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How to Choose an Auto Insurance Company (Simple, Fast Steps)

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Things to remember...

  • Before you choose a car insurance company, you need to figure out what kind of coverage you need
  • Comparing car insurance companies can help you narrow thousands of potential insurers to the top three or four
  • You can buy your insurance through different channels, such as captive agents, independent agents, or brokers
  • It’s important to research your potential car insurance providers to make sure the company you choose is reputable

Choosing a car insurance company can be overwhelming when there are so many options to choose from.

Finding the company that’s right for you doesn’t have to be as hard as you think. In fact, it can be quite simple.

We’ll take you step-by-step through the process and show you how to confidently choose the right car insurance company for your situation.

You can compare car insurance quotes right here using our free quote tool!

Here’s what we cover:

Step #1 – Figure out Your Insurance Needs

Knowing what you’re looking for is the place to start. Each state requires car insurance coverage at a different level, but what the mandatory coverage has in common between states is that it covers your liability and not your own vehicle damage costs.

The minimum you’re required to carry is known as “basic coverage” or “state minimum.”

Considering that most states require significantly less coverage than necessary to pay for the total loss of a new vehicle, you should consider purchasing higher limits even if you decide to only purchase liability coverage.

Without increased liability limits, you’ll have to make up the difference out of pocket between your coverage limit and that cost of the damage you cause.

If your car is financed, you’ll probably be required to carry full coverage. Full coverage includes comprehensive and collision which will offer financial protection for a wide variety of damage to your own vehicle.

If you own your vehicle you can decide if you want to purchase full coverage. If your vehicle is valuable and you wouldn’t be able to recover from its loss out of pocket, you should probably carry full coverage.

There are several coverage types some of which are required depending on where you live, and some of which are optional.

Type of CoverageRequired or Optional
Owned Vehicle: Optional
Leased or Financed Vehicle: Required
Owned Vehicle: Optional
Leased or Financed Vehicle: Required
Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
Required in some states with "no fault" laws
Medical Payments (MedPay)
Required in some states with "no fault" laws
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Required in many states
Guaranteed Auto Protection (GAP)
Personal Umbrella Policy (PUP)
Rental Reimbursement
Emergency Roadside Assistance
Mechanical Breakdown Insurance
Non-Owner Car Insurance
Modified Car Insurance Coverage
Windshield CoverageOptional

Step #2 – Compare Car Insurance Companies to Save the Most

After you know what you’re looking for, you’re ready to try to find it for less money. Keep reading for tips on how to save as much money as possible!

– Ask about Discounts

Discounts can make a significant difference in your car insurance premiums. Below we’ve charted which providers offer the most discounts as well as the which discounts you may want to ask about when applicable:

Number of Discounts by Provider

Vehicle Discounts:Driver/Customer Discounts:Personal Discounts:
Active Disabling DeviceClaim FreeEmergency Deployment
Adaptive Cruise ControlContinuous CoverageFamily Legacy
Adaptive HeadlightsDefensive DriverFamily Plan
Anti-Lock BrakesDriver's EducationFederal Employee
Audible AlarmDriving Device/AppFurther Education
Automatic BrakingEarly SigningGood Student
Blind Spot WarningFull PaymentHomeowner
Daytime Running LightsGood CreditLife Insurance
Economy VehicleLoyaltyMarried
Electronic Stability ControlMultiple PoliciesMembership/Group
Farm/Ranch VehicleMultiple VehiclesMilitary
Forward Collision WarningNew Customer/New PlanNew Address
Garaging/StoringOccasional OperatorNew Graduate
Green/Hyrbid VehicleOnline ShopperNon-Smoker/Non-Drinker
Lane Departure WarningOn-Time PaymentsOccupation
Newer VehiclePaperless/Auto BillingRecent Retirees
Passive RestraintPaperless DocumentsStable Residence
Utility VehicleRoadside AssistanceStudent Away
Vehicle RecoverySafe DriverStudent or Alumni
VIN EtchingSeat Belt UseVolunteer

– Ask about Special Programs

Many insurance providers have special programs. The programs offer perks for their customers.

