Once the center of the California Gold Rush and the westernmost end of the Pony Express, Sacramento today is the capital of California, and its average cost of insurance reflects that. Within the city, Nationwide, Century National and GEICO had the lowest auto insurance costs. In aggregate, the three companies had an average quote of $1,001 ,or 30% cheaper than the Sactown average. The graph below has rates from Sactown's five cheapest companies:
Liberty Mutual offers a few hard-to-find discounts, including savings for newly married couples, new graduates, retirees or drivers over 50, and certain drivers under 18. Some of its coverage options are on the rare side, too — like options for mechanical breakdown coverage, vanishing deductibles, or new car replacement that reimburses you for the car’s original worth (rather than its depreciated value). In short: Liberty Mutual has some niche offerings, so it may be worth speaking with an agent about specialized or customizable coverage needs.
Customers aren’t very impressed by Liberty Mutual’s claims process or payouts. It’s ranked among “the rest” in J.D. Power’s survey, which falls at the bottom of the scale. It also earned a relatively low Consumer Reports score of 88 (or 23rd place out of 27 companies scored). Finally, Liberty Mutual didn’t quite meet the bar we set for financial stability. Its “A” from S&P Global and “A2” from Moody’s come up a little short of our requirements. These scores are still respectable — indicating an ability to pay out on claims — but mean that Liberty Mutual has a slightly poorer credit outlook in the event of a financial downturn.
Auto insurance rates in California are among the most expensive in the nation, with annual premiums of $1,665 per year on average. Additionally, auto coverage rates in the state have increased 13% from 2017 to 2019 across the 10 largest insurers. While some price hikes are unavoidable, the best way to get low rates is to shop around and compare quotes.
"Many companies offer discounts for good grades and for completion of an approved driver’s education or defensive driving course," continued Doreen Haughton-James of 123 Drive! Driving Academy. "Some also have their own discount programs. State Farm, for example, has a program called 'Steer Clear' where students receive discounts for logging driving hours and completing a program."
Our pick for the best car insurer for members of the military is undoubtedly the United States Automobile Association (USAA). Time and time again, USAA and its affiliates have the cheapest rates we've seen in our rate studies. Policyholders must be either active or retired members of the military (coverage is extended to family members too). In addition to affordable rates and great coverage, the USAA offers additional military-specific discounts. For example, armed force members who garage their cars on a military base can save up to 15% on their comprehensive coverage. The best benefit, however, is the network of community support and forums that USAA hosts on their website to support spouses and veterans. Members also have access to experts with experience in navigating and advising financial considerations of military members. Customers consistently rave about the excellent customer service and claims fulfillment they receive from representatives, and the company continues to win awards from industry associations such as JD Powers.
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Results: Once I submitted my information, the site produced one quote, along with six links to other insurance companies. “View my quote” buttons next to each quote took me to the beginning of the insurance website’s own quoting tool, making it clear that these were strictly hypothetical rates. Everquote provided a blurb of marketing text about two of the companies and no helpful information whatsoever to guide my decision.
Metromile is a newcomer to auto insurance in California. The small car insurer bases its rates largely on how often its customers driver by charging them a rate per mile. The rate is usually in between $0.10 and $0.20. In addition to the rate they also charge a base premium. We found people who drive less than 7,500 miles a year would benefit the most from Metromile. Anything above 7,500 miles begins to cost just as much as regular insurance. The downside to Metromile is that they do not have a great record of customer satisfaction and claims handling. This likely stems from the company being mostly online and not having an agent network.
Uninsured / underinsured motorist (UM / UIM) covers costs associated with an accident involving uninsured or underinsured motorists, or hit and run drivers. You can’t control the coverage of other drivers on the road, but if you get in an accident with someone who doesn’t have insurance — or who has insufficient protection — you’ll be forced to deal with the costs yourself. We know it’s frustrating to have to pay for someone else’s negligence, but opting for UM / UIM coverage will be well worth it when you need it.
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"Teens are very likely to pick up the habits of their parents,” says J.C. Fawcett of the Defensive Driving School. “A parent should think about. Do I cuss at other drivers while driving? Do I speed? Do I tailgate? The training that comes from students observing their parents is very powerful. If a parent attempts to change their habits only when their teen is learning to drive, it's probably 10 years too late."
