Remember, price is just one piece of the car insurance policy puzzle. You also want to make sure you feel good about the insurer you’re doing business with. Do they have a good track record when it comes to paying out claims? Are they known for their customer service? Are they financially solvent? Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to get answers to these questions. In fact, sometimes, some important signifiers will be included with your auto insurance quote. The big stats to check when vetting an insurance company include:
Most insurers — and we're not just talking about auto insurance companies here — use some type of credit-based insurance score to help determine how risky a potential customer is. The practice is a bit controversial, which is why some states have laws against using it (see above). But the general thinking behind insurer credit checks is: If someone is bad with their finances, they might be irresponsible in other areas of life, too. You can learn more about how car insurance rates are determined here.
Your auto insurance quotes can vary based on your circumstances. You should shop around for new car insurance quotes as often as possible! For the most part, car insurance policies are non-binding. If you find a better rate elsewhere, cancel your current policy and move on to the next. The remaining outstanding premium should be refunded back to you. Opportunities to look for cheaper rates include when you move, when you add or change a car to your policy, get married, or celebrate a birthday.
There are plenty of good reasons to have up-to-date car insurance for your vehicles, whether you have a new driver in your family or you have recently purchased a new car to take on the road. What is most important about looking at car insurance quotes in many cases is knowing that you won’t have to deal with hidden fees, understanding what your coverage actually includes, and knowing whether you’ll have an honest and reliable resource should you ever need to file a claim.
As with any credit check, a record of this search will remain on your file – and your credit rating will affect the amount of APR that you’re charged. If you have a poor credit rating, you may be charged up to 20% APR. And if you’ve struggled to pay credit in the past, or if you have a CCJ to your name, then you may be denied the option to pay monthly. If you think you’ll have issues with your credit rating, you can read our guide on improving your credit score.
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.

Step 4: Narrow the field. As you examine each quote, go back online and read customer reviews of the company. If ratings matter to you, check rating companies like J.D. Power and A.M. Best. They can give you a good idea of what other customers have gone through when dealing with filing claims and customer service. Once you have looked over everything, narrow down your decisions. Eliminate one or more of your quotes.
Young drivers (those between the ages of 16 and 25) pay extraordinarily high auto insurance rates, with those aged 16-19 paying the most expensive premiums of all. Because of the risk presented by inexperienced drivers, teens pay more than three times the national average for car insurance. In Virginia, the average teen driver pays $3,747 — approximately $1,200 less than the national teen driver average, but more than three times as much as an older driver in Virginia.
One note on price: Not all insurers will quote based on what you’ll pay each month. Some might list the annual or even semi-annual cost of a policy. (Why? Who knows? Insurance will never get accused of being easy.) Point is, here, too, you’ll want to be sure you’re comparing apples to apples. (Prices vary widely enough where it’s easy to get confused on the actual price.) That way, you know what insurer is truly offering the best price.
Nationwide's insurance professionals can quickly design a car insurance quote that meets your precise needs, even for those on a budget. Rather than going with the cheapest car insurance quote, make sure the company you choose provides flexible coverage and billing options. For instance, Nationwide allows members to pay monthly, quarterly or semi-annually online, through the mail or over the phone. It’s important to keep long-term flexibility in mind when deciding on an insurance carrier, not just go with the cheapest car insurance option.
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.
Whether you use the vehicle to commute, attend school, or “pleasure;” insurance companies will want to know the frequency and distance that the insured uses the vehicle. You can use tools such as Google Maps to figure out the distance you generally drive to work or school. In most cases, a general ball park will suffice for most insurance companies.
Insurance companies place a lot of weight on your credit score as they see it as a highly accurate way to determine risk. Studies by the Federal Trade Commission have shown that drivers with low credit scores not only file more claims than drivers with higher credit scores, but the actual dollar amount is greater than higher scoring drivers. Thus, they’re cheaper clients. On average, moving from one credit tier to the next among our selected insurers saves you an average of $344 a year.

Since most people choose one of these large insurers, NerdWallet compared quotes from the five largest auto companies in ZIP codes across the country. Rates are for policies that include minimum coverage required in each state, plus collision and comprehensive coverage. Our “good driver” profile is a 30-year-old with no moving violations and credit in the “good” tier. Use the tabs to see rates for drivers with credit in the “poor” tier and those with one at-fault accident as reported to the insurer.

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