Some companies offer accident forgiveness as an option. If you choose this option, you can have an accident and not experience rate hikes.

Some companies offer new car replacement if your current vehicle is totaled.

– Consider a Low-Income Program

Low-income car insurance programs are offered in some states:

Plus there are a few non-government run programs like Citizens United Reciprocal Exchange (CURE).

– Compare Car Insurance Quotes

Every six months to a year, you should do a car insurance review. Make sure your current levels of protection are what you still want, and if they’re not, make the changes in your search. Review the following aspects of your coverage:

  • Deductible level – if you think you could afford a higher deductible amount out of pocket, you could raise your deductible and pay lower monthly premiums.
  • Coverage level – If your car is paid in full and is not valuable, consider just purchasing liability coverage as opposed to full coverage.

You could get individual quotes from companies one at a time, but it will save you time to do a search with a comparison tool. We have one here that will give you multiple quotes after you enter your information just one time.

You could save a significant amount of money by finding a company that offers lower rates and switching to them.

The importance of comparing rates can be understood by reviewing the data we collected from Maryland’s Insurance Department site (see below). Look at the wide span of rates — over a $4,000 difference from most to least expensive.

If you go with the first company you get a quote from you may be costing yourself a lot of money. Check out the car insurance company rates (average annual):

Step #3 – Decide Which Type of Service Provider You Want

You might be overwhelmed by the different choices of providers. We’ll break down some of the common options so you have an understanding of what you’d prefer.

  • Captive Agents – Individuals who offer insurance from one company. If you go to a State Farm or Progressive office, for example, you’re going to interact with a captive agent. You can’t go into a State Farm office and purchase a Liberty Mutual policy. The majority of consumers go through captive agents.
  • Independent Agents – An independent agent works for a variety of providers and can work with you to find an insurance company that offers what you’re looking for at a good price.
  • Brokers – These are similar to independent agents, but while independent agents represent several insurance companies, brokers represent the customer and help find coverage from many providers.
  • Direct Providers – As the name sounds, direct providers offer insurance directly to the customer. What a direct provider offers is what a captive agent offers.
  • Online Only – Some companies are online only and don’t have brick and mortar offices throughout the country. If you use an online-only company, you won’t have a specific agent you work with and call with questions or to make a claim. Instead, you will correspond electronically and through phone calls.
  • National Providers – These are the larger car insurance companies that offer policies to all or most states throughout the country.
  • Local Providers – These companies may offer policies just in one state or one region.

Now that you understand some of the different types of agents and providers you can choose from, and you’ve compared quotes and found the companies that look best to you, take the next step and research the providers.

We’ll show you where to look below.

Step #4 – Research the Provider

When you narrow down the vast list of potential car insurance providers to the top three or four, you’ll need to make sure they’re reputable. Researching to ensure a company’s reputation could save you a headache down the road when you make a claim.

A company that’s not financially stable may be unable to pay your claim. And if a company has poor customer satisfaction results, you may have a negative experience when you have to deal with them over a claim.

#1 – Make Sure They’re Licensed in Your State

If they’re not licensed in your state, it’s an automatic “no” for going with them. If a company isn’t licensed in your state, their coverage won’t be valid.

Check the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) search page to see if the companies you’re considering are licensed in your state.

Below, we have listed the websites and phone numbers for each state. You can find accurate information and answers to your questions by contacting your state insurance regulating division.

