Getting estimates before you buy auto insurance is an easy way to make sure you don’t pay more than you have to for coverage. Lots of factors affect what you pay for car insurance you get, including your location, age, driving history, and more.
Policygenius has saved drivers an average of $435 per year on their car insurance after they compare rates. Our free car insurance estimator makes it easy to see what you'll pay for coverage.
How to get accurate car insurance estimates
Before you buy a car insurance policy, make sure you take these steps to get the most out of a car insurance estimator:
Understand your coverage options
Decide how much you want to pay
Get estimates from multiple companies
1. Understand your coverage options
A car insurance policy is made up of different types of coverage that offer different types of protection. Depending on where you live, some may be required while others are always optional.
Bodily injury liability coverage (BIL): Pays for injuries to the other driver or their passengers if you’re responsible for an accident.
Property damage liability coverage (PDL): Covers damage to the other driver’s car after an at-fault accident. Also covers other property damage you’re responsible for, like if you crash into someone’s fence.
Uninsured or underinsured motorist protection (UI/UM): Pays for your own injuries or property damage if you’re hit by a driver without insurance (or without enough insurance to cover the accident).
Comprehensive coverage: Covers the cost of damage not caused by a car accident, like damage from extreme weather, falling objects, theft, vandalism, or animals.
Collision coverage: Covers damage to your own car after an at-fault accident.
Personal injury protection (PIP): Pays for your own medical expenses after an accident, regardless of who was at-fault (PIP is required in no-fault states).
These types of car insurance coverage typically make up what’s called a full-coverage policy, but there are other coverage add-ons you may want to consider, including roadside assistance, new car replacement, and rental car reimbursement coverage.
When you buy a policy, you'll also have to choose a deductible amount for certain types of coverage, like comprehensive and collision coverage. A car insurance deductible is the amount you'll need to pay out of pocket per-claim. Setting a higher deductible means lower rates, but it also means you'll need to foot more of the bill yourself if you ever actually need to use your coverage.
→ Read more about what types of coverage a regular insurance policy includes
2. Decide how much you want to pay
A car insurance premium is just the amount you pay for coverage. The more coverage you buy, the more expensive your car insurance estimates will be.
For example, if you only buy enough insurance to meet your state's minimum requirements, your estimated insurance cost may be an average of 66% (or $1,184 per year) cheaper than a full-coverage policy that includes higher limits of liability coverage and comprehensive and collision protection.
We recommend getting as much liability coverage as you can afford, along with comprehensive and collision coverage. While getting fully covered means your insurance estimates will be higher, it's the best way to avoid paying for expensive medical bills and property damage out of pocket after a serious car accident.
Set an amount you’re comfortable paying per month or per year so you can shop around for the company that offers you the most coverage at the cheapest rates.
3. Get estimates from multiple companies
Once you have an idea of how much coverage you need and what you can afford to pay for car insurance, you can get estimates for rates in your area. To get the best insurance rates from a car insurance estimator, you should know your:
Address, including city and state
Birthdates for every driver in your household
Driver's license numbers
Social Security Numbers
The make, model, and VIN for every vehicle you want on the policy
Your current coverage limits (if you already have insurance)
Remember to be honest when you're applying for car insurance — if you fudge any details to get a lower rate (like omitting a recent accident or not including your teenage driver), you won't get an accurate estimate.
It's also a good idea to research the insurance companies with the lowest rates to make sure they don't have poor customer service or limited coverage options. When you've found the best company for your needs, you can purchase a policy.
Highlights from some of our favorite companies
Rating: 4.6/5 ★
Cost for full coverage: $99/month
Cost for minimum coverage: $33/month
Rating: 3.8/5 ★
Cost for full coverage: $98/month
Cost for minimum coverage: $40/month
Rating: 4.3/5 ★
Cost for full coverage: $125/month
Cost for minimum coverage: $57/month
Rating: 3.8/5 ★
Cost for full coverage: $123/month
Cost for minimum coverage: $52/month
Rating: 4.1/5 ★
Cost for full coverage: $148/month
Cost for minimum coverage: $61/month
Rating: 4.0/5 ★
Cost for full coverage: $165/month
Cost for minimum coverage: $62/month
How we rated car insurance companies
Our company ratings are based on each insurance provider’s cost, availability, customer experience and satisfaction, and strength of coverage and how it stacks up against competitors. Our own Policygenius agents, with years of experience working with real car insurance shoppers, also provided insight.
We assigned a value to each measurement based on importance, then found the weighted average of these values for each company. We ranked the highest performing companies for different types of drivers by their final score. Our rating system breaks down like this:
- Customer experience and satisfaction (29%), combining ratings from a number of well-known third-party quality reviewers, including J.D. Power’s Auto Insurance Claims Satisfaction study.
- Ease-of-use (29%), evaluating companies on how easy it is to get covered and make a claim.
- Coverage options (24%), totaling up the number of coverage options and perks, and the strength of coverage.
- Cost (12%), comparing the costs of a full-coverage policy relative to average.
- Financial security (6%), using A.M. Best’s credit rating scores.
We don't sell your information to third parties.
How car insurance is calculated in every state
Every state aside from New Hampshire and Virginia requires drivers to have liability coverage. When you’re calculating how much insurance you need, start with the amount of coverage your state requires.
But state minimums aren’t the only thing that affect car insurance costs.
The number of uninsured drivers in your area, local crime rates, and the number of accidents where you live can all affect what you’ll pay for car insurance.
We don't sell your information to third parties.
