Whether you’re brand new to driving in North Carolina or are simply looking for a policy change, you might be confused by the auto insurance options out there. Finding the perfect coverage--at the right price--can be a difficult process, especially if you don’t know which company will be the best choice for you.
North Carolina is the fifth-cheapest state when it comes to premiums (according to Insure.com). But comparing auto insurance policies is more than just pitting price tags against one another. You need to take into account the coverage and deductible options offered. And consider the customer service ratings provided by respected companies and actual customers.
This can take a lot of time, of course, which is why we put this article together. It will tell you everything you need to know about buying auto insurance in North Carolina. We will talk about state laws and minimum coverage, penalties for not following the law, average rates, and which companies seem to provide the best service.
By the time you’re done reading, you’ll know exactly how to find the policy that’s
perfect for you and how much you can expect to pay.
Compare Car Insurance Plans in North Carolina
Our Top 5 Picks for the Best Car Insurance in North Carolina
If you’re looking for auto insurance in the Golden State, you have a number of companies to choose from. After all, it’s only logical that you have plenty of options in the state that’s home to the NASCAR Hall of Fame!
Keep in mind, of course, that your own rates and experiences will vary, simply depending on the coverage chosen, your own driving record, and where you live.
Based on our own research, premium searches, and even leading consumer ratings, here are our top picks for your next North Carolina auto insurance policy:
- Best Overall Satisfaction: North Carolina Farm Bureau
- Best Customer Service: North Carolina Farm Bureau
- Lowest Premiums: Allied
- Great If You Have a Perfect Record: Allied
- Best If You Have a Less-Than-Perfect Record: State Farm
North Carolina Auto Insurance Requirements
First, let’s take a look at what the state of North Carolina requires of its drivers, in terms of state-mandated minimum coverage. This is the lowest amount of bodily injury and property damage coverage you must hold every time you drive in the Tar Heel State. Driving without coverage that meets these minimums means you are driving illegally.
Of course, you can purchase a policy that covers you well beyond these limits. And it’s often wise to do so. However, as long as you have at least this much coverage, you’re considered a legally-insured driver in North Carolina.
Bodily Injury Liability:
|Death or injury of one person in any one accident||$30,000 minimum|
|Death or injury of 2+ people in any one accident||$60,000 minimum|
|Property Damage Liability||$25,000 minimum|
NC drivers are also required to purchase uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage for the same amounts. This coverage provides protection for you and your vehicle in case you are hit by another driver who does not have adequate/any liability coverage.
So, what’s the difference between bodily injury and property damage liability?
Bodily injury liability is coverage that pays for the injuries and medical bills incurred by someone else due to an accident for which you’re at fault. If more than one person is injured, the insurance company will split the total coverage limit between the parties.
Conversely, property damage liability will pay for the replacement or repair of someone else’s property, due to an accident for which you’re at fault. This might include damage to another vehicle, a building or structure, or even objects (such as signs).
While North Carolina allows drivers to self-insure, this is limited to those who own or lease a minimum of 26 vehicles, all of which must be registered in their name.
So, you know what the legal requirements are for auto insurance coverage in North Carolina. Now, what happens if you fail to meet those requirements?
Well, you are considered an uninsured driver if you don’t have at least the minimum liability coverage amounts mentioned above. Even if you have some coverage, it needs to be at least $30k/$60k in bodily injury and $25k in property damage for you to be considered adequately insured, and legal to drive.
This legal requirement exists even if you choose not to drive. If a vehicle registered in your name has valid plates, you have a legal requirement to maintain liability coverage on it. If you don’t, you’re subject to a slew of penalties, fines, and legal repercussions.
If you allow an existing policy to lapse, your insurance company will notify the state of your dropped coverage. The state’s DMV will then send you a liability insurance termination notice (Form FS 5-7). Upon receipt, you will have 10 days from the date printed to respond.
The state imposes a fine for allowing a lapse in coverage. This fine is tiered based on the number of times you’ve been in the same situation.
- First Lapse: $50 fine
- Second Lapse: $100 fine
- Each Subsequent Lapse: $150 fine
Failure to pay these fines (which you must do once you’ve obtained replacement legal coverage) can then result in additional penalties or even your vehicle’s license plate(s) being confiscated by law enforcement.
What if you choose to drive without adequate coverage and get stopped or even get in an accident?
First and foremost, you will be responsible for any damages or injuries you cause in an at-fault accident. If you are unable to pay for these damages, you could be sued. Driving uninsured has the potential to financially ruin you, which is another reason it’s so very important to follow the law.
In addition to that, the state will likely suspend your license. For the first offense, your suspension will typically last for 30 days. Following that period, you can pay the state’s license reinstatement fee ($65) and service fee ($50), assuming that you’ve since acquired state-minimum coverage.
Unlike most states, North Carolina doesn’t require drivers to obtain an SR-22 certificate following an uninsured motorist or DWI conviction. However, if you are coming from another state that requires you to hold an SR-22 due to a previous incident, you will still have to maintain this pricey, high-risk coverage after moving to North Carolina.