StateWebsitePhone Number
Alabama 269-3550
Alaskahttps://www.commerce.alaska.gov1-800-INSURAK (in-state outside Anchorage)
(907) 269-7900 (Anchorage office)
(907) 465-2515 (Juneau office)
Arizona 364-2499
(800) 325-2548 (In Arizona but outside the Phoenix area)
Arkansas 282-9134 or (501) 371-2600
California 927-4357 (HELP)
(800) 482-4833 (TTY)
Colorado 894-7855 or (800) 886-7675
Connecticut 297-3800 or (800) 203-3447
Delaware 674-7300
Florida 413-3140
Georgia 656-2070 or (800) 656-2298
Hawaii 586-2790 or
(808) 586-2799
Idaho 334-4250
Illinois 814-2420 (Chicago office) or
(217) 782-4515 (Springfield office)
Indiana 622-4461
Iowa or
Kansas 296-3071 or
(800) 432-2484
Kentucky 595-6053 or
(502) 564-3630
Louisiana 259-5300
Maine 624-8475
Maryland 468-2090
Massachusetts 521-7794 or
(877) 563-4467
Michigan 284-8800 or
(877) 999-6442
Minnesota 539-1500 or
(800) 657-3602
Mississippi 359-3569 or
(800) 562-2957
Missouri 751-4126
Montana 332-6148 or
(406) 444-2040
Nebraska 471-2201
Nevada 872-3234
New Hampshire 271-2261 or
(800) 852-3416
New Jersey 292-7272 or (800) 446-7467
New Mexico 4ASK-OSI (855-427-5674)
New York 342-3736
North Carolina 408-1212
North Dakota 328-2440 or
(800) 247-0560
Ohio 686-1526
Oklahoma 522-0071 or
(405) 5210-2828
Oregon 877-4894
Pennsylvania 881-6388
Rhode Island 462-9520
South Carolina 737-6160
South Dakota 773-3563
Tennessee 741-2241
Texas 676-6000 or
(800) 578-4677
Utah 538-3800
Virginia 371-9741 or
(800) 552-7945
Washington 562-6900
Washington D.C. 727-8000
West Virginia 558-3386
Wisconsin 266-3585 (Madison) or
(800) 236-8517 (statewide)
Wyoming 777-7401 or
(800) 438-5768

#2 – Check Their Complaint Ratio

Some states’ insurance websites make this information readily accessible, such as California’s which displays all the complaint ratio information for the past three years for the top 50 insurance companies. Their ratios are based on the number of justified complaints to 100,000 earned exposures.

Other states’ insurance websites don’t offer the information so easily. The table below lists each state and whether its insurance website offers complaint data (see websites above to access information).

StateComplaint Info?StateComplaint Info?StateComplaint Info?
AlabamanoKentuckyyesNorth Dakotano
ColoradoyesMichiganyesRhode Islandno
ConnecticutyesMinnesotanoSouth Carolinayes
DelawarenoMississippinoSouth Dakotano
District of ColumbianoMissouriyesTennesseeno
IdahoyesNew HampshirenoVirginiano
IllinoisyesNew JerseyyesWashingtonyes
IndianayesNew MexiconoWest Virginiayes
IowanoNew YorkyesWisconsinno
KansasyesNorth CarolinanoWyomingyes

If your state insurance website doesn’t offer complaint information, you can still go to the NAIC’s complaint search and enter the company of your choice to find the number of complaints.

#3 – Check Financial Ratings

This step is easy. A.M. Best is an independent rating agency. Once you set up your free profile at, you simply enter the company name you’re researching into the search bar to view its grade and outlook.

But, we’ve streamlined the search even more. We’ve compiled the data from A.M. Best for the companies with the best and worst ratings:

RatingOutlookBest Rated CompaniesRatingOutlookWorst Rated Companies
A++StableACE American Insurance CompanyC-StableAmerican Heartland Insurance Company
A++StableAgri General Insurance CompanyCNegativeAmerican Service Insurance Company, Inc.
A++StableAuto-Owners Insurance CompanyC+StableCountry-Wide Insurance Company
A++StableAutomobile Ins Co of Hartford, CTC++NegativeFirst Acceptance Insurance Company
A++StableChubb Insurance CompanyC++PositiveFirst Chicago Insurance Company
A++StableColumbia Insurance CompanyEUnion Mutual Insurance Company
A++StableContinental Divide Insurance Company
A++StableGreat Northern Insurance Company
A++StableOwners Insurance Company
A++StableSelect Insurance Company
A++StableState Farm Mutual Automobile Ins Co
A++StableTravCo Insurance Company
A++StableThe Travelers Companies
A++StableUnited Services Automobile Association

Like the grades you got in school, “A’s” are good and “+’s” are even better. You want a company with a good rating and a stable outlook. Find out more about AM Best’s rating here.

