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Average Cost of Car Insurance in the U.S.

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In the United States, the average cost of car insurance is $1,553. However, that may not reflect what you actually pay for car insurance. Every auto insurance company evaluates a number of factors to determine car insurance rates. These include your age, location, type of vehicle, driving history, and credit score. And each insurance company weighs those factors differently. According to our data, USAA has the lowest average rates, but its insurance products are only available to active and former members of the military and their families. For most consumers, GEICO has the second lowest average car insurance rates, while Allstate has the highest average car insurance rates.

Car insurance rates fluctuate due to several factors, including where you live. Florida has the most expensive rates with average annual rates of $2,393, while New Hampshire has the least expensive rates with average annual rates of $940. The table below includes the average car insurance cost for each state in the nation and the District of Columbia. Keep in mind that these rates provide a general idea of what you can expect but may not reflect what you actually pay for your own car insurance policy.

The best way to find out how much you’ll pay for car insurance is to get and compare at least three car insurance quotes. Aside from estimating the cost of a policy, shopping around can also help you find the cheapest coverage for you.

What factors affect car insurance rates?

Car insurance companies generally consider the following factors when determining the cost of your policy:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Driving record
  • Location
  • Vehicle type
  • Vehicle use (e.g., commute to/from school or work, average annual mileage)
  • Credit history

Your auto insurance rates also depend on the type of coverage, deductible, and limit you choose. Minimum coverage is often the cheapest option, but you may need or choose to purchase additional coverage. For instance, if you finance or lease your vehicle, your lender or lessor will likely require you to carry full coverage, which includes liability auto insurance as well as collision and comprehensive coverage. A full coverage policy will be more expensive than a liability policy.
A higher deductible and lower limit typically lead to lower rates. But there are drawbacks. If you choose a higher deductible, you’ll need to pay more out of pocket when you make a claim. Similarly, lower limits mean accident-related expenses may exceed the amount your insurer will cover.

 

How can I find the best car insurance rates?

Shopping around is the best way to find the best car insurance rates. Make sure to compare quotes from several different insurance companies. You can also keep car insurance cheaper by maintaining a good credit history and a clean driving record.

Will my car insurance cost be close to the average cost of car insurance?

Although our study determined average car insurance prices for a variety of customer groups, there are a lot of individual factors that may make your rates lower or higher than those shown here. Our U.S. News auto insurance guide can help you learn more about shopping around to find the cheapest rates, finding discounts, and other ways to cut costs.

How much does an average car insurance policy cost?

Based on our data, the average cost for an auto insurance policy is around $1,539 a year. Your costs may be higher or lower depending on various factors, including your age, location, driving record, and credit score.

The type and amount of auto insurance you choose will also determine how much you pay for insurance. For instance, a full coverage auto insurance policy will cost more than a minimum coverage policy.

Getting several auto insurance quotes can help you get an idea of how much it will cost to purchase a policy.

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Car Insurance

How Much Car Insurance Do I Need?

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If you own a car, you’re going to need to show “financial responsibility,” meaning you can pay if you or someone else driving your car causes an accident.

Every state has some form of financial responsibility law and most drivers satisfy this requirement by buying car insurance. It’s typically the easiest and most affordable way. If you don’t want car insurance, your state might require you to post a bond that can run upwards of $50,000 to show financial responsibility.

Once you’ve ruled out the idea of forking over tens of thousands of dollars to your state, the next logical question is: How much car insurance do I need?

Key Takeaways

  • Most states require drivers to carry liability car insurance, but coverage requirements vary by state.
  • Depending on where you live, you may be required to carry additional types of coverage, such as uninsured motorist coverage, personal injury protection or medical payments coverage.
  • Drivers who lease or finance their vehicles are often required to carry collision and comprehensive auto insurance.
  • Compare car insurance quotes to find the best coverage at the most affordable price.

How Much Car Insurance Do You Really Need?

At the very least, you must buy your state’s minimum car insurance requirements. But state minimums are woefully inadequate and won’t provide any coverage for your own car’s repair bills. If you want better coverage, you’re going to need to buy more than the minimum requirements.

There are several coverage types to choose from. With a basic knowledge of the main types of car insurance, you can put together a good policy that fits your specific insurance needs.

Liability insurance

Liability insurance covers injuries and property damage suffered by others if you’re at fault for an accident. It also covers your legal defense and any settlements or judgments if you’re sued because of an accident.

Liability car insurance includes two different types of coverage packaged together:

  • Bodily injury liability pays for injuries to other drivers, their passengers and any hurt pedestrians when you’re at fault for an accident.
  • Property damage liability pays for damage to another individual’s property, including their car, when you cause an accident.

