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.
Most of us need car insurance, yet few of us fully understand it.
Dozens of car insurance companies, including large players and regional insurers, are vying for your business. Many offer an eye-glazing assortment of policy options, making it hard to compare policies and figure out what’s the best and cheapest car insurance.
» SIGN UP: Find savings on your car expenses
Here are eight things you can do to ensure you get good coverage at the best possible rate.
1. Don’t assume any one company is the cheapest
Some companies spend a lot of money on commercials that try to convince you they offer the lowest car insurance rates. But prices that different people pay for the same coverage by the same company can vary widely. No single insurer can claim to be the low-price leader for everyone. The insurance company that’s cheapest for one person in one place might be the most expensive option for a driver in another state.
The only way to ensure you’re getting the best deal is to shop around.
The only way to ensure you’re getting the best deal is to shop around.
There are some savings at stake: A NerdWallet analysis found that good drivers could be missing out on $416 a year on average by not comparing insurance prices.
Our study also found that 38% of Americans who have car insurance haven’t compared insurance costs in at least three years, if ever.
» COMPARE: NerdWallet’s car insurance comparison tool
2. Don’t ignore local and regional insurers
Just four companies control nearly half the nation’s auto insurance business: Allstate, Geico, Progressive and State Farm. But smaller, regional insurers such as Auto-Owners Insurance and Erie Insurance often have higher customer satisfaction ratings than the big names — and they may have lower rates, too.
» MORE: The best car insurance companies
3. Check for discounts
Insurers provide a variety of discounts, including price breaks for customers who:
Bundle car insurance with other policies, such as homeowners insurance
Insure multiple cars with one policy
Have a clean driving record
Pay their entire annual or six-month premium at once
Agree to receive documents online
Own a car with certain anti-theft or safety features
Are members of particular professional organizations or affiliate groups
Don’t be swayed, however, by a long list of possible discounts. Compare your final prices from multiple insurers.
4. Pay your bills on time
Your credit score is a significant factor in the car insurance quotes you receive — except in California, Hawaii and Massachusetts, which don’t allow insurers to consider credit when setting rates. Insurance companies say customers’ credit has been shown to correlate with their chances of filing claims.
A NerdWallet analysis found that having poor credit can boost people’s car insurance rates by hundreds of dollars a year compared with having good credit.
Improve your credit — and get cheaper insurance — by paying your bills on time and reducing your debt. Track your progress by checking your credit score regularly.
5. Consider insurance costs when buying a car
You probably already pay attention to factors such as fuel efficiency and repair costs when picking a car to buy, but you should also consider insurance premiums. A NerdWallet analysis of the cheapest cars to insure among top-selling vehicles found the lowest rates are for the Honda CR-V, Subaru Outback and Jeep Cherokee.
6. Skip collision and comprehensive coverage for an older car
Collision coverage pays to repair the damage your vehicle after an accident with another car or an object such as a fence. Comprehensive coverage pays to repair vehicle damage from weather, animal crashes, floods, fire and vandalism. It also covers car theft. But the maximum payout under either policy is limited by the value of the car if it’s totaled or stolen. If your car is older and has a low market value, it may not make sense to shell out for these types of coverage.
» MORE: Understanding collision and comprehensive insurance
7. Consider raising your deductible
If you buy comprehensive and collision coverage, you can save money by opting for higher deductibles. (There is no deductible on liability insurance, which pays for the damage you cause others in an accident.)
8. Consider usage-based or pay-per-mile insurance
If you’re a safe driver who doesn’t log many miles, consider a usage-based insurance program such as Allstate’s Drivewise, Progressive’s Snapshot or State Farm’s Drive Safe & Save. By signing up for these programs, you let your insurer track your driving in exchange for possible discounts based on how much you drive, when you drive and how well you drive.