West Virginia holds a peculiar record: It has the most deer-vehicle collisions per capita. That’s not something to be proud of, but it shouldn’t worry any of us too much either. Despite the risk of tons of deer in our state, we West Virginians still pay less than the national average for car insurance — a full $2 less a month on monthly auto insurance premiums. Even so, there are still more ways we can save. By shopping around, I found a company that would save me more than $700 a year.

Every insurer has its own formula for determining premiums that weighs a variety of personal, vehicle, and location factors, so the only way to find your best deal is to shop around. That means getting a bunch of quotes (five or more, I’d say). It’s not the most exciting way to spend your time, but with hundreds of dollars in savings on the line, it’s absolutely worth it.

To find my best rate, I got five quotes for West Virginia’s minimum coverage. I had a good idea that I could save on my premiums just by comparing quotes, but I was pretty impressed when I realized the quotes varied by over $700 – that’s a decent chunk of change.

Of all five quotes, Erie Insurance was my cheapest option at $830 a year. Don’t necessarily expect it to be the cheapest for you, though; auto insurance quotes are dependent on a ton of different factors, which is why I would never recommend a particular company as the absolute best (or cheapest) for everyone.

I was able to get four of my five quotes online, and they only took about five minutes a piece. I simply had to answer a few questions about myself, my car, and my driving history, and boom! I was presented with a selection of policies. I did have to get one quote over the phone because I couldn’t get Hartford’s online quote tool to work for me. If you have to make a call too, expect it to take around 10 to 15 minutes. And if you really want to cut some time, grab your vehicle’s VIN number from your proof of insurance or your car’s dash before you get started. It’ll save you a few steps both online and on the phone.

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The Simple Dollar’s 5 Picks for West Virginia Car Insurance

I started my search by getting quotes from these five auto insurers, and I’d recommend them to anyone in West Virginia as well. They all have the highest A.M. Best scores of “Excellent” or “Superior.”

Insurer My quote
Erie Insurance $830
State Farm $964
The Hartford $1,040
Geico $1,352
Allstate $1,578

A.M Best is an organization that evaluates financial solvency. Finding a provider with high scores for both is just as important, if not more, than your monthly premium. They’re indications that the insurance company has the funds and the customer support necessary to please their customers. If you’re filing a claim, it’s because you’ve had an accident of some sort, and no one needs the added stress of haggling with their insurance company (or worrying if they’re even still in business) in the middle of a crisis.

After comparing my rates, I found that pretty significant $748 difference in pricing. Erie Insurance offered me the cheapest premium and State Farm came in second. Both companies have great customer services ratings and identical coverage – but State Farm was $134 more annually. Allstate was easily my most expensive choice at $1,578, but their high price was because they don’t offer coverage at the state’s minimum. To get a policy with them at all, I’d have to add on the numerous optional coverages — underinsured motorist coverage, medical payments, collision and comprehensive — that they required me to purchase in addition to liability coverage.

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

Contrary to what you might think, insurance companies don’t just look at your risk when determining how much to charge you; they also assess how likely you are to remain a loyal customer. This practice is called price optimization, and to no one’s surprise, it’s stirred up a lot of controversy in recent years.

The NAIC defines price optimization as “the process of maximizing or minimizing a business metric using sophisticated tools and models to quantify business considerations.” In other words, insurers are analyzing personal data in an attempt to predict a customer’s future shopping habits. If your provider thinks you’re comfortable paying a few more dollars a month, it’ll raise your rates.

That’s why shopping for a new policy every year or two is such a good practice. First of all, you’ll know the rate you’re getting is a fair one, based on you as a person, not predictive analytics. Plus, you’ll be less likely to suffer from price optimization in the future. Insurance companies know when you shop around, and the more you do, the more you show that you might be willing to switch insurers and the riskier it will seem to them to hike your premium.

Fifteen states have addressed the reality of price optimization, though West Virginia is unfortunately not one of them. The Consumer Federation of America did write a letter to West Virginia’s insurance commissioner in April 2015 urging the state to take steps to ban the practice, but there hasn’t been any official action yet. For the time being, it’s up to us to make sure we’re doing what we can to protect ourselves.

West Virginia’s Minimum Coverage

The Bare Minimum

At the very least, West Virginians must carry at least $25,000 of bodily injury coverage per person and $50,000 for bodily injury per accident, plus $25,000 of property damage coverage, according to state law. We’re also required to have an equivalent amount of uninsured motorist coverage.

It’s Worth it to Get Additional Coverage

Don’t believe me? Consider the following two statistics:

  • Roughly 6 million car accidents occur each year in the United States alone.
  • The average cost of an accident that causes a disabling, but nonfatal injury is $90,000. But, I know that if I were to hit more than one car, or hit a super expensive car, the damages could double, or even triple.

