What is a car insurance premium?

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Understand how much you’ll pay and what to compare while shopping for insurance.

Your premium is related to how much you pay for car insurance. But it’s helpful to know important factors like what a premium does, how it’s related to other car insurance terms and what you can expect to pay.

Car insurance premiums explained

Your premium is the amount you pay upfront for your insurance in exchange for protection against certain situations.

In exchange for paying the premium, your insurer promises to help pay for damages in case an accident or damage occurs. You can receive help with paying for car repairs, replacement, damaged property and medical bills after an accident.

Understanding basic car insurance definitions

When buying car insurance, you’ll likely come across several car insurance terms you may not understand, like policy, premium, quote or deductible. Knowing the language could help you get more protection at a better value.

How does a car insurance policy affect my premiums?

Your insurance policy is a contract between you and your insurance company that details what the insurer will protect you against, what you’ll pay in exchange and any other terms.

Your premium is the payment for this policy and is affected by the type of policy you choose, like standard, temporary or luxury car insurance. But it’s also affected by the amount of coverage you have, like collision damage or car replacement cost coverage.

What’s the difference between a car insurance premium and a quote?

A quote differs from your premium only in that it refers to where you are in the insurance shopping process. A quote is essentially an estimate of your premium — helping you see how much you’ll pay if you sign up with that insurance company.

Your premium, on the other hand, is the amount you’re expected to pay after you sign up for a policy. The premium will sometimes be a different number than the quote since the insurance company uses a more detailed calculation than a quote to get the final cost.

Insurance companies determine this amount by researching your driving history, demographics and kind of car you drive, among other factors.

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What’s the difference between a premium and a deductible?

While your premium is the upfront cost that you pay for protecting your car, the deductible is the amount you pay after an accident happens.

The deductible is your share of the cost for the accident damage, and you agree on how much the deductible is when you first purchase your policy. Once you pay the deductible, your insurance company takes on any expenses that go above that amount.

Common deductible amounts are $250, $500 or $1,000. The higher your deductible is, the less you pay for your premium — but the more you’ll pay in an accident.

Compare premium, quote and deductible

What it isWhat it doesWhen you pay
PolicyContract between you and the insurance companyLists and explains agreements, such as situations you’re protected for and how much to payN/A
PremiumThe amount you pay to buy a car insurance policyFulfills your side of the contract so you’re protected in case of an accidentWhen you sign up for your policy, usually every 6 or 12 months
QuoteThe amount an insurance company predicts you’ll pay for a policyAllows you to see what you could pay in advanceQuotes are free. You’ll only pay your premium if you start a policy.
DeductibleThe amount you agree to pay for accident damageIt’s your share of accident expenses alongside your insurance companyAfter an accident, but before your insurance kicks in

Your insurer pays for expenses after this amount is covered

How much is a car insurance premium?

The average premium is around $1,300 per year, but premiums vary based on factors like your car type, driving record or credit score. In fact, a variety of insurance factors make up your specific premium, including:

  • Your age. Your age or length of time you’ve held your license shows off your driving experience.
  • Driving record. A pristine driving record tells insurers that they can trust you to drive safely and avoid accidents.
  • Credit history. Good credit can show responsibility and is linked to fewer accidents.
  • Coverage. Buying more protection or keeping a low deductible means you might pay more upfront.
  • Type of car. If your car model is known for theft, high speeds, heavy weight or expensive parts, you might have an above-average premium.
  • Location. Where you live affects insurance because heavy traffic or other road hazards could increase your accident risk.
  • Annual mileage. The more often you’re behind the wheel, the higher the chance for a collision.
  • Job and education. Your career might mean more time on the road or imply that you’re generally responsible.

How do I compare car insurance premiums?

There’s more to looking at car insurance than comparing dollar signs. Pay attention to other characteristics that tell the true value of the policy. Those include:

  • Amount of coverage. How much accident damage is covered or how much you pay for your deductible factors into your out-of-pocket costs. The cheapest company might limit your coverage to $20,000 worth of damage, while another slightly more expensive one allows $50,000. You may want to compare apples to apples, using similar coverage when getting quotes from different companies.
  • Claims satisfaction. Find out how satisfied current customers are with their payouts after an accident. Low ratings might mean you’ll have customer service problems if you do get into an accident yourself.
  • Discounts offered. An insurance provider might seem pricey until you find out how many discounts you’ll receive. Make sure the final cost is still the best value compared to other companies.
  • Premium increases. Your driving habits, as well as factors like inflation or widespread increase in accidents, can spike your premium. Shopping around every year or so can help you get the best value possible.
  • Trusted brands. Consider companies that have strong financial ratings from AM Best or the Better Business Bureau. You could opt for regional or nationwide brands that have more customers, which may mean more stability.

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Bottom line

Your car insurance premium is the amount you pay to get protection from car accidents, and it’s affected by factors like amount of coverage and high or low deductibles. To get the best value, compare the total cost with the amount of coverage and number of discounts across several providers.

Frequently asked questions about car insurance premiums

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