Less than an hour with my laptop showed me exactly why it's so important to shop around for car insurance

2015 Chevrolet Volt
  • I spent an hour shopping for car insurance, and that 60 minutes saved me $110. 
  • Getting quotes from five different car insurance companies helped me to compare costs and find the best coverage, though I still paid more than I hoped to. 
  • My quotes ranged from $1,267 for six months to over $2,000. Because every car insurance company prices their policies differently, there can be big differences in what even one person will pay between companies. 
  • Read more personal finance coverage.

I write about car insurance often, so for me, shopping around is essential. I spent about an hour shopping around for the best rate, and I'm glad I did. 

My current insurer, Progressive, had raised my quote by about $300, up to $1,377 for six months, though there have been no changes with my driving record. I had a policy with coverage limits of $25,000 bodily injury per person, $50,000 in bodily injury per accident, and $10,000 in property damage (often written as $25/$50/$10) for my 2015 Chevrolet Volt in Seattle, Washington.

For my previous six-month policy, I paid $1,080, including a renters insurance policy. With my new car insurance, I'll be paying $110 less.

My car insurance is high because I have accidents on my record

I know my my insurance is incredibly high. Though I have a pretty good credit history, I'm still relatively young. And, I've got some history: A year ago I was in a not-at-fault-accident with a driver who lost control on a snowy highway in Kentucky (yes, not-at-fault accidents can raise your insurance premium). And, about four years ago, I was in an at-fault accident in Georgia.  

According to insurance comparison site The Zebra, accident surcharge periods can last between three and five years. Since I'm in that period with the at-fault accident, I tend to shop around every six months. 

Additionally, my insurance prices have increased significantly since I moved from Ohio to Seattle, and I try to cut that cost by shopping around. So, I sat down with a cup of coffee one morning and got five quotes. This hour ended up saving me $110, though I still paid more than I hoped. But, even so, I can't recommend this process enough to anyone getting car insurance. There's a lot that goes into pricing car insurance premiums - don't let one company's formula cost you more than you need to pay.

Here's what my shopping process looked like, and how I came to find the best deal for me. For all of these policies, I chose a $25/$50/$10 policy, or $25/$50/$15 when available, with a $500 deductible. I also opted for comprehensive and collision coverage. 

I started with a number in mind to beat: the $1,080 that I paid for my last 6-month policy 

I didn't want to pay more than I paid last time. Since Progressive had raised its rates for me, I went to get a quote from State Farm. Consumer Reports data shows that State Farm is one of the more affordable car insurance companies in Washington, so I figured I'd give it a shot. 

State Farm quoted me $1,267 for six months. That was the new number to beat, though it was still more than I actually wanted to pay. This quote from State Farm for a comparable $25/$50/$10 policy was over $100 cheaper than Progressive's, but that still seemed high. 

A few minutes filling out information with GEICO, and I was quoted $1,338 for six months of a comparable policy. That's just a few dollars less than Progressive's quote, and higher than State Farm's. I kept shopping. 

I tried Seattle-based insurance company Safeco next. I got a quote online with Safeco, which became the new winner. However, Safeco doesn't allow customers to buy policies online. So, I called to get the policy on Monday morning. But, their online quoting didn't ask much about driving history, which meant that they ended up quoting me quite a bit more, bringing the total to over $1,800. Needless to say, that wasn't the quote I went with. 

The company that's cheapest on average was the most expensive for me

I tried getting a quote from Farmers, and it showed me just how important shopping around can be. What was supposed to be one of the cheapest car insurance companies in my state was actually the most expensive for me. Car insurance pricing is incredibly individual. While Farmers is typically the third-most affordable company in Washington, it was actually the most expensive for me. Farmers quoted me over $2,000 for six months of coverage with a similar $25/$50/$15 policy. 

Every car insurance company takes a different look at factors like driving history and credit scores. They all weigh these factors differently, and that influences the premiums. Just because it's typically cheaper in Washington doesn't mean that it always will be, and in this case, that was true. 

Lastly, I wanted to try a pay-by-mile insurance company, so I tried Metromile. I live in Seattle, and I walk most places, so I don't drive every day. I thought that would be an interesting option to try, given that I don't commute. But, Metromile's quote was still $1,148 for a $50/$100/$25 policy based on 800 miles per month, about $118 cheaper than State Farm's unlimited mile coverage. 

As I started learning more about how it worked, though, I wasn't sure that the billing structure would be right for me - with this system, the more you drive, the more you pay. Since I don't commute in my car and mainly use it to go out of the city, I never know how many miles I'll actually put on it. I'm planning on taking a few weekend road trips in the spring, and I don't want those miles to end up costing me more. I decided this probably wasn't the right route for me, given that the cost difference wasn't all that huge. 

Ultimately, I ended up going with State Farm

I'm glad I decided to shop around, because that hour I spent actually did help me save about $110. 

Car insurance policies are truly individual, and every one costs each person a different amount. Your driving history, financial information, and more can all really impact what each company will quote you. And, you likely won't know until you've gotten a few quotes and compared them. 

You'd shop around for anything else you'd buy, and I'm a firm believer that car insurance should be no different.

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