Despite Chicago’s notorious traffic and our state’s crazy winters and massive annual snowfall, auto insurance in Illinois manages to clock in at an average of $98 a month — 24 percent lower than the national average. I didn’t want to settle for the average, though, so I did some research and found over $1300 in savings just by weighing my options. The good news is it paid off for me and I’m sure it would pay off for you, too.

The Hartford turned out to be the best car insurance company for me at $824 annually for the state-minimum coverage — and I compared six different insurers. I wish I could say that The Hartford would be the best for you (and save you a little bit of legwork), but rates are affected by so many factors, including your zip code, your driving record, and your age that there’s no sure bet it’d be the cheapest option. Take this information more as a how-to guide, not a magic eight ball — your quotes are going to look a lot different than mine.

Insurance is expensive. You should shop around for the best product at the best price. The key to comparison-shopping is to determine what coverage you need, how much of it you need and what it will cost. Obtain more than one estimate or quote. Do not be rushed into buying a policy by high-pressure sales tactics. Do not be misled by advertising or buy a policy simply because it is endorsed on television, radio, in newspapers or other advertisements by famous people. — Illinois Department of Insurance

Thankfully, you’re not on the hook for much work and you might be sitting on a pile of savings. Most insurance quotes are easy to get and don’t affect your credit, so when you’re ready to begin, dive in and get at least five. You can start with companies that offer online tools to get a feel for the process, and if you’re feeling confident, call or schedule a meeting with an agent to ask more questions and get a more personalized quote. Online quotes are pretty awesome; they take only five minutes or so and you can often customize your policy for real-time results.

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Our Top 6 Picks for the Best Car Insurance in Illinois

To start my search for the best deal in Illinois, I applied for quotes from six different companies — all of which have the highest customer service ratings in the area and a strong financial report in the region.

JD Power is a global authority in customer satisfaction surveys, so I looked at its rankings for the North Central region and found eight companies with four or more stars out of five, which is a lot to choose from. I cross referenced this list with A.M. Best Rating Services, a company that investigates the financial solvency of insurance providers, and disqualified any that weren’t in “Superior” or “Excellent” financial standing. (Why not just the cheapest company overall? I’m not willing to risk my insurance company not having the money to pay my claims, and no discount is worth dealing with an insurance company that’s unhelpful. I know that I’ll be working with the company at a moment that’s already going to be stressful.) This only cut one off my list, so I proceeded to request quotes from the remaining seven. One company never responded to my request, so I knocked them off my list, too. I ended up with six quotes from brands that met my standards for reliability and reputation. When you’re ready to get your quotes, this is great place to start.

Insurer My quote
The Hartford $824
Country Financial $966
State Farm $1,094
Nationwide $1,330
Erie Insurance $1,868
American Family $2,212

While some of these quotes stayed pretty consistent, others jumped pretty far from the lowest  option. My top pick for cheap car insurance (for me) is definitely The Hartford. Even if I opt for comprehensive coverage with them, my bill will still almost beat all the other options for just the state minimum, even though I’ll be paying extra per month. Paying extra is buying me peace of mind and financial security in the event of an accident. Even a minor accident could put my financial situation in jeopardy if I only have Illinois-minimum coverage.

How I Gathered My Quotes

Most of the quotes I received were easy to get, but a couple were more difficult. Two of the companies I contacted required 15 minutes on the phone and some awkward, probing questions. The agents I spoke to also gave me their best hard sell, which made me a bit uncomfortable. One even said, “Why aren’t you moving forward with this quote right now?”

I wouldn’t rule out the companies that don’t have user-friendly websites and online quote tools, but if comparing your options feels overwhelming, you might want to start with the companies that offer easy, online quote tools: Nationwide, Country Financial, State Farm, and Erie insurance all allowed me to avoid the hassle of a phone call and view my personalized quote online. The Hartford and American Family both have online tools that may work for some, but neither of these were available for my address, so they required a phone call.

The Hartford made this difficult — after I entered my location online, it told me an online quote was unavailable and instructed me to call, but did not provide a phone number. I found a long list of numbers on their difficult-to-navigate website and called their general contact line. I spent a few minutes on hold before being told that all representatives were busy and I could either wait or request a call. To The Hartford’s credit, I did get a call back within 15 minutes. The representative was friendly, but a bit pushy.

American Family allowed me to get pretty far through its online quote process before informing me I’d have to speak to a representative on the phone. The agent called quickly, but I spent several minutes answering the exact same questions I had just answered online, which was annoying. There were also a few additional probing questions that I hadn’t been asked by anyone else, which made me a bit uncomfortable. Some of these I was able to opt out of, but others were mandatory.

