When shopping for auto insurance, you want the best company for you — not to be swayed by funny commercials and catchy jingles, all promoting a positive experience.
A clearer picture emerges of the best car insurance companies when you look at customer satisfaction and complaints. For NerdWallet’s 2018 rankings, we analyzed customer service and claims satisfaction scores from both J.D. Power and Consumer Reports, along with complaint data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
Only insurers rated by both J.D. Power and Consumer Reports are included. That means many smaller insurers aren’t represented here — but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth considering, too.
If you own a car, car insurance is a required expense in 48 of the 50 states. A lack of diligence when shopping for your car insurance could lead to a hefty monthly bill, as well as headaches if you actually need to file a claim. We researched and explored quotes from over 128 companies in 2,700 cities to determine which insurers had the lowest costs, nationally and in each state. Our team also evaluated which companies had the best track record for customer service and the claims process.
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Table of Contents
Cheapest Car Insurance
Car Insurance by State
The Best Car Insurance
What is the Cheapest Car Insurance Company?
After our analysis of 2,700 cities and 128 companies, we found that Erie was the most affordable major insurer in the country with an average yearly rate of $1,052 based on our sample driver — about 31% cheaper than the national average across every insurer. The very largest of the five is GEICO, the second largest auto insurer in the U.S. by market share.
Graph shows the five cheapest car insurance companies in the United States
In the table below, you can see how the average annual rates for the 15 most affordable large auto insurers in the country compared based on quotes we obtained for an example 30 year old driver.
Rank Company Annual Rate
1 Erie $1,052
2 GEICO $1,067
3 American Family $1,099
4 Auto Owners $1,201
5 Progressive $1,241
6 Farmers $1,249
7 State Farm $1,372
8 State Auto $1,397
9 Nationwide $1,404
10 Allied $1,470
11 Allstate $1,718
12 Safe Auto $1,855
13 MetLife $1,957
14 Victoria $2,057
15 Encompass $2,129
*Premiums based on our sample driver
The Three Cheapest Car Insurance Companies
Erie is the United States’ 13th largest insurer despite being found in only nine states. Overall, it was frequently the cheapest insurer for drivers in its market, beating state averages by 28%. In states like Virginia and Pennsylvania, drivers could find Erie for 40% less than the state average.
The nation’s second largest insurer is the second least expensive one as well. Though found in every state, drivers in New York and Utah can save up to 50% by going with GEICO. On average, GEICO beat state averages by 28%.
Though not the most well known brand of auto insurance, we still found American Family in nearly 1,000 cities nationwide where it beat state averages by 14%. Drivers in Washington and Colorado can even reap premiums 32% and 29% under their state averages.
The Cheapest Insurers By State
The price of car insurance can vary greatly between states. One company may be expensive in Utah, but inexpensive in New York. In some states, a small, local company could even offer the best price. Below, click through to your state to see which company and cities have the least expensive car insurance based on the numerous studies we’ve conducted.
Alabama Alaska Arizona Arkansas California Colorado Connecticut Delaware Florida Georgia Hawaii Idaho Illinois Indiana Iowa Kansas Kentucky Louisiana Maine Maryland Massachusetts Michigan Minnesota Mississippi Missouri Montana Nebraska Nevada New Hampshire New Jersey New Mexico New York North Carolina North Dakota Ohio Oklahoma Oregon Pennsylvania Rhode Island South Carolina South Dakota Tennessee Texas Utah Vermont Virginia Washington West Virginia Wisconsin Wyoming
What Is The Best Car Insurance Company?
We identified the auto insurance companies with the cheapest rates, but, as with anything, you want to be sure you are getting high quality service from your insurance company. Reliable car insurance companies are critical in ensuring a smooth customer-insurer relationship. There are a few factors we deemed most important to evaluate a company on which affect policy holders’ satisfaction, such as, the average shopping experience, customer service, ability to resolve complaints, and quote filing process.