Here are a few examples of what liability insurance covers:

  • You rear end another car at a traffic light and cause damage
  • You crash into a neighbor’s fence
  • You are responsible for a car accident and the other driver is injured

Nearly every state has a minimum liability insurance requirement, with the exception of New Hampshire and Virginia (although both states have some liability requirements under certain conditions).

For example, in California, you need to have liability insurance with at least $15,000 for bodily injury to one person, $30,000 for bodily injury to multiple people in a single car accident, and $5,000 for property damage (written as 15/30/5).

But here’s the problem: These amounts are insufficient if you cause a serious car accident. If you total someone else’s car, $5,000 of property damage won’t get you very far. And if you’re at fault for a car accident with multiple injuries, medical expenses can quickly exceed $30,000. You’ll be on the hook for any amount above your coverage limits.

How much liability insurance should I buy? A good rule of thumb is to buy enough liability insurance to cover what you could lose in a lawsuit against you if you cause a car accident. In California, a policy with 250/500/100 would be a much better choice than the state minimum.

For extra liability insurance above your base auto and home insurance policies, consider getting an umbrella insurance policy. You can buy an additional $1 million (or more) in liability coverage through an umbrella policy for a relatively inexpensive amount.

Uninsured motorist insurance

Uninsured motorist (UM) and underinsured motorist (UIM) insurance pay for your medical bills if someone crashes into you and they do not have liability insurance or not enough. Uninsured motorist coverage is required in some states and optional in others. In states where UM is optional, you can typically reject the coverage in writing.

If UM is available in your state, this is a good coverage to have. UM coverage pays for:

  • Medical expenses for you and your passengers
  • Lost wages if you cannot work because of injuries suffered in a car accident
  • Funeral expenses
  • Pain and suffering
  • Car damage (depending on your state)

How much uninsured motorist coverage should I buy? You’ll typically need to purchase UM in amounts that match your liability insurance. For example, if you have 250/500/100, you’ll need to buy the same amount of UM coverage.

Collision and comprehensive insurance

If you want coverage for car repair bills, you need collision and comprehensive insurance. Often sold together, they cover a range of problems like car accidents, car theft, vandalism, collisions with animals, falling objects, fires, floods and hail damage.

If you have a car loan or lease, your lender or leasing company will most likely require you to carry both of them.

How much collision and comprehensive insurance should I buy? Both coverage types will cover the cost to repair or replace your car if it is damaged by a problem covered by the policy. If you want to cut down on costs, select a higher deductible amount, which is the amount you’ll pay out of pocket if you file an insurance claim. For example, a $1,000 deductible will result in slightly cheaper premiums compared to a $500 deductible.

Personal injury protection

Personal injury protection (PIP) covers medical bills for you and your passengers no matter who caused the car accident. It also pays for other expenses like lost wages, funeral expenses and replacement services you can’t do because of injuries, like cleaning services or child care.

Some states require PIP as part of its “no-fault auto insurance” laws, while in other states you can buy PIP as an optional coverage type.

How much PIP insurance should I buy? PIP rules vary by state where it is offered. For example, for Florida car insurance, PIP options range from basic to extended:

  • Basic covers 80% of your medical bills and 60% of lost wages and replacement services
  • Extended covers 100% of medical bills and 80% of lost wages and replacement services

If PIP is optional in your state, you can choose to decline it if you have a good health insurance plan. But PIP has some perks your health insurance won’t provide, such as reimbursement for services and lost wages.

Medical payments

Medical payments coverage is often referred to as “MedPay.” It’s similar to PIP in that it pays for medical bills and other expenses for you and your passengers, no matter who caused the car accident. MedPay is required in some states. For example, MedPay is required if you buy car insurance in Pennsylvania, Maine and New Hampshire.

How much MedPay should I buy? In states where MedPay is available, it’s usually sold in small amounts of coverage that often range between $1,000 and $5,000.

Optional Car Insurance Coverage Types

Liability insurance, uninsured motorist coverage, medical payments, and collision and comprehensive insurance are a good foundation for a car insurance policy. But you might need a few additional coverage types to fill in some gaps. Here are some to consider.

  • Gap insurance. If your car is totaled due to a problem covered by your policy, such as a car accident or fire, gap insurance covers the difference between the actual cash value (ACV) of your car and how much you owe on the loan or leases. For example, if you have $15,000 outstanding on your loan but your car’s value was $13,000, this coverage pays the $2,000 gap.
  • Rental reimbursement insurance. If your car is being repaired due to a problem covered by your policy, this coverage pays for a rental car or substitute transportation, such as train and bus fare, during repairs.
  • Roadside assistance insurance. If your car breaks down or you run into another problem (like locking your keys in your car), this pays for service like a tow truck, jump-start, fuel delivery or a locksmith.

