Deductible: A car insurance deductible is the amount of money you will be required to pay out of pocket to cover a claim. Let’s say a car rear-ends you in traffic, scratching your paint, damaging your bumper and breaking one of your tail lights. The total cost of repairs is $2,500 and your deductible is $500. You will pay the $500 and your insurance will pay out the remaining $2,000 to cover the cost of the repairs. Electing for a higher deductible is one-way drivers can secure cheaper car insurance.
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While all car insurance companies offer a similar product, they differ in how they deliver it. Some car insurance companies are basically self-service, allowing you to shop for and choose a policy completely online. Others use local agents who can meet with you and talk you through the process of buying a policy and personally handle any claims you have. Some companies use a mix of the two. Make sure you find a company that has the type of service you want.
However, their online quote process is not instant; instead, you’ll fill out your personal information, your vehicle and the coverage you want. This information will be routed to a local AAA insurance agent to follow-up within one business day. Not every major insurance company operates with local agents, and many would rate this more personal touch as a plus in AAA’s column.
State legislators set limits on how much a company can increase your rates after a crash. Our hypothetical accident resulted in only $2,000 worth of damage. That caused average annual rates to spike by $1,000 or more in some states, while others jumped by far less. One thing’s for sure: Your rates will definitely increase after an at-fault accident, so be sure to compare car insurance rates if you have one on record.
USAA: USAA is the best car insurance company we found. Customers report that they love USAA for its customer service, ease of filing a claim, and frequent updates on claim status. USAA customers also report that USAA is a good value, and USAA’s average annual rates are some of the lowest in the business. The only downside we could find to USAA is that its insurance products are only available to veterans, members of the military, and their immediate families, so not everyone will be able to work with the top-ranked insurance company.
The auto insurance rates displayed in our articles are based on the 2019 results of The Zebra’s comprehensive car insurance pricing analysis. In our analysis of all US zip codes — including Washington D.C. — the sample user profile consisted of a 30-year-old single male driving a 2013 Honda Accord. To generate pricing specific to particular rating factors, we adjusted the driving profile based on pricing factors commonly used by car insurance companies.
How much car insurance you need depends on how much coverage you are legally obligated to get, as well as how much coverage you need for your situation. Each state has certain legal requirements for car insurance, and not meeting them can result in negative consequences. Check out our car insurance state guides to see the legal car insurance minimums in your state.
An additional possible contributor to future rate hikes is the increased frequency in car crashes attributed to distracted driving—caused in large part by more people using their phones while driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 2.443 million people were injured in distracted driving crashes in 2015, which is an increase from 2.217 million people in 2011. Insurers respond by raising rates to make up for the increase in insurance claims they have to pay out.
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