The Best Car Insurance Companies
Erie: Best Overall Company
State Farm: Best Large Company
Progressive: Best Company After Getting into an Accident
USAA: Best Company for Military Families
Metromile: Best Company for Low Mileage Drivers
The Hartford: Best Company for Handling Claims
Liberty Mutual: Best For the Shopping Experience
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Best Overall Car Insurance Company: Erie
Erie is the cheapest insurance company, and arguably the most reliable insurance company as well. They score points by allowing customers to start their quote online, which we personally found to be a streamlined and fast process. Erie also scored the highest marks from the number of policies they offer. Erie offers pet coverage, free accident forgiveness, free vanishing deductibles, roadside assistance, and many more, essentially giving its customers a degree of flexibility not even found amongst the largest insurers. Customers of Erie may also be eligible for its Rate Lock program. This is a unique program where customers won’t see their rates increase except for three reasons: you move to a different area, add or remove someone from your policy, or add or subtract a car. Lastly, despite its smaller size, Erie offers the same types of discounts larger national insurers provide such as bundling, anti-lock brakes, anti-theft, young driver and senior driver among others.
The biggest downside to Erie is that it is only available in Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. As well, Erie still relies strongly on its agent network; which isn’t always a bad thing. A strong agent network is usually key to ensuring a smooth claims process. If you want to quickly buy car insurance without speaking to anyone though, Erie may not be the company for you. While you can start the process online, you ultimately will have to speak with an agent to finalize your quote. Erie will be ideal for any customers within its market, who do not mind putting in some extra effort to get quality and cheap auto insurance.
Best Large Car Insurance Company: State Farm
Of the biggest auto insurers in the U.S. — State Farm, GEICO, Allstate, Progressive and Farmers — State Farm ranks as the greatest overall. State Farm was rated 4/5 stars by customers and policyholders in a JD Power survey on companies shopping experience. State Farm is best known for its large agent network; they boast over 18,000 across the nation. It shouldn’t be surprising then that State Farm gets 5/5 stars for how its agents interact with customers. As well, State Farm is great when it comes to offering discounts. If you go with State Farm you will have up to 15 discounts to be eligible for which can equal hundreds of dollars worth of savings.
While State Farm’s shopping experience is well-reviewed, customers did not feel as strongly about it’s claims handling process. The company scored about the same as the other four large companies, but was still mediocre. A large national company may be expected to not be very efficient because of the various departments involved in handling individual claims. If you want the assurances guaranteed to you by a large, «legacy» carrier, then State Farm is the best to go with.
Best Auto Insurance Company after an Accident: Progressive
We found Progressive was the most affordable car insurance rates after a recent accident compared to the many auto insurance companies we surveyed. From the $1,241 average we state above, rates increased by 29% after an at-fault accident. While that may still seem high, it was the smallest rate increase we saw of any company including Erie, State Farm, GEICO and American Family.
Other pros of Progressive include it being an online company. You can get a quote directly from the Progressive website without having to speak to an agent. Cons of Progressive involve its customer service. Customers in the J.D. Power survey only gave mediocre remarks for Progressive for its buying experience and claims handling process. It isn’t the worst, but Progressive is far from the best in the field. Because of this, Progressive might be the best insurer ideally for customers prioritizing low rates, especially after an accident, and do not mind a bit more cumbersome claims handling process.
Rank Company Starting Rate After Accident Rate Percent Change
1 Progressive $1,241 $1,605 29%
2 Sentry $2,397 $3,220 35%
3 State Farm $1,372 $1,788 35%
4 Erie $1,052 $1,489 41%
5 Safe Auto $1,855 $2,634 42%
Best Car Insurance Company for Military Members: USAA
If you are or were in the military, or if your parents, parent-in-law, or spouse was in the military you are eligible for USAA auto insurance, and they may just be the best company for you. USAA scores 5/5 stars for the both shopping experience, and claims handling process in the J.D. Power study. They do particularly well on how you can report your claims to the company. You should also be highly satisfied with their final settlement claims. For more information, read here.
Best Car Insurance for Low-Mileage Drivers: Metromile
If you find yourself away from the wheel more times than not, a pay-per mile auto insurance company like Metromile may be the best company to go with. Metromile is one of the first companies in the U.S. where a bulk of a driver’s premium is determined by how much they drive. How much is too much? We found that generally for Metromile to be a good deal, drivers should only drive 7,500 miles or less per year. The biggest downsides to Metromile is a mediocre record of claims handling, in addition to the company only being available in seven states: CA, IL, NJ, OR, PA, VA, WA.