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#4 – Check Car Insurance Company Ratings

The following independent companies compile mountains of data a year to provide consumers with ratings and recommendations:

– JD Power

This is a valuable resource. Every year they publish an insurance study and rank the insurance companies in various regions. You can search by region and see highest rated companies where you live.

They list the top rated car insurance companies as follows:

– Consumer Reports

You may be familiar with the Consumer Reports magazine and website already. One area they address often is car insurance. See what they have to say about the companies you’re interested in.

Here are Consumer Reports’ ratings for car insurance companies (subscription required to view results on their page):

Reader ScoreCar Insurance CompanyExcellentase of Reaching an AgentSimplicity of the ProcessPromptness of ResponseDamage AmountAgent CourtesyTimely PaymentFreedom to Select Repair ShopBeing Kept Informed of Claim Status
96Amica Mutual Insurance CompanyExcellentExcellentExcellentExcellentExcellentExcellentExcellentExcellent
95NJM Insurance GoodroupExcellentExcellentExcellentExcellentExcellentExcellentExcellentVery Good
95USAA GoodroupExcellentExcellentExcellentExcellentExcellentExcellentExcellentExcellent
94Auto Club GoodroupExcellentExcellentExcellentVery GoodExcellentExcellentVery GoodVery Good
94Excellentrie Insurance GoodroupExcellentExcellentExcellentExcellentExcellentExcellentExcellentVery Good
93PExcellentMCO Mutual Insurance CompanyExcellentExcellentExcellent-Excellent---
93The Cincinnati Insurance CompanyExcellentExcellentExcellent-Excellent---
93Auto-Owners Insurance GoodroupExcellentExcellentExcellentExcellentExcellentExcellentExcellentVery Good
92Auto Club Excellentnterprises Insurance GoodroupExcellentExcellentExcellentExcellentExcellentExcellentExcellentVery Good
90Travelers GoodroupExcellentVery GoodExcellentVery GoodExcellentExcellentExcellentVery Good
90Hanover Insurance Goodroup Property & Casualty CompaniesExcellentVery GoodExcellentVery GoodExcellentExcellentExcellentVery Good
90Hartford Insurance GoodroupExcellentVery GoodExcellentVery GoodExcellentExcellentExcellentVery Good
90California State Auto Goodroup (CSAA)Very GoodVery GoodVery GoodVery GoodExcellentExcellentExcellentVery Good
90Farm Bureau Property & Casualty Insurance CompanyVery GoodVery GoodVery GoodVery GoodExcellentVery GoodExcellentVery Good
89American Family Insurance GoodroupExcellentVery GoodVery GoodVery GoodExcellentVery GoodVery GoodExcellent
89Ameriprise P&C CompaniesVery GoodVery GoodVery GoodVery GoodVery GoodVery GoodVery GoodGood
89State Auto Insurance CompaniesVery GoodVery GoodVery GoodVery GoodVery GoodExcellentVery GoodVery Good
89State Farm GoodroupExcellentVery GoodVery GoodVery GoodExcellentVery GoodVery GoodExcellent
89Berkshire Hathaway Insurance GoodroupExcellentVery GoodExcellentVery GoodExcellentExcellentVery GoodVery Good
89Farmers Insurance GoodroupExcellentVery GoodVery GoodVery GoodVery GoodVery GoodVery GoodVery Good
88Allstate Insurance GoodroupExcellentVery GoodVery GoodVery GoodExcellentExcellentVery GoodVery Good
88Nationwide GoodroupVery GoodVery GoodVery GoodVery GoodExcellentVery GoodVery GoodVery Good
88Liberty Mutual Insurance CompaniesVery GoodVery GoodVery GoodVery GoodVery GoodVery GoodVery GoodVery Good
87Progressive Insurance GoodroupVery GoodVery GoodVery GoodVery GoodVery GoodExcellentVery GoodVery Good
86Mercury Goodeneral GoodroupVery GoodVery GoodVery GoodVery GoodVery GoodVery GoodVery GoodGood
86MetLife Auto & Home GoodroupVery GoodVery GoodVery GoodGoodVery GoodVery GoodVery GoodGood
86MAPFRE North America GroupVery GoodVery GoodVery GoodGoodVery GoodVery GoodVery GoodGood

