Most Washington area homeowners will save more than $400 a year by switching from their current insurance company to a lower-priced company. Some will save more than $1,000.

Our Ratings Tables report annual premiums we collected for the companies that write almost all of the homeowners insurance business in the Washington area. Costs vary significantly from company to company. For example—

  • For a sample frame house in Montgomery County, rates range from $687 with Homesite, $831 with Travelers, and $980 with Penn National to $1,498 with Liberty Mutual and $1,503 with Erie.
  • For a sample frame home in the District, rates range from $742 with USAA and $929 with Homesite to more than $2,200 with Encompass and The Hartford.
  • For a sample brick house in Arlington, rates range from $636 with USAA, $678 with Homesite, and $686 with Erie to $1,363 with State Farm and $1,600 with Nationwide.

Which companies will offer you the lowest rates depends on several factors discussed in this article. Since your home, its characteristics, and your insurance needs likely differ from those of the sample profiles we used for our comparisons, do some shopping on your own before you choose an insurer.

You don’t have to wait until the end of your policy term to switch to a company that offers a lower rate. Although you might have to pay a fee to cancel your current policy, the fee is small compared to the savings you can get with a lower-cost carrier.

Although rates for homeowners insurance depend in large part on variables you can’t control, there are steps you can take—in addition to shopping for the best rate—to minimize costs:

  • Choose a high deductible.
  • Obtain an accurate estimate of what it will take to replace your home. Insurance agents often try to sell excessive coverage by providing inflated estimates of replacement costs.
  • Limit the number of claims you make. Filing a claim will result in higher premiums from most insurers and may cause an insurer to drop you—which will make it difficult and more expensive to get insurance elsewhere.
  • Consider buying your homeowners and auto policies from the same company. Many companies offer dual-policy discounts to customers who insure both their homes and cars with them. But keep in mind that such discounts are usually small and won’t make a high-priced company a good deal. Click here for our ratings of auto insurance companies.

Fortunately, it is possible to choose a low-priced company and still get good claims service. Our Ratings Tables provide insight on companies’ service performance.

Keep your insurance policy up to date. Many homeowners do not maintain adequate insurance coverage, leaving themselves financially vulnerable in the event of a total loss. Don’t assume your insurer will take the initiative in keeping your homeowners policy up to date. Every few years have your insurer re-estimate your home’s replacement cost, and then adjust your coverage as needed.

In the District and Virginia, insurance companies have for years used credit scoring to set their rates. (Maryland prohibits the use of credit scores to set homeowners insurance rates, although they can be used to set auto insurance rates.) With many companies, your credit score influences the rates you’re offered more than any other factor: The prices most companies offer customers with poor credit are double what they offer customers with excellent credit—with some companies, the poor-credit penalty more than triples their rates. Companies increasingly use other secretive and opaque methods to calculate their rates. Because pricing methods and premiums can dramatically change over time, shop around for a better rate every other year or so.