Best Auto Insurance for Handling Claims: The Hartford
Also known as AARP, The Hartford was the recipient of the 2016 J.D. Power study for car insurance companies ability to handle claims. The Hartford scored 5/5 stars for nearly every step of the claims process; from notifying them, to the repair process, and the final settlement. Those who think a smooth claims process is the most important factor for car insurance, The Hartford should definitely be considered.
Rank Company Initial Claims Process Service Appraisal Repair Process Settlement Overall
The Hartford 5 5 4 5 5 5
2 USAA 5 3 4 4 5 5
3 NJM Insurance Co. 5 5 5 3 5 5
4 Erie Insurance 5 5 5 5 5 5
5 Auto-Owners Insurance 5 5 4 4 5 5
Best Company for the Shopping Experience: Liberty Mutual
Liberty Mutual actually tied Erie insurance for this category, but since we already called Erie the best overall company, we’ll describe how Liberty Mutual is well known for a strong shopping experience. Customers of Liberty Mutual report in the study they were particularly satisfied with the flexibility of policies offered by Liberty Mutual, as well as their relationship with Liberty Mutual agents. If Erie is not located in your state, Liberty Mutual can be a good alternative if you can get a competitive rate.
Rank Company Policy Offerings Contentment w/ Pricing Local Agent Overall
1 Liberty Mutual 5 4 5 5
2 Erie 4 5 4 5
USAA 5 5 NA 5
4 The Hartford 5 5 3 5
5 American Family 4 4 4 4
The Best Car Insurance Coverage for You
To determine how much auto insurance is best for you comes down to understanding your current economic circumstances and how the different types of coverage work together. If you own a car, buying car insurance is inevitable, so it is really important you are getting the right amount for the right price. The following table gives a quick summary of what types of insurance you should have.
Type of Coverage Should You Have It?
Bodily Injury Liability
Required in mostly every state except FL
Property Damage Liability Required in every state
Uninsured Motorist Required in 22 states and/or you do not have PIP or Collision insurance
Collision and Comprehensive Recommended only if your car is worth more than $2,000
Person Injury Protection/Medical Payments Required in 15 states and/or you do not have health insurance
As to how much coverage you should have will depend on your economic situation. High net worth individuals should get high liability limits, as in those well above the minimum mandated by the state. In fact, they should have limits that equal their net worth. To read more in-depth about how much coverage you need, you should read on here.
Methodology: How We Got Our Info
We collected quotes from a variety of insurance companies across 2,700 towns and cities in the U.S, for 128 insurance companies. Our sample driver was a 30 year old male who drove a 2011 Toyota Camry. To obtain quotes, we kept parameters for getting coverage the same, such as that he was single, and had a clean driving record. The only parameter that changed was the zip code where he lived in the U.S. The amount of coverage we opted for gave our driver bit more than what is required of state minimums.
Best Car Insurance Company for Overall Value — GEICO
We recommend GEICO because it offers a well-rounded package of coverage protection at some of the cheapest auto insurance rates with around-the-clock daily customer service. Based on our research, we found that GEICO had one of the largest selections of discounts on car insurance for everything from the typical multi-car policies to emergency deployment for active military members. True its roots as a company formed for government employees, GEICO also offers special savings for prospective policyholders who are federal employees or military members (up to 8 — 15% off their premiums). These reasons help to explain why the company is one of the largest underwriting auto insurance in the United States, and is praised by customers for its great liability coverage at affordable premiums.
Best Auto Insurance Company with Agents — Allstate
One of the best features we like about Allstate’s auto insurance is their network of agents. They’re well-versed in the various auto insurance coverage types as well as Allstate’s features and benefits. With over 20,000 sales representatives, and 9,300 agencies across the United States, there is sure to be an agent within driving distance. We also like that Allstate has added a number of thoughtful components to their policies with their customers in mind. For example, Allstate offers a Claim Satisfaction Guarantee for any policyholder unhappy with their claims payout or experience. They also offer accident forgiveness and safe driving bonuses as optional features. All in all, we recommend that drivers who prefer in-person interactions consider Allstate as their car insurance company.
