Car Insurance in Wisconsin

A half hour of shopping saved me over $400.

Big competition and a low population density puts the typical Wisconsin auto insurance premium more than 20 percent below the national average, which equates to a total savings of nearly $370 a year when compared to the rest of the country. However, I did some shopping around and found that choosing the right company could save me several hundred dollars.

I got seven auto insurance quotes for Wisconsin’s minimum coverage and found that I could save $36 a month on my premium just by picking a certain company over another. Of all my quotes, American Family was the cheapest for me. It’d cost just $322 a year for a policy with them. However, it would be a mistake if I told you that American Family would be the best car insurance company for you too.

Why’s that? Insurance rates are based on a bunch of individual factors Every insurance provider has its own formula for determining how much to charge you that’s  based on your age, marital status, driving history, location, and a bunch more factors. The only way to figure out who offers the best deals for you is to get quotes — as many as you can stand, really. I know, it doesn’t sound very fun, but the potential savings make it well worth the effort.

Going through the quote process isn’t a huge deal, though it can be time-consuming if companies don’t offer an online tool. You can speed things up by having your personal and vehicle information handy, including the make and model of your car (the VIN is even better) and the details of any accidents or citations from recent years.

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Our Top 6 Picks for the Best Car Insurance in Wisconsin

I started my search with the six companies below. I consider them the cream of the crop when it comes to customer service ratings in Wisconsin and financial stability

Insurer My quote
American Family $322
State Farm $350
Country Financial $366
The Hartford $391
Nationwide $537
Erie Insurance $753

Anyone who purchases auto insurance should be able to trust their company can not only afford to pay claims, but that also will lend a helping hand when you need to file one No one needs the extra stress of haggling over contract stipulations in the heat of a crisis. That’s why I chose companies with top scores from A.M. Best and JD Power. A.M. Best is a financial strength rating agency that assesses a company’s long-term stability, and JD Power is a global leader in auto insurance customer satisfaction tests. So between the two criteria, you should be able to trust you have the cream of the crop.

American Family emerged as the best car insurance option for me at about $323 a year. State Farm and Country Financial were close behind, offering $351 and $366 a year, respectively. Given the choice between those three, though, I’d go with the Country Financial policy. They required me to purchase liability coverage double the state minimums, but for only $43 extra, I think I can live with that. Erie Insurance ended up being my most expensive quote by far, but this was largely due to the fact that they required me to purchase optional coverages I didn’t want. If you do want more than the minimum coverage, give Erie a shot and it might wind up being more competitive.

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

When determining your rate, insurance companies don’t just look at your risk; they also assess how likely you are to remain a loyal customer by analyzing a ton of your personal data, including how long you stayed with previous insurers, social media activity, and even your online shopping habits. This practice is called price optimization, and to no one’s surprise, it’s stirred up a lot of controversy in recent years. Basically, it allows insurers to estimate which customers aren’t sensitive to price change, and take advantage of them with incremental rate increases. Customers who frequently shop around, on the other hand, receive more competitive rates as an attempt to retain their business.

That’s why it’s a good idea to shop around for quotes every year or two. Just by getting a few quotes on a regular basis you can avoid being marked by complex algorithms as someone who’s comfortable paying a higher rate. Besides, your risk to insurers changes over time, so a year from now, you may be able to score a much better rate than you can today. (Every year, you get older, and your car loses value — that makes the cost of insuring you go down.)

Your rates should be based upon you as a human, not someone a computer predicts you to be.

The Consumer Federation of America has brought attention to this issue, citing evidence of this discriminatory practice. So far, 15 states have acknowledged and addressed price optimization, but unfortunately, Wisconsin is not one of them — insurance companies deny they are doing anything wrong and the state has yet to rule one way or the other. So in the meantime, it’s up to the drivers to avoid falling victim to price optimization.

