Our comparisons of prices charged by the Chicago area’s largest auto insurers found that most area drivers will save $500 or more a year by making a better auto insurance choice. Many will save $1,500 or more. For example:

  • Our illustrative couple with two cars living in northern Cook County with clean driving records would pay $667 with GEICO, $778 with USAA, or $837 with Erie, compared to $1,328 with State Farm, $1,434 with Auto-Owners, $1,520 with Allstate, and $1,586 with Country.
  • If that couple has a less-than-perfect driving record (e.g., two speeding tickets in the last year), they’d pay $959 with USAA or $1,003 with GEICO, compared to $1,947 with Amica, $2,057 with Auto-Owners, and $2,063 with Country.
  • If they needed to add a teenage son to their policy (God help them), they’d pay $1,628 with USAA, $1,834 with Liberty Mutual, $1,868 with GEICO, or $1,883 with Erie, compared to $3,835 with Allstate and $4,112 with MetLife.

Although it’s a bit of a pain to shop for auto insurance, most consumers would agree that spending a few hours to save $500, $1,000, or more every year is worth the effort. Note that you don’t have to wait until your current policy term expires to take advantage of the savings you’d get from a switcheroo—when you switch to a lower-priced company, your old insurance company will refund the unused share of your premium. You also don’t have to forsake service for a better rate: We found that some highly rated companies offer low rates.

Check our auto insurance comparison tool to see how companies stack up for price and quality. Because we found that small differences in policyholder characteristics, many of which have nothing to do with driving records, can have big effects on some companies’ premiums, be sure to check rates yourself.

You want to buy enough coverage to protect yourself—but not so much that you’re wasting money. We advise on that, too. The highlights:

  • Maintain the highest deductible amount with which you’re comfortable.
  • Be vigilant that your coverage doesn’t lapse.
  • Consider dropping collision coverage when your car’s value drops below $3,000 or so.
  • When shopping for coverage, find out how much more it will cost to raise limits beyond standard coverages. It is usually inexpensive to increase limits for liability coverage above standard amounts.
  • Carefully consider the extras. Some optional coverages aren’t worth much, but companies charge a lot for them.
  • For repairs, insist on using a repair shop you can trust. Click here to go to our ratings of area auto body shops.