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Comparing Car Insurance for Good, Cheap Used Models

Oct. 29, 2015
Auto Insurance, Insurance
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Deciding to buy a good used car rather than a new one can be a smart, money-saving move. Finding the best car insurance for used cars is a wise second step.

We looked at lists of the best used cars available for less than $10,000 and chose five popular options. Then we analyzed car insurance quotes for each. The verdict? There are no losers here.

>>MORE: Car Insurance Quotes: What You Need to Know

Auto insurance can be a bargain

We looked at quotes from the largest insurers in California, Florida and New York for the minimum required coverage in each state. We didn’t include collision and comprehensive protection, which cover theft and damage to your own car. These coverage options usually aren’t a good buy for older cars because the amount you pay for two or three years’ worth of coverage could approach or exceed the maximum payout you would receive, considering the diminishing value of these older used vehicles.

Coverage costs for these five vehicles were very similar. Quoted rates were much lower in California than in Florida or New York, partly because New York has higher minimum liability limits and Florida requires all drivers to buy personal injury protection.

Annual insurance cost for cheap used cars
California Florida New York
2005 Honda Civic $503 $1,235 $1,225
2005 Pontiac Vibe $499 $1,173 $1,203
2007 Mazda3 $499 $1,247 $1,263
2007 Ford Escape $494 $1,178 $1,208
2005 Honda Pilot $493 $1,134 $1,195
Source: NerdWallet research
Methodology: Quotes are for 30-year-old men and women driving 10,000 miles a year, with state-minimum coverage: In California, liability for $15,000 in injuries per person and $30,000 in per accident, plus $5,000 in property damage; in Florida, liability for $10,000 in injuries per person and $20,000 per accident, and $10,000 in property damage, plus $10,000 in personal injury protection; in New York, liability for $25,000 in injuries per person and $50,000 per accident, plus $10,000 in property damage. Your rates will be different.

It pays to shop around

Next, we compared average rates for the five cars from three large insurers that provided quotes in all three states.

Annual insurance quotes by state
State Farm Liberty Mutual Allstate
California $526 $655 $478
Florida $707 $1,151 $2,304
New York $957 $1,494 $1,746
Average $730 $1,100 $1,509
Source: NerdWallet research

Allstate had the highest quotes of the companies when averaged across all of the states, although it had the lowest rates of the three in California.

While State Farm has the lowest quotes of the three, on average, it wasn’t cheapest when other companies were factored in. USAA was cheapest overall in California and Florida, averaging $322 and $405, respectively; however, it is open only to current and former military members and their families. Excluding USAA, 21st Century was cheapest in California ($424 on average) and State Farm was cheapest in Florida ($707). Geico was cheapest in New York, at $648, although we didn’t get rates from USAA in that state.

A closer look at each of the cars

Now that you’ve got an idea of the insurance costs, you can consider more details to help you choose the right vehicle. We’ve included an estimated retail price and average annual insurance cost for each vehicle.

2005 Honda Civic

If you want a basic car for getting around town, it’s hard to beat the Honda Civic. “Think reliability, gas mileage, mechanical simplicity and a surprisingly long list of features, assuming you stay away from the base-level DX,” Autotrader wrote in praising the 2001-05 Honda Civic models.

  • NADA retail price: $5,825 (2005 Honda Civic LX)
  • Average California insurance cost: $503

2007 Mazda3

Mazda has developed a reputation in recent years for making affordable cars that are exciting to drive, and that includes the Mazda3. Kelley Blue Book says: “This compact car offers a lot of value for the money, and is a terrific balance between practicality and fun.”

  • NADA retail price: $6,650
  • Average California insurance cost: $499

2005 Pontiac Vibe

Pontiac no longer exists, but that shouldn’t scare you away from the Vibe, which was built in conjunction with Toyota. Consumer Reports called the 2005 Vibe “a practical, reliable, and efficient little wagon.”

  • NADA retail price: $5,675
  • Average California insurance cost: $499

2007 Ford Escape

After launching the Explorer SUV and going bigger with the Expedition, Ford built a popular small SUV in the Escape. Autotrader recommended the 2001-07 versions, writing: “Find one that’s been well-maintained and hasn’t been driven too many miles, and you’ll get a sturdy, reliable SUV with a long list of standard equipment.” Kelley Blue Book said that the 2007 Escape’s “rugged look and well-crafted interior make it seem like a more expensive vehicle than it actually is.”

  • NADA retail price: $6,175
  • Average California insurance cost: $494

2005 Honda Pilot

If you’re looking for an SUV that’s a little bigger, consider the 2005 Honda Pilot. According to Consumer Reports, “the Pilot manages to combine the best of a wagon, SUV and minivan.” Kelley Blue Book also praised the 2005 Pilot, saying, “This minivan alternative is ready to comfortably carry several people and their gear, can tow a trailer and is an all-season all-star.”

  • NADA retail price: $8,250
  • Average California insurance cost: $493

No matter which cheap used car suits you best, you can search for the best insurance deal with NerdWallet’s car insurance comparison tool.

Aubrey Cohen is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: [email protected]. Twitter: @aubreycohen.

Image via iStock.

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