Since it’s impossible to predict exactly what you’ll pay for car insurance without entering at least some personal information, the best way to get a reliable estimate is by comparing quotes from different companies.
Here's how much insurance you need (by law) in every state:
How to get lower car insurance estimates
If you find that car insurance calculators are giving you high estimates for the amount of coverage you want, there are a few ways that you can bring down your rates and still get the protection you need.
Compare rates from multiple companies: By getting quotes from more than one company before you buy, you can make sure that you're getting the best and cheapest rates in your area.
Check for insurance discounts: Nearly every insurance company will offer you at least a few ways to save on coverage. Some discounts are relatively easy to qualify for, including switching to paperless billing, requesting a quote online, and paying your premiums electronically.
Avoid accidents and traffic violations: While you're likely to get higher premiums from insurance rate estimators if you have an accident or ticket on your record, your rates will get more affordable over time as long as you remain a safe driver.
Improve your credit: While improving your credit score can take months, or even years, your insurance estimates will be lower if you pay down outstanding debts and credit card balances.
Bundle coverage: When you get car insurance and home insurance from the same company, you can often get significant discounts on both — savings of up to 20% with some insurance companies.
Calculating how much car insurance you need
You need at least the amount of car insurance coverage that’s required by law — but what else do you need in a policy?
Most drivers need what’s called full-coverage car insurance, which is a policy that includes comprehensive and collision coverages. We also recommend getting as much liability coverage as you can afford.
A solid full-coverage policy might look like:
Bodily injury liability coverage: $100,00 per person, $300,000 per accident
Property damage liability coverage: $100,000 per accident
Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage: $100,000 per person, $300,000 per accident
Comprehensive: $500 deductible
Collision: $500 deductible
Remember: Getting as much liability coverage as you can afford means you won’t have to pay expensive bills out of pocket after a crash.
If you live in a no-fault state, you’ll also be required to get personal injury protection (PIP), which pays for your medical bills after an accident.
A typical full-coverage policy at our recommended limits costs $1,827 a year. But there are other add-ons that can raise your rates, so set your budget a little higher if you want things like roadside assistance, gap insurance, or new car replacement coverage.
→ Learn more about how much car insurance you need
What affects your car insurance estimate
While the average driver pays $1,638 per year for car insurance, a car insurance estimator will show every driver different rates depending on a range of factors. Some of the details that go into your car insurance estimate are:
Where you live
Drivers in one state may pay hundreds of dollars more for auto insurance coverage than drivers in another, depending on things like the required amounts of auto insurance in that state, or the total number of uninsured drivers. Even your ZIP code matters when it comes to insurance, since drivers in crowded cities usually pay more for car insurance than people who live in places with fewer cars on the road.
All car insurance calculators ask for your age before you can get an estimate. Car insurance companies charge older drivers much less than younger, more inexperienced drivers. If you're younger than 25 or you have a teen driver in your household, your insurance will be more expensive.
The good news is that car insurance rates for young drivers tend to fall for every year they go without an accident, and usually level out when they turn 25 and are no longer in the highest-risk age group.
Your credit history
Car insurance companies use your credit score to calculate your rates. If you have a poor credit history, you’ll get significantly higher estimates for auto insurance than if you had good — or even average — credit. But not every state allows car insurance companies to consider your credit score. If you live in California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan, or Washington, your credit score won't affect your car insurance rates.
Any recent accidents or traffic violations
Along with past claims, any accidents, traffic violations, speeding tickets, DUIs, or other marks on your driving record will make your car insurance more expensive. Car insurance companies generally consider the past three to five years of your driving record, so if you drive safely going forward, violations can eventually "fall off" your history and your rates will go back to normal.
→ Read about how much insurance costs for different drivers
Frequently Asked Questions
Which company has the cheapest car insurance estimates?
GEICO typically has the cheapest estimates for most people. USAA offers the most affordable insurance overall, but the insurer only sells coverage to active or retired members of the military and their families.
How do you get an insurance estimate before you buy a car?
You can still get insurance estimates for a car you don't own yet. You can get an estimate as long as you have your address and the car's make and model. While the quote you get won't be exact, it will give you an idea of what you could pay for coverage. Then, once you know the exact car you’re buying, you can add the VIN and exact details and buy your policy for the day you want to take your new vehicle home.
What do you need to check car insurance prices online?
You only need a few details in order to check car insurance prices online. To get insurance estimates, you'll need to know the names and Social Security Numbers of everyone in your household, license numbers, your car's model and VIN number, and the amount of coverage you want.
Do car insurance estimators show yearly or monthly prices?
It depends. Car insurance estimators often display rates on a monthly or bi-annual basis. Fortunately, if you're looking for estimates for your annual cost of car insurance, it's not hard to convert monthly or six-month rates into annual premiums.
How to calculate car insurance rate per $1,000?
The average cost of a car insurance policy with $50,000 of bodily injury liability per person and $100,000 per accident insurance is $1,638. This means that every $1,000 of coverage costs roughly $16.38. But that’s not the best way to estimate the cost of car insurance, since coverage becomes proportionally cheaper as you add more.
Average savings of $435/yr (auto insurance): Savings are determined by calculating the average difference between the lowest and second lowest auto insurance policy estimates provided to shoppers with two or more estimates between 06/01/2020 and 05/18/2021. Potential savings are based on a composite of multiple different contracts and insurers. Not all policies in this calculation are available in all states, and availability may be based on eligibility. Savings may vary by policy amount and location.