Cheapest Online-Only Car Insurance

Almost nobody has time to shop for car insurance in person these days, and while some insurance carriers heavily favor buying from a local agent, most offer an online-only option that may be less expensive than even their cheapest standard policies.

Who has the cheapest online-only insurance?

As it turns out, buying car insurance online is very similar to buying it through any other method, with the major exception of the fact that you don’t have to talk to a person unless you want to ask questions. There are many choices for online insurance, some of which are carriers that are owned by the major insurers, such as Esurance, which is owned by Allstate.

Sometimes, quotes for online car insurance will come under the name of same-day car insurance, which just means that it’s all done quickly over the phone or online and can have everything in place in one day.

Your best bet to get cheap online insurance if you’re active or former military is USAA. The carrier offers the lowest six-month premiums by far. For everyone else, GEICO is a solid choice, and only trails USAA by about $100 over the course of six months.

We sampled information from a number of sources to determine a range of online prices for drivers, both male and female. It’s important to note we focused only on the least expensive insurance options, a metric which in no way indicates the quality of coverage, customer service, or availability.

Insurance rates can vary wildly from state to state as well, and even more so if your college student has an accident or driving citation on their record. This means that, while you’re buying the policy online, all of the same factors are used to determine how much you’ll pay.

DISCLAIMER: There are many other factors that can impact the price you’ll pay for online car insurance.

Who has the best cheap online insurance?

  • Cheapest Large Insurance Carrier: USAA - Not everyone can qualify for the military-only insurance carrier’s policies, but those that do will enjoy some of the lowest online rates around.

  • Best Overall: GEICO - The gecko company nearly matches USAA and is available to anyone, regardless of where they live or their professional background.

  • Best Insurance in All 50 States: Esurance - The carrier doesn’t have the best rates, but offers incredible service and extra features that make it attractive to a wide range of drivers. Esurance offers medical payment coverage, personal injury coverage, collision, and uninsured motorist protection, along with emergency roadside assistance, rental car coverage, supplemental gap-style insurance, and more.

How much does online car insurance cost?

We researched a wide variety of policies and insurance companies from around the country, but some don’t openly advertise their rates for online policies without an in-depth quote. The rates you see below have been averaged out between male and female drivers. The rates below are for six-month premiums.

Rates we found
USAA$444
GEICO$550
State Farm$598
Nationwide$654

Who are the nation’s best online insurers?

  • GEICO: As it turns out, having great service in person leads to having great service online. GEICO is consistently rated among the best insurers, including for its online insurance offerings.

  • Esurance: Being owned by insurance giant Allstate has its benefits. Esurance isn’t the cheapest, but its additional offerings such as coverage for rental vehicles make it worth a look. It also has one of the most extensive discount programs available.

  • Nationwide: Nationwide is on your side, even online. The company offers several accident forgiveness and deductible reduction programs, as well as coverage for people who have to use their vehicles for ride sharing services. The company’s rates also happen to be among the best in the online space.

  • State Farm: The company with some of the best commercials in the insurance business also happens to offer some of the best coverage in the business as well. State Farm offers a variety of discounts and programs targeted at college students and their families. One of the biggest negatives to going with them is that there’s significant pressure to work with a local agent, which may make it painful to work through the process online.

How can you get discounts for online car insurance?

As with all car insurance, there are a multitude of discounts that you can apply to drop your insurance costs significantly. When we got quotes, we didn’t select any of these, but they were all questions on the quote engine that would impact the overall insurance rate:

  • Driver’s Ed: Many states require driver’s ed to get a learner’s permit, but even if they don’t, taking a driver’s ed course is one of the best ways for your college student to get a discount on their insurance rates. The discount applies from the moment they complete the course, whether it’s before or after they get their license. Take a look at our coverage of driver’s ed programs here.

  • Get good grades: Insurers look at credit scores for adult drivers, but for teens and college students, it’s all about their grades. If your college student earns a “B” average or higher, then ask your insurance company if they’ll cut you a break.

  • Newer, safer car: Driving the latest and greatest may not be for everyone, but the added safety features that come from new vehicles can actually lower your rate.

  • Avoid sports cars: It may be tempting to buy the most powerful thing you can afford, but that won’t do you any favors with your insurance rates. These are much more expensive to insure in general, and if you put one in your driveway, you’ll pay for it with higher rates.

  • Practice safe driving: You can’t control how other people drive, but you can do your best to control your temper and patience while driving. Being aggressive or speeding excessively will start to add up, both in the costs of the tickets you’ll get and in terms of your insurance rates.

FAQ

Why is online insurance more expensive than standard car insurance?

It’s not, at least usually. You’re probably seeing higher rates because your new insurance application has updated information that might not have reached your existing policy. This can be a negative hit on your credit score, a speeding ticket, or a move to a more populated high-risk driving area.

How can I get super cheap online insurance?

You might be able to scrape by with a local insurance policy that undercuts GEICO or even USAA, but do you really want to cheap out on insurance for what could be your most valuable asset outside of your home?

Editor's note and disclaimer: Car Talk is supported by our fans, readers and listeners. When you click on some of the links on our website, we may receive referral compensation. However, you should know that the recommendations we make are based on our independent editorial review and analyses.