Virginia||$816|
|28. New Hampshire||$888|
|31. South Carolina||$908|
|32. North Carolina||$920|
|36. New York||$1,045|
|40. Rhode Island||$1,101|
|43. District of Columbia||$1,197|
|44. New Mexico||$1,204|
|47. New Jersey||$1,348|
» 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. On the low end, a few companies in our analysis didn’t charge more after a small accident in some states — they returned identical rates for both of our hypothetical drivers, regardless of accident status.
At the other extreme, several companies showed rates more than twice as high for a driver who’d caused an accident as for one who hadn’t. In a few cases, rates were more than $3,000 a year higher after an accident with $5,000 in property damage.
You might even beat the price you were paying before the crash.
That’s why to get the best price, it’s essential to compare car insurance rates after an accident. If you do, you might even beat the price you were paying before the crash.
In three-fourths of the cases we examined, some of the lowest rates after an at-fault crash were cheaper than other companies’ rates for a driver with a clean record.
That means drivers who weren’t already insured with the cheapest company available to them — but who switch to the cheapest after an accident — could actually find lower rates after a crash.
On average, these drivers could save about 25% on their car insurance, our analysis showed. Average rates were $444 a year less than before the accident.
Here’s an example. In New Jersey, a driver with a clean record might pay $1,721 a year for a policy with Geico, one of the three cheapest insurers in the state. After an accident, that driver might pay $1,418 by switching to NJM, the state’s cheapest option for drivers with an at-fault crash. That’s $303 a year less than the driver was paying before the crash — and $812 less than the rate the driver might pay by staying with Geico.
Our analysis also found:
- 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 to them 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 of the smaller insurers are available in only a few states.
» MORE: Compare car insurance rates
Big companies’ rates after an accident
State Farm returned the lowest average rates after an at-fault crash.
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.
Comparing rates for the four biggest car insurance companies
Average annual rate for driver after at-fault accident
|Average rate difference compared to driver with clean record|
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.
When an accident 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.