Going into this process, I assumed that the online quote tools would offer little more than convenience, but I actually saw a huge benefit to them. Over the phone, agents weren’t always able to tell me how much an increase or decrease in specific benefits would affect my premium. With an online quote tool, I could fiddle with each category of coverage and see if it was worth it. Over the phone, agents would ask, “Do you want your rental car expenses to be covered in case of an accident?” My answer was, “It depends on how much that costs.” Unfortunately, they don’t always have a straight answer, so unless you want to sit on the phone for an hour while they check and uncheck each individual box and run 20 different quotes for you, a phone representative could lead you to some uninformed decisions.

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

Insurance providers used to build rates based only upon your level of risk. Lately, they’ve incorporate practice called price optimization. It may sound like a tool to save you money, but it can actually be the exact opposite. Insurers use complex algorithms to analyze a heap of your personal data (social media activity, online shopping habits, etc.) and predict how likely you are to shop for better deals. If your company discovers that you prefer the convenience of keeping your policy to the hassle of shopping around, they’ll inch your rates up, just because they know they can. This is the same reason your cable company tacks on extra charges until you threaten to cancel, and then poof, those charges are miraculously gone.

That’s why shopping for a new policy every year or so is such a good idea. Insurers are privy to your online activity, and if you stay on top of your rates and check in periodically to make sure you’re getting the best possible deal, you’re less likely to be marked as someone who’s comfortable with price hikes. But make sure to shop around for comparison quotes before you make the call to your current insurer.

“They’ll give you a discount for loyalty. But, they’ll give you a 10% discount after they’ve raised your rate 25 percent.” — Bob Hunter, Consumer Federation of America on NPR

While many states are fighting against this unfair yet widespread practice, Illinois has yet to address it.

Illinois Minimum Coverage

The Bare Minimum

To comply with Illinois requirements, you only need to be insured for $25,000 for the injury/death of one person in an accident, $50,000 for more than one person, and $20,000 for the damage of property to another person — that’s 25/50/20 in insurance speak.

When I looked into upgraded coverage for each of my quotes, I was surprised to find that four of the six quotes were raised by less than $20 a month. The two outliers, however, wound up adding over $800 a year. And over 17 or 18  years, that extra $800 equates to $13,700. So even in the worst case scenario, you’d still wind up paying far less than the $36,000 left over after your minimum coverage kicks on. No one ever plans on getting in a serious automobile accident, but if it happens, paying a few extra dollars each month for an upgraded policy will absolutely have been worth it.

What Happens I’m Caught Without Insurance?

Driving without insurance in Illinois will cost you a hefty fine and a lot of time wasted. In addition to a minimum $500 penalty, you’ll have your license plates suspended. In order to reinstate them, you’ll need proof of insurance and an extra $100. Get caught driving with suspended plates? That’ll cost you a minimum of $1,000.

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Why are rates in Illinois so affordable?

Illinois drivers are doing a relatively good job keeping the roads safe. With 8.5 car accident related deaths per 100,000 residents in 2016, that’s less than the national average of 11.6. That helps explain why car insurance rates in Illinois are 24 percent lower than the national average.

Illinois is also one of the cheapest state for auto repairs. CarMD‘s 2015 study found that its average cost for check engine light-repairs were: $215.27 for parts, $153.38 for labor, and $368.65 for both combined.

What if I’m not a full-time resident?

If you’re not living in Illinois full-time, your car will need a valid registration in the state where you primarily reside. You also need a reciprocity permit issued by the Secretary of State.

Best Car Insurance in Illinois

  • The Hartford
  • Country Financial
  • State Farm
  • Nationwide
  • Erie Insurance
  • American Family

The Bottom Line

For Illinois car insurance customers, there are ways to cut costs that won’t impact the level of coverage you receive. Paying extra won’t always get you a better product, but it’s worth it to upgrade from basic state-minimum coverage to a level of liability you’re more comfortable with.

The magic number is different for everyone, so shop for several quotes, and keep looking every couple of years, even if you think you found the one. The cost of auto insurance in Illinois is less than the national average, and a large number of reputable insurers in the state means you can easily find a competitive rate. Getting quotes from several insurance providers took me less than an hour, and helped me find the cheap car insurance policy that won’t let me down when I need it most. Now it’s your turn.

Find the Best Car Insurance

Enter your ZIP code below and be sure to click at least 2-3 companies to find the very best rate.