How to Buy Car Insurance

The national average for car insurance with liability, collision and comprehensive insurance is $1,190, according to the most recent data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. But you shouldn’t focus strictly on cost when you’re looking for a car insurance policy.

That’s because auto insurance companies all calculate their rates differently, resulting in a wide range of prices—sometimes by thousands of dollars a year. It’s smart to compare car insurance quotes from multiple companies. You can get free quotes online or by calling an independent agent in your area.

Make sure you ask about car insurance discounts. Insurance companies offer many types of discounts to attract customers—everything from good driver discounts, car safety discounts, multi-policy discounts, and even discounts for paying in full or going paperless.

Finally, consider a company’s customer service. The best car insurance companies pair competitive prices with good customer service. If you get into a car accident, you want to be sure your insurance company will make the insurance claim process go as smoothly as possible.

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Car Insurance

Property Insurance Market Set for Tough Renewals

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Property insurers were already looking for rate hikes prior to Hurricane Ian hitting the Gulf Coast of Florida last month and big losses from the storm look likely to make a difficult renewal for commercial policyholders even worse.

While many of the losses from Ian, which various modelers say could result in more than $50 billion in insured losses, will hit auto and homeowners insurers hard, commercial insurers operating in Florida are also expected to pay significant amounts in storm-related claims.

In addition, reinsurers, which support insurers operating nationwide, are expected to see big losses and will pass on some of those costs to insurers and ultimately policyholders through higher rates at Jan. 1 renewals, according to insurance industry executives attending the Insurance Leadership Forum in Colorado Springs last week.

The conference, organized annually by the Washington-based Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers, is a key market meeting that draws top executives from insurers, brokers, reinsurers and other industry companies.

“The property market, particularly property cat, was already in a massive transition where everyone was expecting 1/1 to be a difficult date,” said Mike Karmilowicz, New York-based CEO of Everest Insurance, a unit of Everest Re Group Ltd.

Changes in terms and conditions for reinsurance will likely have a negative effect on available insurance capacity, he said.

Prior to the storm, property rates were expected to rise, said Mike Rice, CEO of CAC Specialty.

“A lot of people were saying they thought rates probably were going to go up 10 points, but after Ian maybe it’s 20 points,” he said.

“There’s clearly a prognosis that the market is going to get more disruptive as we go into 2023,” said Kevin Smith, president of global risk solutions, North America, at Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. “Capacity is going to be very, very valuable and who’s going to deploy it and where is yet to be determined, but it’s fair to say it’s going to be a tumultuous market.”

Year-end renewals were looking difficult before Hurricane Ian struck and losses from the storm likely mean that renewals will be even tougher for reinsurance cedents and primary insurance buyers, said Mike Kerner, CEO of Munich Re Specialty Insurance, a Princeton, New Jersey-based unit of Munich Reinsurance Co.

Higher demand for catastrophe coverage as valuations have increased due to inflation, the strength of the dollar reducing available U.S. capacity for some overseas insurers, and climate concerns were already putting pressure on the market, he said.

Already some insurers are making changes in pricing, said Neil Kessler, Dallas-based president and chief operating officer of CRC Insurance Services Inc.

The property market will continue to be challenging in all states, said Paul Smith, Parsipanny, New Jersey-based senior vice president, carrier relations, at H.W. Kaufman Financial Group Inc.

Little new capacity is entering the market, he said. In addition, “Existing insurers are looking to make sure that they deploy their capital in a very careful and methodical way,” he said.

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Car Insurance

How Warren Buffett Used Insurance Float to Become So Rich

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Most people know about insurance industry terms such as premiums (the money a policyholder pays every month or every year for an insurance policy) and claims (the money an insurer must payout when the policyholder gets in a car accident, has a medical operation, etc.).

But do you know what happens to your paid premiums once they’re actually sent to the insurance company?

Insurers don’t pay out all the money they collect right away. Rather, an insurance company will collect money in the form of premiums, invest that money, and then pay out claims as needed at some future date. The difference between premiums collected and claims paid out is called the insurance float.

It’s a lot like how a bank will collect deposits, invest that money (through loans to other people or companies), and then will repay your money at some future date when you eventually make a withdrawal.

Insurance float has been a huge contributor behind Warren Buffett’s success with Berkshire Hathaway. Because premiums received are essentially like loans from policyholders (that only need to be paid back when a claim is made sometime in the future), Buffett has been able to use insurance float as leverage when investing in stocks and private companies, which has a significant (positive) impact on the company’s return for its shareholders.

It’s part of the reason why Berkshire Hathaway’s book value and market value have grown at ~20% per year since 1965 compared to just 10% per year for the S&P 500 (including dividends)!

So, let’s dive a little deeper into what insurance float exactly is and how Warren Buffett uses it to his advantage.

Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway’s Insurance Float

The insurance float represents the available reserve, or the funds available for investment once the insurer has collected premiums but is not yet obligated to pay out in claims.

In his 2002 Berkshire Hathaway Shareholder Letter, Warren Buffett explains:

To begin with, the float is money we hold but don’t own. In an insurance operation, float arises because premiums are received before losses are paid, an interval that sometimes extends over many years. During that time, the insurer invests the money. This pleasant activity typically carries with it a downside: The premiums that an insurer takes in usually do not cover the losses and expenses it eventually must pay. That leaves it running an “underwriting loss,” which is the cost of float. An insurance business has value if its cost of float over time is less than the cost the company would otherwise incur to obtain funds. But the business is a lemon if its cost of float is higher than market rates for money.

So insurance float is the difference between premiums received today over claims that must be paid many years in the future. During that time, the insurer invests the money. Insurance float is so valuable that insurance companies often operate at an underwriting loss – that is, the premiums received are not enough to cover the eventual losses (hurricanes, car accidents, etc.) that must be paid and the expenses required to resolve those claims, operate the business, etc.

Why would an insurer operate at a loss? Again, because the insurer can invest the insurance float and make even more money. In this sense, insurance float is like a loan and the underwriting loss is like the interest rate on that loan (i.e. cost of capital).

Now, for most insurers, the cost of float is usually a few percentage points. Berkshire Hathaway’s insurance operations, however, are so well run that the company’s historical cost of float has actually been positive… meaning Berkshire Hathaway is actually being paid to take other people’s money!

Here’s an even more in-depth explanation of insurance float from Warren Buffett’s 2016 Berkshire Hathaway Shareholder Letter:

“One reason we were attracted to the P/C [Proprty & Casualty] business was its financial characteristics: P/C insurers receive premiums upfront and pay claims later. In extreme cases, such as claims arising from exposure to asbestos, payments can stretch over many decades. This collect-now, pay-later model leaves P/C companies holding large sums – money we call “float” – that will eventually go to others. Meanwhile, insurers get to invest this float for their own benefit. Though individual policies and claims come and go, the amount of float an insurer holds usually remains fairly stable in relation to premium volume. Consequently, as our business grows, so does our float…

Berkshire Hathaway Insurance Float - Vintage Value Investing

We may in time experience a decline in float. If so, the decline will be very gradual – at the outside no more than 3% in any year. The nature of our insurance contracts is such that we can never be subject to immediate or near-term demands for sums that are of significance to our cash resources. This structure is by design and is a key component in the unequaled financial strength of our insurance companies. It will never be compromised.

If our premiums exceed the total of our expenses and eventual losses, our insurance operation registers an underwriting profit that adds to the investment income the float produces. When such a profit is earned, we enjoy the use of free money – and, better yet, get paid for holding it.

Unfortunately, the wish of all insurers to achieve this happy result creates intense competition, so vigorous indeed that it sometimes causes the P/C industry as a whole to operate at a significant underwriting loss. This loss, in effect, is what the industry pays to hold its float. Competitive dynamics almost guarantee that the insurance industry, despite the float income all its companies enjoy, will continue its dismal record of earning subnormal returns on tangible net worth as compared to other American businesses.

Nevertheless, I very much like our own prospects… Moreover, our P/C companies have an excellent underwriting record. Berkshire has now operated at an underwriting profit for 14 consecutive years, our pre-tax gain for the period having totaled $28 billion. That record is no accident: Disciplined risk evaluation is the daily focus of all of our insurance managers, who know that while float is valuable, its benefits can be drowned by poor underwriting results. All insurers give that message lip service. At Berkshire, it is a religion, Old Testament style.”

At the end of 2016, Berkshire Hathaway’s insurance float totaled $91.6 billion! And because Berkshire Hathaway’s insurance operations are run at an underwriting profit, the company’s insurance float is essentially like a $91.6 billion interest-free loan that Berkshire is actually being paid to take (Buffett says Berkshire earned $28 billion of pre-tax income over 14 years – in other words, the Company was basically paid $2 billion a year to borrow $91.6 billion, which it could then use to invest).

Now, compare this investing model to that of private equity firms or hedge funds, who also use leverage to invest… but instead of cost-free insurance float, these PE funds and hedge funds usually use high yield loans with interest rates of 7%+ per year.

Moreover, Berkshire Hathaway’s insurance contracts are structured in such a way that it will never have to pay back more than 3% in any one year – while a high yield loan might have to be paid back in full if a private equity company or hedge fund’s performance falls below a certain level.

Viewed in this light, the Berkshire Hathaway insurance float model is clearly genius.

It’s really no wonder that Warren Buffett is one of the richest people in the world.

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