Suppose I only have the minimum coverage of $50,000 in bodily injury per accident and $25,000 in property damage, and I injure someone in an accident. If the property damages only cost $5,000, I’m fine. If it’s more serious — say $50,000 — I’m in trouble. Insurance will only pay half of it and I’m likely to find myself in court being sued for the rest. And remember: $50,000 is super optimistic compared to the near-$80,000 average.

Now consider the same accident if I had higher coverage limits. The minimum liability coverage (that same $25,000/$50,000/$25,000 policy) costs me $830 a year from Erie Insurance. Doubling that coverage costs $863, which is only a $33 difference. And over 18 years, the time span when I’m statistically likely to have an accident within, that $35 will only be another $594 extra. Worth it to me? Absolutely. Because now I have enough coverage to pay for all the damages and keep myself out of the courtroom.

Also, because of our high number of deer collisions, it’s worth looking into comprehensive coverage. According to State Farm’s data, 1 in 43 drivers will hit a deer this year. That’s wild! According to the same article, deer collisions cause an average of $4,179 worth of damage to the vehicle. You may think your collision coverage protects you in these types of accidents, but unfortunately, that’s not the case. Adding both types of coverage will protect you whether a collision comes in the form of another driver or a deer crossing the road. Depending on the value of your car and the cost of coverage, even with the increased risk, you might want to skip it and rely on your emergency fund instead. To figure out if it makes sense for you, see our article, “Car Insurance Facts: When Collision Coverage Is Worth It.”

If You Skip Coverage, It’ll Cost You

Driving without insurance will earn you, at best, a suspension of your vehicle registration and at worst, a suspension of your license or driving privileges. Reinstating your registration will cost between $100 and $150, depending on if you were asked to surrender your plates as well. You also cannot reinstate your vehicle registration without providing proof of insurance. Carrying fake insurance carries even heavier penalties, including a mandatory 90-day suspension of your license, revocation of your vehicle, and a possible $1,000 fee and one year in jail.

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Why are West Virginia’s rates so low?

West Virginia’s rural setting and low percentage of uninsured drivers earn us a slight break on auto insurance premiums. Plus, auto repair costs in the state are relatively cheap, and that also helps to bring the overall price down. Think about it: if the repair shop charges insurance companies a lower rate, insurers can pass along lower rates to their customers.

What if I’m not a full-time resident?

If you’re living or working in West Virginia for longer than 30 days, you’re required to register your vehicle in West Virginia — the only exceptions are students and military personnel. In order to register, you must provide proof of insurance that meets West Virginia’s minimum requirements. Individuals using their vehicle for commercial purposes within West Virginia are required to register right away.

An Expert’s Perspective

I asked the legal team at Larson Law, a firm that specializes in injury cases for their take on how much insurance we should really get. Here’s what Bryan A. Larson had to say:

Should driver’s get more than the minimum coverage?

Absolutely, yes! If you go to an insurance salesman and simply say, “Just give me the minimum,” or, “Give me the cheapest,” the coverage you will have will be very easy to exceed, even in a simple auto accident. A simple trip to the emergency room via ambulance can wind up along with the medical bills to be more than $25,000.

In addition to the liability coverage, there are several other components of coverage which may actually be more important, since they are the coverages to protect you and your family from injuries that may occur in an accident.

The first one is Personal Injury Protection, or “No-Fault” coverage. This coverage pays basic medical expenses, lost wages, and household expenses to injured occupants of the vehicle, or any pedestrian or bicyclist that you may have struck in the accident. Uninsured Motorist coverage protects you against the carelessness of individuals who do not have any insurance. It may only be a few dollars a month. The other type of coverage mentioned is Underinsured Motorist (or UIM) coverage. This type of coverage comes into play when the other driver who caused the accident has insurance, but doesn’t have enough insurance. It is very easy to have a case that is worth more than the other driver’s available liability coverage and UIM coverage is very inexpensive.

Are any insurance companies easier to work with than others?

A better question is which insurance company is better at paying claims or which insurance company is likely to fight you the least when you’re presenting a fair and reasonable claim. With insurance, just like with other things in life, you often get what you pay for. There may be a reason why premiums are cheap, and that reason may be because the insurance carrier is not generous or fair in paying out claims.

The Bottom Line

The only way to find the best auto insurer for you is to get quotes and compare the prices and coverages. I recommend purchasing more than the bare minimum if you can. It doesn’t raise your premiums that much and in an accident, you’ll be grateful to have a little extra help from the insurance company.

Car Insurance in West Virginia

  • Erie Insurance
  • State Farm
  • The Hartford
  • Geico
  • Allstate

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.