Proof of Insurance
As mentioned, your insurance company will notify the state’s DMV if your auto insurance coverage ever lapses. So, you can rest assured that if you’re driving without coverage and get pulled over, the officer already knows.
However, it’s still important to carry proof of insurance with you every time you drive.
You can do this by simply printing out the insurance card that your insurer will often provide in PDF form and keeping it in your wallet or glove compartment. You can often access a digital version of your insurance card through your insurer’s mobile app, as well. However, it’s important to remember that if your phone dies or is damaged in an accident, you’ll have a problem pulling this proof up when it’s requested.
An insurance card typically has a number of personal and coverage-verifying details, including your name, policy number, the dates of valid coverage for the policy, and any vehicles covered. It may also include things like your address, the insurance company’s contact information, and even your coverage amounts.
Average Cost of Coverage in North Carolina
If you’re looking at buying an auto insurance policy in North Carolina, you may be wondering how much you can expect to pay. Well, let’s take a look at how coverage compares with the rest of the country.
Based on data from QuoteWizard, the average annual cost for auto insurance coverage in North Carolina is $655.37. While this is higher than in recent years past in the state, this is still a significant drop from the national annual average of $889.01.
The $655 average breaks down to about $54.61 a month for insurance coverage. The average annual cost for liability coverage alone, though, is $359.42. But the average for collision coverage is $293.59, and the average for comprehensive coverage is $136.04.
|Total Cost Per Year||$655.37|
|Price Per Month||$54.61|
Of course, you can expect that your actual policy cost will vary, depending on your personal factors. The vehicle you drive, your driving record, where you live in the state, and even your age can impact how much you’ll pay. Plus, you may or may not qualify for certain discounts, which would lower your cost.
Cheapest Car Insurance in North Carolina
Asking which auto insurance is the cheapest in North Carolina is a loaded question. It truly depends on the individual asking. After all, the rate a 19-year-old college kid pays will vary wildly from that of a 40-year-old soccer mom or 65-year-old grandparent.
However, you can take a look to see which companies are consistently lower priced based on certain criteria, which is exactly what we did. We used a sample policyholder a 30-year-old single male with a clean driving record, living in Charlotte and driving a 2013 Chevy Malibu--to see how different insurance companies quoted our average driver.
The easiest way to find the cheapest car insurance company is to use our auto insurance rate comparison tool:
Here’s what we found when looking at annual premiums for basic, state-minimum coverage:
|Insurance Company||Annual Premium|
|NC Farm Bureau||$1,728|
How different would our same example guy’s premiums look if he instead lived in Asheville?
|Insurance Company||Annual Premium|
|State Farm||not given|
|NC Farm Bureau||$864|
|Liberty Mutual||not given|
Your quotes may vary based on your specific ZIP Code and other individual factors. However, if you live in North Carolina, you can probably bank on Allied being one of the most affordable options for coverage.
Cost of Auto Insurance in North Carolina
There is no easy way to answer how much auto insurance costs in North Carolina. It’s a question with literally hundreds of answers.
The premiums quoted will depend on so many variables, including your:
- Marital status
- Driving record
- Vehicle(s) covered
- Whether your vehicle is financed, leased, or paid in full
- ZIP code
- Whether you own or rent your home
- Miles driven each year and the purpose of those miles (work commute, pleasure, etc.)
- How much coverage is desired
Without knowing who you are, where you live, what sort of coverage you want, and your history, there’s no solid way to answer that question. As we mentioned before, though, the average cost for auto insurance across the state is roughly $655 a year.
Even though there are so many different possibilities, we can narrow down a premium range somewhat, but utilizing a few driver profiles. These will take us through the range of costs for different types of drivers, based on their ages, driving history, and habits.
We’ve gone ahead and done just that, creating four unique sample drivers. They are different from one another in a variety of ways, and let us see how their lives impact their insurance premiums in North Carolina.
Each of our four example drivers lives in ZIP code 28771 (Black Mountain), which is in one of the lower-priced auto insurance areas within the state. Of course, you can expect areas like Fayetteville and Cumberland to have notably higher prices.
When you think of a high-risk driver, you think of someone like our first subject, Little Timmy. He is a college kid (only 22 years old) and has a number of speeding tickets under his belt (two in the last three years). He has a financed 2012 Chevy Impala, which he drives about 15,000 miles a year, and lives in a rented apartment.
Next up, we have the Smiths. John and Jane are your typical 42-year-old parents, with a mortgaged home and a couple of kids that they drive around (averaging about 16,000 miles a year). They have a paid-off 2011 Chevy Equinox and a financed 2014 Toyota Sienna, and Jane was in a minor accident a couple of years back. Both have bachelor’s degrees and great credit.