J.D. Power ranks Farmers Auto Insurance better than most for claims satisfaction — an important endorsement, considering that on-time and fairly-sized claim payouts are the ultimate goal of insurance. Besides that, Farmers has a great coverage selection. A few options, like new car replacement and custom parts coverage, we didn’t see among all our top picks. We also like the company’s accident forgiveness program, which “will forgive one at-fault accident for every three years you drive without one.”
Once you have a few data points, it is time to pick up the phone and negotiate with representatives. Call them and share the cheaper rates you've gotten from competitors, and 1) see what they do, or 2) follow up with: can you do better than this? Afterwards, ask them for any discounts that aren't available on the website, or what they can offer you from the discounts we've listed below.
The amount of coverage required by law varies from state to state. If you are a cautious person, you might opt for a more expensive policy with better coverage. If you have a lot of assets, experts recommend that you get enough liability coverage to protect them; otherwise, the other party involved in an accident could sue and attempt to collect on those assets.
Progressive impressed us with a solid array of discounts, including deductions for simple things like signing a new policy early and opting for paperless billing. The company has historically been known for insuring "riskier" drivers than many of its competitors, and it shows: Progressive is our only contender that offers a near unheard-of discount for drivers under 18 (who have a crash rate that’s almost nine times higher than that of middle-aged drivers).
Results: Even without having to link a current insurance company’s account, I was still able to receive three quotes – only after I had built out my driver profile with car information and specifics about my driving record. The few quotes I received for the coverage level I selected were reported as more or less accurate, but Gabi advised that I should “act fast,” as the “quotes could change anytime.” If I selected a quote, I had to enter remaining details about my driving record (such as my driver’s license number) before moving on to payment preferences. Furthermore, Gabi followed up with texts to my personal number, which was technically convenient, but something of an annoyance.
So how much liability coverage should you get? We recommend purchasing as much protection as you can afford and reasonably covers your exposure if you're at-fault in a collision. For reference, the average auto bodily injury liability claim is over $15,000, and the average auto property damage liability claim is over $3,000. But the severity, or size, of a claim will vary significantly. If the driver or passenger in another vehicle was killed, for instance, the costs could easily exceed $100,000, as fatal claims are some of the most expensive. Or if the other vehicle was very expensive, such as a Mercedes, you will face much higher property damage costs as opposed to an accident with a cheaper vehicle.
Whether this coverage is right for you depends on the value of your car and where you live. If you have a new car and live in an area with lots of storms and a large deer population, you should likely get comprehensive and collision coverage. If you have an old car, however, the current cash value your policy pays might not be worth the cost of the premiums and deductible for the coverage. It's generally not cost-effective when the current cash value of your car is less than $3,000. Weigh the annual out-of-pocket cost to you (both premiums and deductible) against the current cash value to see if it makes sense.
What makes the AARP's program with the Hartford our selection for best car insurer for older drivers? The many special and thoughtful benefits that accommodate for the lifestyles of adults 50 years old and above, such as RecoverCare and longer locked in rates. RecoverCare is a program that eases the transition back to a normal life after a car accident. Insureds can see up to $2,500 of costs covered for getting help with daily tasks such as buying groceries, cooking, housekeeping, and gardening. We like that AARP is also cognizant that its members receive fixed pensions and retirement income, and has worked with the Hartford to lock in annual rates so seniors can better plan their budgets. With such considerate care and attuned attention to its members' needs, it is no surprise that the AARP is our choice for best company for older drivers.
One of the best features we like about Allstate's auto insurance is their network of agents. They're well-versed in the various auto insurance coverage types as well as Allstate's features and benefits. With over 20,000 sales representatives, and 9,300 agencies across the United States, there is sure to be an agent within driving distance. We also like that Allstate has added a number of thoughtful components to their policies with their customers in mind. For example, Allstate offers a Claim Satisfaction Guarantee for any policyholder unhappy with their claims payout or experience. They also offer accident forgiveness and safe driving bonuses as optional features. All in all, we recommend that drivers who prefer in-person interactions consider Allstate as their car insurance company.