Luckily, we took the time to do the research for you. In this article, you’ll find everything you need to compare and choose the best auto insurance policy, as well as everything you need to know about legally driving in the Commonwealth. We’ll talk about Virginia laws, regulations and requirements, factors that will impact your premium costs, and even the companies that have the best reputations in the state.
When you’re done, you should not only know exactly what you need from the next auto insurance policy you purchase, but also who to buy from and why.
Table of Contents:
Compare Car Insurance Plans in Virginia
Our Top Five Picks for the Best Car Insurance in Virginia
When shopping around for auto insurance policies in Virginia, you have plenty of options. Of course, it’s important to remember that your rates will vary greatly depending on a number of individual factors: your exact location, the vehicle you drive and coverage you select, and even your personal driving record.
Based on consumer ratings and our own research, these are our top five picks for auto insurance providers in the state:
- Best Overall Satisfaction: Amica Mutual
- Best Customer Service: Amica Mutual or USAA (if you’re a member)
- Lowest Premiums: USAA or GEICO
- Great If You Have a Perfect Record: Cincinnati Insurance
- Best If You Have a Less-Than-Perfect Record: State Farm
Virginia Auto Insurance Requirements
Here is a comprehensive look at your legal requirements regarding minimum auto insurance coverage in the state of Virginia. These include bodily injury and property damage liability coverage, as well as mandatory uninsured/under-insured motorist coverage.
Coverage for bodily injury liability pays for injuries that someone else may sustain due to accident for which you are considered at-fault. If multiple people are injured, your insurance company will still only cover up to the maximum amount allowed based on your policy–which means that they will split the payout, and it may or may not cover all of their expenses.
Because of this, you may want to consider additional coverage beyond the state minimum, especially if you have assets for which you could be sued.
Coverage for property liability damage pays out in response to damages sustained by an accident for which you are at-fault. This could include other vehicles, damaged buildings or structures, and even objects like light posts or road signs.
Coverage for uninsured/underinsured motorists is something that not all states require, but Virginia does. This coverage will help pay for your damages or injuries if you’re in an accident that is another driver’s fault, but that driver either doesn’t hold liability coverage at all or simply doesn’t have enough coverage.
When choosing your perfect policy, you can certainly opt for a policy that provides additional coverage, above the numbers shown below. Just keep in mind that these are the minimums that must be met by your auto policy.
|Bodily Damage Liability|
|Death or injury of one person in any one accident||$25,000 minimum|
|Death or injury of 2+ people in any one accident||$50,000 minimum|
|Property Damage Liability||$20,000 minimum|
|Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist||Same as liability coverage ($25k/$50k/$20k)|
Virginia also allows drivers to pay a fee in order to drive as an uninsured motorist.
If for any reason you are unable or unwilling to obtain state minimum auto insurance while registering your vehicle, you can choose to instead pay a fee of $500 to the Virginia DMV. This option, called the Uninsured Motor Vehicle (UMV) fee, will allow you to legally drive without the state-mandated minimum auto insurance coverage for a total of 12 months. If you need to be uninsured for a shorter period of time, this fee can also be prorated.
Keep in mind, though, that this will not protect you in any way should you get in an at-fault car accident. If you are responsible for damages or injuries caused by an auto accident, you will still have to pay for the other driver’s damages out of your own pocket.
Of course, unless you are financially able to self-insure–and aren’t concerned about the chance of being sued for your assets in the case of an at-fault accident–this route is generally unwise. Auto insurance is an important and protective product, and the damages/injuries from even a small accident can add up very quickly.
The Commonwealth can electronically track your insured motorist coverage, thanks to help from auto insurance companies. Tracking is done through the VA State Insurance Verification Program. If you do not carry a valid policy at all times while driving in the state, you are considered an uninsured driver. This is illegal.
Failure to carry at least the state-mandated minimum coverage in Virginia (or pay the optional UMV $500 annual fee, to waive your requirement), can result in some hefty fees and penalties.
If you are pulled over or get in an accident and do not have minimum coverage, you will likely be ticketed for violating state law by driving uninsured. (Again, this doesn’t apply if you’ve paid the fee to do so.) With this violation, you risk the suspension of your driver’s license, your vehicle registration, and your license plates.
If this suspension occurs, you’ll need to complete the following three tasks in order to reinstate each of the above:
- Pay a $500 fine
- Pay a driver’s license reinstatement fee (ranging from $145-220)
- File an SR-22 proof of insurance certification and carry this for a minimum of three years
It can’t be stressed enough that getting in an accident while uninsured–even if you’ve paid the DMV annual fee–can ruin you financially. Plus, if you haven’t paid the UMV fee and are essentially driving illegally, you’re likely to earn yourself legal repercussions from the state on top of a substantial bill for damages and injuries from the other driver(s).
SR-22 and FR-44
If you’re convicted of certain driving offenses, you’ll not only be ticketed and fined–in addition to likely having your license suspended–but you’ll also earn yourself an SR-22 or FR-44 requirement.
If you’re caught driving without suitable auto insurance, obtaining an SR-22 will be a condition of your license reinstatement. A conviction of a DUI or driving with a suspended license, you’ll probably be required to obtain an FR-44.
Keep in mind that either of these requirements means that you no longer have the option to pay the $500 annual UMV fee and bypass auto insurance–you’re now required to purchase an auto policy with a minimum amount of state coverage.