Best Car Insurance Company for Military Members — USAA
Our pick for the best car insurer for members of the military is undoubtedly the United States Automobile Association (USAA). Time and time again, USAA and its affiliates have the cheapest rates we’ve seen in our rate studies. Policyholders must be either active or retired members of the military (coverage is extended to family members too). In addition to affordable rates and great coverage, the USAA offers additional military-specific discounts. For example, armed force members who garage their cars on a military base can save up to 15% on their comprehensive coverage. The best benefit, however, is the network of community support and forums that USAA hosts on their website to support spouses and veterans. Members also have access to experts with experience in navigating and advising financial considerations of military members. Customers consistently rave about the excellent customer service and claims fulfillment they receive from representatives, and the company continues to win awards from industry associations such as JD Powers.
Best Auto Insurance Company for Older Drivers (>50) — AARP / The Hartford
What makes the AARP’s program with the Hartford our selection for best car insurer for older drivers? The many special and thoughtful benefits that accommodate for the lifestyles of adults 50 years old and above, such as RecoverCare and longer locked in rates. RecoverCare is a program that eases the transition back to a normal life after a car accident. Insureds can see up to $2,500 of costs covered for getting help with daily tasks such as buying groceries, cooking, housekeeping, and gardening. We like that AARP is also cognizant that its members receive fixed pensions and retirement income, and has worked with the Hartford to lock in annual rates so seniors can better plan their budgets. With such considerate care and attuned attention to its members’ needs, it is no surprise that the AARP is our choice for best company for older drivers.
How to Find the Best Car Insurance
Getting the best insurance for your car is about having the right kind of coverage with appropriate limits. If you’re looking for the cheapest rates and minimum liability coverage, the best car insurance company for you will be different than the best option for a driver that wants full coverage and top-rated customer service. We’ll walk you through deciding which ones or what level of protection make the most sense for you.
The Right Kind of Coverage: The Standard Policy May Not Be Enough to Protect You
The car insurance landscape can be quite confusing with multiple types of coverage. There are a couple of add-on protections that can be useful depending on where you live in, and the peace of mind you need. These are: comprehensive, collision, medical payments, personal injury protection, and umbrella insurance.
Should I get Comprehensive and Collision Coverage?
Basically, collision coverage covers damages after your car crashes into something — such as a car or stationary object. Comprehensive (also known as OTC) coverage is everything else: Mother Nature, and acts of God, to thefts and vandalism (more info). Comprehensive and collision get bundled together, and pay for repairs or replacements up to the car’s current cash value (car’s market value — salvage value).
Whether this coverage is right for you depends on the value of your car and where you live. If you have a new car and live in an area with lots of storms and a large deer population, you should likely get comprehensive and collision coverage. If you have an old car, however, the current cash value your policy pays might not be worth the cost of the premiums and deductible for the coverage. It’s generally not cost-effective when the current cash value of your car is less than $3,000. Weigh the annual out-of-pocket cost to you (premiums + deductible) against the current cash value to see if it makes sense.
Personal Injury Protection vs. Medical Payments vs. Health Insurance
Personal Injury Protection (PIP) covers medical, psychiatric, and rehabilitative expenses for you, your passengers, and permitted drivers of your vehicle, and at times your lost wages. It’s mandatory in some states like New Jersey and New York. Medical Payments (MedPay) pays for reasonable and medically necessary expenses, and is optional.
If you have a good health plan with a low deductible, then you probably won’t need PIP or MedPay. If your deductible is high, however, then weigh the cost of the extra premium against the benefits for PIP and MedPay. One benefit of PIP and MedPay is that it covers other passengers in your car who might not have health insurance.
Umbrella Coverage: For Extra Assets and Everything Else
If you have assets that exceed the maximum limits of the standard policies, then umbrella protection is the best benefit to add to your coverage. It steps in when claims and payouts under all your other coverages are used up, but you still have more damages to pay. While infrequent, car pile-ups or severe accidents resulting in death are the types of incidents that could get covered by your umbrella policy. It’s just a few dollars more, but can get you up to millions more in necessary protection when there’s a lot to lose.
Appropriate Limits: The Cheapest Rates May Not Get You the Best Protection
Buying a basic policy with your state’s minimum level of financial responsibility can save you a few bucks now. However, it’s at the risk of exposing your assets when your insurance limits can’t cover an injured party’s damages.
So how much liability coverage should you get? As much protection as you can afford that is greater than or close to how much your assets are worth. Add up your bank balances, stock and bond investments, retirement funds, trust funds, real estate, etc., and then find a liability limit that exceeds or is closest to what you can afford (more info).