– The Better Business Bureau (BBB)

While JD Power and Consumer Reports will give you general information about car insurance companies as a whole, the BBB grades individual offices. You’ll get the most specific rating for the local office you’re considering from the BBB as opposed to the other rating companies.

Making sure you choose the right car insurance company is well worth the effort. If you need to file a claim, you’ll be glad you chose a company that is financially stable and consumer-friendly.

Now that you know how to choose a car insurance company, you can purchase your coverage from the right car insurance company. Now, it’s time to let them help you understand your policy.

Read on for suggestions of questions to ask:

Step #5 – Questions to Ask Car Insurance Companies

The NAIC suggests asking these questions of your insurer:

  • Will minimum liability limits be high enough to cover me if I am at fault in an accident?
  • How much more would it cost to buy more than the minimum amount of liability insurance coverage?
  • Will this policy cover me if I let someone else drive my car?
  • Will this policy cover me if I have an accident in a rental car?
  • Will this policy cover me if I have an accident while traveling for work?
  • If my car is disabled, will this policy pay for a rental car while it is being repaired?
  • Is there any cap or limit?
  • If my car is disabled due to an accident, will the parts used to repair the car be new or aftermarket?
  • How much can I save with a higher deductible?
  • What discounts are available?
  • What other types of property do you insure? Can I qualify for a discount if I buy both policies from your company?
  • What are my payment options? Can I pay monthly or quarterly? If I do, is there an extra charge or discount?

Frequently Asked Questions

– How do I file a complaint against a car insurance company?

Find your state on the NAIC consumer complaint map to be directed to your state’s website with directions for making a complaint.

– How much coverage do I have to have?

Each state makes their own requirements for car insurance. Find your state insurance website on the NAIC map to find out the requirements where you live.

If your vehicle is leased or financed, your lender will likely require full coverage.

– How often can I switch insurance companies?

As often as you want. But be careful you don’t allow your policy to lapse.

– Can I buy home insurance from the same company as car insurance?  

Yes, if the company offers both types. Often you’ll be eligible for a significant discount when you combine your auto policy with a home or rental policy. You could also combine car insurance with a motorcycle or RV policy.

Even insuring a second vehicle with the same insurer could get you a discount.

– How do I know if I am paying a fair price?

By doing a car insurance quote comparison. Make sure to review your policy and coverage at least once a year.

Also, we’ve collected the average annual premiums for full coverage in each state (that includes liability, comprehensive, and collision):

District of Columbia$1,330.73$1,324.39$1,316.48$1,289.49$1,276.99
New Hampshire$818.75$795.50$773.30$755.76$746.57
New Jersey$1,382.79$1,379.20$1,369.70$1,334.59$1,303.52
New Mexico$937.59$920.42$888.83$866.19$869.85
New York$1,360.66$1,327.82$1,301.49$1,273.70$1,236.77
North Carolina$789.09$768.28$739.91$720.47$708.10
North Dakota$773.30$768.09$743.27$714.75$688.74
Rhode Island$1,303.50$1,257.40$1,210.55$1,176.05$1,148.97
South Carolina$973.10$936.69$904.22$880.82$857.70
South Dakota$766.91$744.28$717.30$690.95$669.20
West Virginia$1,025.78$1,032.45$1,021.37$1,005.68$992.57

Choosing the right car insurance company is worth the effort.

Get started comparing quotes from multiple providers at once using our free rate tool. Enter your zip code below to get started!

FREE Auto Insurance Comparison

Compare quotes from the top auto insurance companies and save!

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