Car Insurance in Washington

I found $600 in savings in under an hour.

Washington has one of the highest rates of uninsured drivers in the nation — which makes having quality coverage all the more important. The good news, however, is the typical annual auto insurance premium in Washington is $330 below the national average. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for further savings. I shopped around and found that quotes varied among the four different companies I tried — with the most affordable option saving me hundreds a year.

I got quotes for Washington’s minimum coverage and found that the best car insurance company for me happened to be GEICO, but for others it might be a different story. Insurance premiums vary significantly from one person to the next, so there’s no way to recommend one company to everyone.

Many insurers offer auto insurance in Washington state. Under state law, insurers may consider your age, driving record, where you live, credit history, and other factors to decide if they will offer you coverage. Not every insurer will offer you coverage or charge you the same premium for the same coverage. — Washington State Office of The Insurance Commissioner

Every insurer has its own formula for determining how much to charge you. It measures things like your driving history and address, to determine your risk. Those formulas are all slightly different, so you have to get several quotes to find out which works best for you. I recommend starting with at least five quotes — and getting more is even better.

I got three of my four quotes online and those took five minutes each. All I had to do was enter some basic information about myself, my vehicle, and my driving history. The lone exception was The Hartford’s online quote tool, which allowed me to enter my info, but consistently displayed an error saying I’d have to complete the quote process over the phone. The representative was able to give me the information I needed, though he wasn’t keen on providing me a quote for just the minimum liability coverage.

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Our Top 4 Picks for the Best Car Insurance in Washington

I started my search with these four companies and I’d recommend them to any Washington resident.

Insurer My quote
GEICO $623
State Farm $686
Farmers $1,075
The Hartford $1,254

I chose these companies because they all earned high grades from A.M. Best, a top financial strength rating agency. It assesses a company’s long-term strength, which is important when looking at insurers. These companies also received above-average customer satisfaction ratings from J.D. Power’s most recent in-depth survey of auto insurers. These factors matter because you want to be sure the company you choose isn’t going to create more problems for you when you file a claim.

In my case, GEICO was the cheapest at $623 a year. State Farm wasn’t too far off at $686. The Hartford ended up being my most expensive quote at $1,254, but that was in part because the quote the representative gave me included uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, which isn’t required by state law. However, if you’re looking for more than basic, cheap car insurance, The Hartford might actually wind up being a decent competitor.

Even If You’re Happy, It’s Best to Shop for a New Policy Every Couple of Years

Car insurance companies won’t tell you this, but your premiums are based on more than just risk. They have algorithms that look at your credit score, online shopping habits, and even social media data to determine how likely you are to stay with them long-term. This is called price optimization and it means your loyalty could earn you a higher rate. If they trust you to stick around, they’ll gradually increase your premiums over time, while they might offer a more competitive rate to a bargain shopper.

So what can you do about this? Shopping around for a new policy every year is the key to avoid becoming a victim to price optimization. Providers are privy to your shopping habits, and if you apply for new policies often, it’ll show them you’re not afraid to leave when the prices become uncomfortable.

Washington is one of more than 15 states that have taken steps to prevent insurance companies from employing this tactic. In July, 2015, the Washington insurance commissioner banned the practice, claiming it was unfairly discriminatory and a violation of state law. However, even without the risk of price optimization, it’s still wise to shop around every now and again; it’s the only way to make sure your rates are based on you, not predictive analytics.

Washington’s Minimum Coverage

The Bare Minimum

Washington residents must have at least $25,000 of liability insurance to cover the injury or death of one person and $50,000 of bodily injury coverage per accident. State law also requires $10,000 of property damage liability coverage.

The Best Car Insurance is Not Just Cheap Car Insurance

Buying upgraded coverage is one of the most important things you could ever do. Consider the following:

  • By industry estimates, you will file a claim for an accident every 17.9 years.
  • The average cost of a disabling nonfatal injury is $80,700.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t love those odds. If I stick to my crazy cheap car insurance policy from GEICO for $623 a year and I get into an $80,000 accident, I’m going to be left with a $55,000 bill to pay out of pocket. And I don’t have that kind of cash lying around. Do you?

The smarter option is to purchase more coverage upfront. Liability coverage that’s twice the state minimum would only cost me $703 through GEICO — that’s only about $7 extra a month. And then, in my horrific accident scenario, that only leaves me with $30,000 to pay out of pocket. It’s still not ideal, but it’s a lot better than the first option.

Washington doesn’t require you to have uninsured motorist coverage, but given that over 16 percent of Washington drivers don’t have insurance, it’s a wise investment. Without it, you could get stuck paying for any medical bills out of pocket. Underinsured motorist coverage goes hand in hand with this. It covers the remainder of the damages if the other driver’s insurance limits aren’t high enough to pay the full amount.

If you have a lease or loan on your vehicle, you may have to purchase collision and comprehensive coverage as well. Lenders often require this to ensure they get their money back, even if something happens to your vehicle. Collision coverage primarily handles accidents with other vehicles, while comprehensive coverage deals with non-collision-related damages — things like vandalism, theft, and natural disasters.

If You Skip Coverage, It’ll Cost You

Washington is pretty lenient about driving without insurance compared to most other states. However, I’d still advise against it. It’ll cost you at least $450, and then you’ll have to get insurance anyway.

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Beat the Average Premium: 9 Ways to Snag Cheap Car Insurance Rates

There are a ton of individual factors that impact your auto insurance premium, but you can control their effects to some degree. More time spent on the road means a greater risk to insurers, so I try to limit unnecessary driving and it earns me some solid low-mileage discounts. And I’m sure I could do more. Many companies now have defensive driver courses available and completing one can earn you a break on your premiums. For more ways to lower your rates, check out The Simple Dollar’s List below.

Nine Ways to Lower Your Car Insurance


Why are Washington’s rates the way they are?

What to Expect
Average Monthly Premiums
United States $139
Washington $112
Lakewood $125
Tacoma $125
Federal Way $121
Renton $117
Seattle $117
Kent $116
Source: Quadrant

Washington’s average monthly premiums are roughly $27 below the national average. That adds up to more than $320 in savings over the course of the year. Washingtonians save big, in part, because they see few fatal crashes every year and they have one of the highest seat belt use rates in the country. Those things mean less risk for insurers and that translates to less money coming out of your wallet.

Urban dwellers can expect to pay more than the average rate. This is true of any city, simply because the close quarters lead to a greater chance of accidents. Residents in the Seattle/Bellevue/Tacoma area, however, may see their rates diverge from the state average thanks to its reputation as one of the top 10 hotspots for auto theft in the country.

The Bottom Line

The only way to know which company offers the best car insurance for you is to get quotes, play around with coverage options, and compare the numbers. And I definitely recommend getting more than just the minimum coverage if you can. It may seem like a burden now, but in the event of an accident, it’ll be the smartest decision you ever made.

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