Here’s why: you have no control over how bad a car accident can be: who gets injured, or how much their medical expenses will be — and you can be on the hook if they sue you. A car crash damaging the fingers of a skilled neurosurgeon will cost you more than injuring an average person, and their car can crash into other vehicles.
Getting the Best Auto Insurance Coverage for You
In conclusion, the best auto insurance depends on a number of factors: the value of your assets, how much risk you’re comfortable with, and what protection you want. You should buy as much coverage as need to make sure your assets are protected in the case of an accident, or other incident. If it’s more important to you to get the cheapest protection, then just bear in mind that your assets can be put at risk.
Finding the Best Car Insurance Companies & Rates
The best auto insurance companies will be able to provide a balanced blend of the right amount of coverage at the right rates for consumers’ vehicles and budgets, and follow through when claims are submitted. Here’s how you can go about looking for the best companies and negotiating the best rates.
Step 1: Decide What Kind of Insurer You Want
What is most important to you? Cost or personal interaction and local expertise? If you have a budget, then a national and direct insurance company that does most of their business online will likely get you better rates. An agent-based insurer focuses on providing a more high-touch and local experience — helpful when submitting a claim, but costs can be higher.
Step 2: Evaluate Their Complaint Ratios and Industry Awards in Your State
The next step is to look for a list of reputable and dependable insurers licensed in your state. States often produce annual reports that rank companies by their complaints. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners publishes complaint data at the Customer Information Source. A third source we recommend are industry surveys and consumer organizations. J.D. Powers, for example, measures satisfaction on pricing, policy offerings, and claims handling. AM Best’s Financial Strength Rating measures a company’s financial ability to pay out insurance claims. Pick a handful of companies from these sources, about three to five, that are generally well rated.
Step 3: Get Quotes
Here’s the information you’ll need to get an accurate quote: your SSN, driver’s license, VIN, (or vehicle specifications including airbag, anti-lock, alarm etc.), a record of accidents or traffic violations, the number of miles you drive a year, as well as a list of the memberships / associations you belong to. Go to each insurer and get a quote for the liability limits you’re comfortable with.
Step 4: Negotiate Rates and Ask for Discounts
Once you have a few data points, it is time to pick up the phone and negotiate with representatives. Call them and share the cheaper rates you’ve gotten from competitors, and 1) see what they do, or 2) follow up with: can you do better than this? Afterwards, ask them for any discounts that aren’t available on the website, or what they can offer you from the discounts we’ve listed below.
Car Insurance Discounts
Here’s a list of common discounts you can run the insurance customer representative through to maximize your savings.
Good Driver Discounts: No accidents or traffic violations in the past three years (some insurers stretch this out to five years)
Discounts for Homeownership: Can be combined with a multi-policy discount if you insure your vehicle and house with the same company
Lower Rates for Married Couples
Student Discounts: Earning grades of B and above, making the honor roll, leaving for college or living far away
Safety Features Discount: For cars with anti-lock brake systems (ABS), airbag capacity, daytime running lights, and anti-theft devices
Lower Rates for Reduced Miles Driven: Typically for annual mileage less than 10,000
Discounts for Professional and Organization Affiliations: Some companies discount premiums for nurses, teachers, policemen, safety officers, federal employees, and military members in recognition of their services. Check for discounts for your employer, alumni association, trade group, sports conference, or industry organization
Discounts for Mature Drivers: Proof you’ve passed a licensed mature driver improvement course can get you up to 5 — 7% off
Defensive Driving / Driver Education Savings: If you take a licensed driver re-education course every couple of years, you can save up to 10%
Lump Payment Methods: Paying in full and going paperless avoids installment and administrative fees
Customer Loyalty: If you should be a long-standing customer of a company, you should squeeze some extra consideration for this by asking for loyalty discounts.
Green / Hybrid Vehicle Discounts
Now that you have your list of companies, ratings and scores, and their best offer on quotes, you can decide on the best auto insurance company for you.
Best Car Insurance Rates
We surveyed 9 national auto insurance companies to see how their rates stack up for a few sample driver profiles to help you shop for auto insurance. The rates are sampled from select cities across the country, so your actual quote will differ based on your driving history and where you live. Alternatively you can enter your information in the form below to get quotes from insurers that serve your area.