You're probably paying too much for car insurance.

Most consumers stay with the same company year after year, often concluding that steep discounts they get for their loyalty or not having any speeding tickets or accidents means they won’t find better pricing elsewhere. That’s usually untrue. Although you might be getting a price break from your current company, its competitors will also likely happily offer low prices to lure you away.

Our comparisons of prices charged by the Washington 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 $1,000 or more. For example:

  • Our illustrative couple with two cars living in Montgomery County with clean driving records would pay $996 per year with Esurance, $1,225 with USAA, or $1,231 with Erie, compared to more than $1,800 per year with Allstate, Encompass, The Hartford, or MetLife.
  • If that couple lives in Arlington or Alexandria, they’d pay $960 per year with Erie or $993 with Travelers, compared to more than $1,400 with Donegal, Farmers, Nationwide, or State Auto.
  • If they moved to D.C. and added a teenage son to their policy (gulp!), they’d pay $2,657 per year with Liberty, $2,755 with USAA, or $2,763 with GEICO, compared to more than $5,100 per year with Allstate or Encompass.

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 switch. If you change companies, your old insurance company will refund the unused share of your premium. You also don’t have to forsake good service for a better rate: Our ratings reveal that some highly rated companies offer low rates.

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 and comprehensive coverage when your car’s value drops below $3,000.
  • 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 trust. Click here to go to our ratings of area auto body shops.