Then, there is Straight-Laced Sally (we all know one!). She is 35 years old with excellent credit, a clean driving record, and a college degree. She drives 10,000 miles a year in her 2010 Toyota Camry and owns a condo.
Last but not least, there’s Grandpa Joe. The 65-year-old lives in his paid-off home and drives a paid-off 1998 Honda Civic. His driving record is clear, he logs about 8,000 miles a year behind the wheel, and he has a bachelor’s degree.
While none of these sample subjects is likely to perfectly match you, you can probably relate to one more than the others. So, let’s see how they each compare in regards to premiums, and which companies are going to give them the best rates for state-minimum liability coverage. (Quotes provided by The Zebra)
|Little Timmy||John & Jane Smith||Straight-Laced Sally||Grandpa Joe|
|NC Farm Bureau||$120||$107||$57||$65|
|Penn National||not given||$145||$89||$89|
|Nationwide||$148||not given||$83||not given|
Speeding tickets and inexperience seem to have the biggest impact on premiums. We don’t see as significant of a difference between Sally and Joe’s rates as we have in other states. However, their premiums are almost the same even though he drives a much less expensive vehicle, leading us to believe that his rate is proportionately higher due to his older age.
North Carolinas Unique Car Insurance Rules
Every state has its own laws regarding auto insurance, and North Carolina is no different. Let’s take a look at a few of the rules and factors that will impact you, and your premiums, as a driver in the state.
Safe Driver Incentive Plan
South Carolina created The Safe Driver Incentive Plan (SDIP) in 1957 in an effort to encourage safe driving on the state’s roads by penalizing unsafe and reckless drivers with higher premiums.
This points-based system allows insurance companies to take into account certain traffic violations that have been incurred in the past three years, increasing your quoted premiums in response. It gives drivers one more reason to be safe drivers, and in a sense rewards those who are cautious behind the wheel.
Here are the ways that certain infractions will result in an increase in premiums:
Credit Can Be a Factor
In some states, insurance providers can take your credit history into account when determining your premiums/insurability. North Carolina is one of those states.
This means that auto insurers can--and often do--run a soft inquiry on your credit to get a good idea of your financial history and status. If you have a history of high debt, unpaid bills, and poor financial management, you might see that result in higher car insurance premiums. On the flip side, if you’ve worked hard over the years to build a healthy credit score, this can often mean that you’ll be quoted even lower premiums in North Carolina.
Your ZIP Code Matters
While your address isn’t the primary focus when calculating your rates, your location does play into the premiums. Depending on where you live, your rates could vary quite a bit, thanks to North Carolina allowing your residence to play in as a factor.
This isn’t just by city, though. In some areas, a mere jump to the next neighborhood over could trigger a change in premiums. Many online quotes will allow you to enter not just your ZIP code but your actual address so that you can get the most accurate quote possible.
Top Car Insurance Companies in North Carolina
If you’re wondering who the most popular and most often-chosen insurers are in the Tar Heel State, no worries. We’ve done the research to find the five companies with the largest market shares in the state, as well as how they measure up in customer satisfaction.
Of course, you shouldn’t choose a company just because it’s the most popular. You also need to see how they compare in regards to actual customers’ satisfaction ratings.
We took a look at these five insurance providers to see how both A.M. Best and JD Power ranked them. Both of these consumer-driven rating companies are great resources for gauging a company’s financial strength and reliability.
Nationwide accounts for 14.1% of the North Carolina market share, between Nationwide Mutual (7.9%) and Nationwide Property & Casualty Insurance (6.2%). Here’s what customers think about the company:
- A.M. Best: A+ (Superior) financial strength rating but aa- long-term issuer credit rating.
- JD Power: #8 in the state with a 3-star rating in overall satisfaction
This company is the second-largest auto insurance market shareholder in the state. Here’s how it measures up:
- A.M. Best: A++ (Superior) financial strength rating but aa- long-term issuer credit rating.
- JD Power: #7 in the state with a 3-star overall satisfaction rating
NC Farm Bureau
Holding 9.5% of the state’s market share, North Carolina Farm Bureau brings in a strong third place. It also does the best of all the companies mentioned here, in the ratings:
- A.M. Best: A+ rating
- JD Power: #4 with a 4-star overall satisfaction rating
While they’re ranked fourth in the state for most drivers insured, at 7.7% of the market, they have the lowest customer satisfaction rating of all the companies listed here (according to JD Power):
- A.M. Best: A+ (Superior) financial strength rating but aa- long-term issuer credit rating.
- JD Power:#15 in the state with a 2-star overall satisfaction rating
This company insures 5.4% of the North Carolina market, making it the fifth most popular insurer in the state.
- A.M. Best: A++ (Superior) financial strength rating and an aaa long-term issuer credit rating.
- JD Power: #11 in the state with a 3-star overall satisfaction rating
If you want to learn more about driving or obtaining auto insurance in North Carolina, you can view the state’s resource-rich website here. It contains many different resources, a FAQ page, and more to aid in your search.
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