If you’ve ever compared car insurance rates, you know how many options are available. Depending on a variety of individual rating factors, certain companies will price your insurance differently. You could end up paying more by choosing the wrong company or failing to compare enough companies. We've outlined the factors that go into your car insurance premiums, as well as some tips for how to find the best possible rates. Let’s get started.

Insurers will likely continue with rate increases if they continue to see negative underwriting profit margins. Across the 10 largest insurance companies, this trend has been linked to increased car insurance rates in recent years. From 2014 to 2017, these companies posted a year-over-year average underwriting profit margin of -3.8% and average rate increases of 5.1%.


Heightened losses in recent years have led to a 7.2% rate hike across the 10 largest auto insurers in 2017. This rate increase followed a year in which eight of the 10 largest auto insurers reported a negative underwriting profit. In the table below, a combined loss ratio of more than 100% indicates the company incurred more in losses and expenses than it earned in premiums.

It is difficult to project whether rates will continue to rise, as there are so many factors that determine car insurance pricing. If loss-causing trends continue—such as more expensive vehicle repairs, distracted driving crashes and vehicle damage due to extreme weather—consumers should see premiums increase. However, if these trends reverse and there are fewer accidents and milder weather, then car insurance rates could plateau or even decrease.
You’ll notice that none of that liability coverage pays for your car or injuries, nor for any injuries your passengers sustain if you cause a wreck. This is why many people — particularly those whose car isn’t yet paid off — want “full coverage” car insurance. This isn’t actually a type of coverage, but instead typically refers to policies that include liability coverage, plus comprehensive and collision coverages.
Liability auto insurance protects you from that worst case scenario by providing a cushion between your assets and the amount you’re on the hook for. For this reason, choosing the right auto liability limits is the most important part of your car insurance quote comparison. NerdWallet typically recommends having at least as much liability coverage as your net worth.

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.

One of the best ways to get cheap car insurance is by comparing car insurance quotes — and the companies offering them. To get you started, NerdWallet looked at car insurance prices across the country for different driver profiles and coverage levels to find the cheapest rates. We’ve sliced the data in several ways to give you an idea of average costs and what factors might nudge your car insurance rate up — or even better, down.
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