Wisconsin’s Minimum Coverage

The Bare Minimum

Wisconsin law requires drivers to have liability and uninsured motorist coverage. Liability coverage breaks down into three parts: $25,000 of bodily injury coverage per person, $50,000 of bodily coverage per accident and $10,000 for property damage (you’ll often see this written as $25,000/$50,000/$10,000). Uninsured motorist coverage takes care of you if you or your passengers are injured by a driver without insurance. It carries the same $25,000/$50,000 minimum as the liability coverage.

The Best Car Insurance is Not Just Cheap Car Insurance

Getting more than state-mandated coverage can really save you if the worst happens. Let’s take a look at two important stats:

  • On average drivers have an accident every 17.9 years — and I’m probably not an exception.
  • The average cost of an accident that causes a disabling, but nonfatal injury is $80,700. And if I injured multiple people, I could easily expect the damages to exceed $100K.

Wisconsin’s minimum coverage (25,000/50,000/10,000) would cost me $323 a year. Upgrading that to $50,000/$100,000 of bodily injury liability and $50,000/$100,000 of uninsured motorist coverage, I’d pay $369 — just $46 more per year. Over 18 years, that’s only an extra $828.

If I have incredibly cheap car insurance and get into a costly wreck — let’s say $70,000 worth of damages, which is optimistic — the last thing I want is to be sued and responsible for paying the extra out of my own pocket. So to me, it’s worth paying higher premiums to protect my savings account from being drained of its last penny in the event of a serious claim.

Collision and comprehensive coverage are also worthwhile investments. Aside from crashes with other drivers, you also have to worry about chance encounters with wildlife. Wisconsin has the sixth-highest rate of deer-vehicle collisions in the country and a friend of mine once hit a bear while driving through the Northwoods. The results weren’t pretty, either for the bear or the car. You didn’t spend all that money on your vehicle to lose it in a freak accident, so it’s worth paying a little extra to ensure any repairs will be covered.

What happens I’m caught without insurance?

Wisconsin doesn’t require you to show proof of insurance when getting your license or registering a new vehicle, but if you’re caught driving without it, expect a $500 fine. And if you find yourself at fault in an accident, your license may be suspended. Oh, and don’t even think of trying to cheat the system. Presenting fake proof of insurance will cost you $5,000.

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

There are many factors that affect your rates, but there are ways to cut your costs. Here’s a list of what to expect for the average driver in thirteen major cities and a few ways you might be able to score some bigger savings. For example, I could probably lower my rates even further by reducing my trips into town and looking into safe driver courses. I’m also expecting to see some price breaks following my 25th birthday. Take a look at The Simple Dollar’s chart below for more ideas about how you could shave even more off your month auto insurance bill.

Nine Ways to Lower your Car Insurance Rates


Why are Wisconsin’s rates so affordable?

What to Expect
Average Monthly Premiums
United States $139
Wisconsin $108
Milwaukee $124
West Allis $114
Kenosha $113
Racine $110
Madison $103
La Crosse $101
Eau Claire $100
Waukesha $99
Janesville $96
Source Quadrant

Wisconsinites luck out with an average auto insurance premium that’s 22 percent lower than the national average. This comes down to two factors: the likelihood of having an accident and competition.

Wisconsin is largely a rural state and that means less traffic and a smaller chance of having an accident. City dwellers can expect higher premiums, but how much higher depends on the city. Madison, for example, was designated one of the best driving cities in the nation by the Insurance Information Institute, so these residents can expect to pay significantly less than their friends in Milwaukee.

The other thing that keeps insurance rates low is the high competition between insurers. Nearly 200 companies offer auto insurance in Wisconsin and if they want your business, they’d better provide a competitive rate. This is wonderful news for you, but it means you may have to do some shopping around to find the company that offers the best coverage for the lowest rate.

The Bottom Line

Finding cheap car insurance is simply a matter of putting in the time. Get quotes from several companies and compare levels of coverage as well as price. If you can afford it, it’s better to go with more than just the bare minimum. Yes, that means higher premiums, but it also means less headaches when an accident occurs.

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