The four auto insurance companies below have quality coverage and are traditionally some of the most affordable options around. But remember — due to a number of personal factors, your mileage may vary when shopping for cheap car insurance. Instead of blindly picking from this list, make sure you shop around before buying a new policy.
How I Chose the Best
To pick the best cheap car insurance companies, I narrowed the field to auto insurers with a nationwide reach so you can benefit from the most inexpensive coverage no matter where you live. From there, I obtained a quote for “Marie,” a married 40-year-old woman from Columbus, Ohio, who drives a 2006 Honda Odyssey. I focused on three no-frills, inexpensive coverage options:
State minimum liability plus $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident in uninsured and underinsured bodily liability.
All of the above, plus comprehensive and collision coverage with $1,000 deductibles.
I also considered how easy the quote process was, including how long it took to get a quote for each company and how much personal information Marie had to give up, as well as
available car insurance discounts. Though “cheap” is king in this study, I also looked at the company’s financial strength rating as measured by A.M. Best . Finally, I examined the company’s rankings in the latest J.D. Power customer service satisfaction survey as a tiebreaker in cases where results were close.
Nationwide delivered some of the lowest quotes for my driver, Marie, especially for the most basic coverage. Marie would pay just shy of $28 a month for state-minimum coverage, and only a couple dollars more than that to add uninsured and underinsured motorist liability. Her total topped out at just under $51 a month with $1,000 deductibles for comprehensive and collision insurance. Nationwide also offers at least 15 discounts for drivers to keep quotes as low as possible.
The company also had a straightforward quote process that took only four minutes from beginning to end. To get a quote, Marie didn’t have to fork over her Social Security number, but she did need to input her phone number. Nationwide suggested three straightforward coverage options (minimum, standard, and premium) that were easily customizable.
True to its name, Nationwide auto insurance has a national reach, and A.M. Best gives it a superior A+ rating for financial strength. However, with the exception of the north-central U.S., the company is rated at the middle or bottom of the pack for customer satisfaction in J.D. Power’s annual survey.
State Farm quotes were low, but not the lowest Marie received. She would pay just shy of $33 for state-minimum coverage, $35 to add uninsured and underinsured motorist liability, and $63 with $1,000 deductibles for comprehensive and collision insurance. The company offers at least a dozen known discounts.
State Farm’s quote process was a bit more detailed than most, taking about five minutes from start to finish. Marie had to input either her Social Security or driver’s license number to complete the process. Like Nationwide, she was given three tiers of coverage (basic, premium, and a level similar to her current coverage) that were easy to tweak.
State Farm is the nation’s largest auto insurer, with 18,000 agents spread across every state. It ranks consistently well for customer satisfaction, rating above average in most of the regions of the J.D. Power survey. It also gets A.M. Best’s top marks, A++, for financial strength.
Travelers offered very low rates for Marie: just $31 for state-minimum coverage, $34 to add uninsured and underinsured motorist liability, and only $47 to include $1,000 deductibles for comprehensive and collision insurance. The company offers roughly a dozen known discounts, including for defensive driving and low mileage.
Another strong point: The quote process with Travelers was very easy, taking only about three minutes from start to finish. Much of the information was pre-filled with the most likely answers, and no Social Security number was required. A nice “People Like You” feature also gave Marie an idea of whether she was choosing coverage that others in similar situations would pick.
Travelers auto insurance is available across the U.S., and the company has 12,000 agents. It gets A.M. Best’s top marks, A++, for financial strength. Unfortunately, it earns uneven rankings in the J.D. Power survey. While New Yorkers are particularly satisfied with Travelers, the company earns mediocre or poor marks for customer satisfaction in the rest of the regions where it’s ranked.
With Progressive , Marie would pay a reasonable $37 a month for state-minimum coverage, $40 to add uninsured and underinsured motorist liability, and just $48 to tack on comprehensive and collision insurance with $1,000 deductibles. The company has at least a dozen known discounts, including breaks for insuring multiple vehicles, good students, and military personnel.
Like Travelers, Progressive’s quote process was quick and painless, clocking in at just three minutes. The company is fairly aggressive in marketing its insurance bundles, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to add other coverage types if you need them (or click “no thanks” if not).
You can choose to see quotes by basic tiered levels, or you can opt to see coverage similar to what you already have. If budget is king, you can also name your price and see what it will get you. A coverage checker warns you when you’re probably buying too little insurance — or too much.
Progressive has a national reach and more than 30,000 agents. It’s all over the map in the J.D. Power customer satisfaction survey, but is in the middle of the pack in most regions. A.M. Best gives it a superior A+ rating for financial strength.
Where to Find Car Insurance Discounts
Once you’ve seen some rates, you need to dig in on exploiting discounts — the key to cheap car insurance rates. Many car insurance companies have discounts that go beyond bundling or insuring multiple vehicles, and some of them are less obvious than you may think.
Driving education is an often overlooked discount opportunity. Teen drivers are very expensive to insure, but one great way to lower that burden is through defensive driving training.
Drivers who have passed an accredited driver’s ed class or defensive driving training are eligible for up to a 10% discount, according to DriversEd.com. Plus, if you’ve recently received a ticket, enrolling in a defensive driving course can prevent the premium hike on your insurance (though most companies only let you do this once every 12 months).
Defensive driving courses cover topics such as traffic laws, drug- and alcohol-impaired driving, and inclement-weather driving and are often available online or at commercial driving schools. Courses for defensive driving can be found through your DMV or through local community centers.
In fact, defensive driving education is required in at least 15 states including Texas, Nevada, New Jersey, Virginia, Oklahoma, Oregon, New York, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Louisiana, North Carolina, Illinois and Mississippi.
After completing a defensive driving course, participants will receive a completion certificate that can be presented to insurance companies in order to qualify for a discount. Depending on the insurance company, drivers may also have to retake the course and be current on their certification in order to continue receiving the discount. Classes are flexible and offered on a consistent basis, however, and learning defensive driving skills is an easy way to save money and become a more comfortable driver.
If you aren’t the only person covered on your auto policy, consider getting all the drivers on your policy to take a defensive driving and you can be eligible for additional discounts.
Good student discounts
These discounts are typically given to drivers under the age of 25 who are enrolled full time at a high school or college/university and are maintaining at least a 3.0 grade point average or are on the honor roll or dean’s list.
In order to prove satisfactory academic achievement and receive the discount, students need a current transcript or a letter signed by a school administrator. Students who are home-schooled can present standardized test results, such as SAT or ACT scores, that are within a desired percentile range depending on the insurance provider in order to qualify.
Good grades can continue helping students save money even after school is out because some insurance companies extend this discount to post-grads for a limited time.
Drivers with a clean driving record, a standard that is determined by each individual insurance provider, are eligible for hefty discounts.
Although there is no universal definition of safe driving, insurance companies generally mean avoiding collisions and accidents for which you can be found at fault and avoiding moving violations such as speeding, driving under the influence, or reckless driving.
Having a clean record can not only give you a discount on your insurance, it can save you a lot more money in the short term.
Resident student discounts
These discounts can be offered to students attending college more than 100 miles away from home. They are intended to be used exclusively by those students who are not planning to drive the insured vehicle while at school but may use it while they are home for vacations.
Most insurance companies have active-duty military and veterans discounts.
Discounts exist for car alarm systems or other safety equipment.
Many insurers will even lower your rate if you pay your annual premium upfront or automate your payments.