The real facts about driving and car insurance in America
The realities of car ownership and insurance
Over 270 million vehicles are registered in the US, and that doesn’t just include cars. According to the Federal Highway Administration, drivers of private passenger vehicles — including cars, trucks, SUVs and minivans — put a total of 3.22 trillion miles on the roads in 2016. In fact, the average driver racks up about 13,500 miles behind the wheel each year, a figure that continues to rise despite a declining number of young drivers.
Take a look at what it’s like to own and insure a car for the average American driver and compare telling statistics about the state of driving in the US.
How much does it cost to own a car?
Compare how car ownership costs break down for the average American.
Car ownership costs
How much do US drivers pay for car insurance?
While the cost of gas and number of car theft claims have gone down over the past few years, many Americans are still paying more to own and insure their car. Even for drivers who make a profit driving for Uber, paying for car costs like maintenance, insurance and gas can all add up.
The cost of owning a car really begins to add up once you factor in the price of car insurance. Regardless of which vehicle you drive, auto insurance is a necessity. But how much do drivers actually pay for insurance?
The national average cost of auto insurance was about $1,500 a year in 2017. Rates can vary depending on your location and many other factors, including:
Car make, model and trim
Car insurance costs by state
Each state has different laws and regulations that can influence rates, coverage, payouts and other factors. How does your state’s car insurance rates stack up?
What about electric cars?
Electric and hybrid cars are quickly becoming more common, which might explain why charging stations for electric cars are popping up all over the US. Most major automakers have at least one electric or hybrid vehicle available, and according to our estimates, over 17% of Americans would be interested in driving an electric vehicle. This increase in demand may be due to lower long-term ownership costs and a growing interest in environmental sustainability.
Electric cars have lower-than-average driving costs at $8,439 per year.
Electric cars have the lowest annual maintenance and repair costs, at $982 per year.
It’s cheaper and easier to “fill up” your electric battery, with an average cost of 3.68 cents per mile. Compare that to 13.88 cents per mile for a gas-guzzling pickup truck.
Watch out for depreciation, and expect average annual loss to be nearly $6,000, compared to about $4,000 per year on gas and diesel vehicles.
Some road trips require finding an EV charging station, which might not be available everywhere.
Electric and hybrid vehicles can be more expensive to insure
Car insurance claims
In 2017, car insurance claims totaled over $163 million in the US. To put that into perspective for any single driver, the average loss per claim was $4,100. That’s roughly the cost of a used 10-year-old sedan.
The good news is that the average driver makes an accident claim once every 18 years. Although your car might experience the occasional ding or bump, you probably won’t have to worry about making a big claim in the next decade or two.
Most common claims
Neck or back injury
Roughly 750,000 vehicles in the US are stolen each year, which adds up to more than one per minute. In 2016, over $5.9 billion was lost to vehicle theft, with an average loss per theft of $7,680. While theft has been declining since the early 2000s, there has been a spike in recent years. However, theft rates can vary depending on your location, among many other factors.
Worst states for vehicle theft
Worst cities for vehicle theft
Most stolen car models
Dangerous driving in the US
You’ve seen drivers who engage in dangerous behavior behind the wheel. Not using turn signals, texting while driving, forgetting basic road safety — these rage-inducing actions might seem to happen to you every time you get behind the wheel. Almost 6 million car accidents occur in the US every year, leading to over 40,000 vehicle-related fatalities in 2017.
Take a look at which drivers are most likely to commit these acts of dangerous driving and how often reckless driving really happens.
Teen drivers are three times more likely to have speeding tickets.
Around 84% of people use seat belts.
About 481,000 drivers use cell phones while driving; an estimated 25% of accidents involve phone use.
Over 50% of road traffic deaths happen to adults ages 15 to 44.
Around 16% of drivers are uninsured.
High-risk drivers account for less than 1% of drivers on the road.
The price of auto insurance is often much higher for men. While this may seem unfair, the gap in pricing is due to multiple factors that affect the risk of insuring each gender. This includes types of cars chosen by each gender, frequency of accidents, driving behavior, annual mileage and more.
Men statistically show a higher risk on the road. Studies have shown men are more likely to speed, drive drunk, not wear seat belts and be involved in accidents involving fatalities. That’s why insurance companies tend to charge more to insure men, even if an individual man’s driving habits are generally safe. Gender-based pricing is legal in most states except for California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Montana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Michigan.
Auto insurance is a $260 billion industry that continues to grow year after year. In the US alone, there are almost 9,000 auto insurance businesses that cover all 270 million vehicles across the country. However, a few providers have a much bigger market share than others.
For those with less-than-perfect driving records, some providers offer coverage tailored to high-risk drivers, often called non-standard auto insurance. While the non-standard auto insurance industry seems to be on the decline in recent years, it still holds over $35 billion in revenue.
In a car-loving country like the US, it can be hard to ditch your ride in favor of other transportation. While insurance can be expensive, it protects you and your vehicle with the peace of mind that you’ll be covered in the event of an accident. With that said, getting the right coverage for the car you’ve always wanted is easier than you might think.
Peter Carleton is a writer that covers banking and investing, breaking down what you need to know about where you put your money. When Peter's not thinking about cutting-edge banking apps and robo-advisors, he runs a creative agency and spends his spare time cooking or reading.
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