The SR-22 and FR-44 certificates are not insurance policies on their own; they’re simply a certification from your auto insurance company that says you do indeed carry a valid, high-risk policy in the state. The act of simply filing for either of these will likely hike your rates substantially.
Lastly, it’s important to note that the FR-44 certificate also requires a raised limit on state minimum coverage levels. This means that instead of carrying $25k/$50k for bodily injury and $20k for property damage liability, you’ll now need a policy with minimums of $50k/$100k and $40k, respectively. Plus, you’ll need to carry uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage for the same higher limits.
Proof of Insurance
It’s not just important to hold a policy with the minimum required coverage. It’s also wise to carry proof of that coverage with you every time you get behind the wheel.
Since Virginia allows drivers to opt out of minimum insurance coverage, you’ll need to either provide a copy of your insurance card or proof of payment of the UMV fee in the event of an accident or citation. If you’re unable to provide such, you may be ticketed for being unable to provide proof of insurance.
If you do have coverage and simply didn’t have proof on-hand, you can usually take this to court at a later date and have the ticket dismissed (often with minimal court fees).
Most insurance companies will provide you with a hardcopy of your insurance card, or a PDF version that you can print at home. Some companies also have mobile apps where you can quickly pull up proof of coverage; in the case of a dead phone battery, though, it’s wise to have a printed version in your glove box anyway.
Proof of insurance cards typically include a number of personal tidbits, including the policyholder’s name and address, the policy number itself, dates of coverage, and any vehicles covered under the policy.
Average Cost of Coverage in Virginia
Let’s talk about how much you can expect to pay for minimum auto coverage in the Virginia Commonwealth.
Based on rates provided by QuoteWizard, we found that the total average cost for coverage in the state is $743.14, or $61.93 a month. Broken down, we find that drivers spend an average of $427.94 on liability coverage, $273.70 on collision coverage, and an average of $134.50 on comprehensive coverage.
As mentioned, your individual policy can be very different from these average numbers. Depending on the vehicle(s) you drive, what your driving record looks like, your age and marital status, whether you own your home, and even where you live in the state can all play a role in premium costs. Plus, you may or may not qualify for discounts through certain companies.
Cheapest Car Insurance in Virginia
Asking which company offers the “cheapest” auto insurance in the state is a loaded question, especially since so many factors are at play. The company who insures your grandpa and his old truck might be the cheapest for him, but it probably won’t be the cheapest for an 18 year-old in a sports car.
We took the time to compare a few of the more popular companies in Virginia, though, to see how they measured up against one another. To level the playing field, our test subject was a single, 30 year-old male driving a 2013 Chevrolet Malibu. He lives in Richmond and has a clean driving record.
Here’s a look at how the companies measured up:
|Insurance Company||Annual Premium|
One very interesting thing about searching for auto quotes in Virginia is that your credit score will be taken into account. This isn’t the case with all states — for example, California, Hawaii, and Massachusetts prohibit this practice.
Now, let’s take a look at how our guy’s premiums would change if he lived further north–say, in Fairfax, VA.
Let’s take a look at how our same example guy would fare if he instead lived in LA.
|Insurance Company||Annual Premium|
His premiums did go up a bit based on the new location. Luckily, though, his Good credit score and clean driving record kept prices from jumping too far.
Keep in mind that your own personal specs will play a large role in premiums, as will your location. In Virginia, though, it’s safe to say that Cincinnati Insurance and State Farm are two of the more affordable options on average.
Cost of Auto Insurance in Virginia
Don’t expect a single answer if you ask, “How much does auto insurance cost in Virginia?” This question has literally hundreds of possible responses, all dependent on any number of variables. In Virginia, these include:
- 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
- Your credit score
No, there’s no easy way to answer that question without having all of your personal information on-hand. However, it’s safe to gauge a general price range off of the average price of premiums for all Virginia drivers, or $734 a year (average of $428 a year for state minimum coverage).
Let’s take that a step further, though, and see if we can narrow down these numbers even more. This will give you a better idea of what you can expect to pay in the state.
To do so, let’s compare four different groups of sample drivers. Each has a unique profile and, as a result, receives different premium quotes. You’ll be able to see how each of their habits, histories, and driving styles affects the cost of their coverage.
Each of our four example profiles reside in ZIP code 22554, which is a mid-range area for auto insurance costs in the state. Keep in mind that areas closer to Washington, DC are likely to have higher premiums.
Little Timmy is a stereotypical high-risk driver. He’s 22 years-old, has Fair credit, is finishing up college, and drives around in a 2012 Chevrolet Impala that he financed. He spends most of his time in the fast lane, and has two recent speeding tickets to show for it (but no accidents). He drives across town to work each day, which averages out to about 15,000 miles a year, and rents his apartment.
John and Jane Smith are just average, 42 year-old parents. They’re paying down the mortgage on their modest home, graduated college, and drive a 2011 Chevrolet Equinox (that they own) as well as a 2014 Toyota Sienna (that’s financed). They take their kids to swim practice and ballet each week, which means they drive an average of around 16,000 miles a year. Both have Good credit scores, and Jane accidentally rear-ended someone a couple of years ago (it was a very minor incident).
Then we have Straight-Laced Sally, who is 35. She owns a 2010 Toyota Camry and drives around 10,000 miles a year. She paid off her condo last year, has her bachelor’s degree, and boasts a crystal clean driving record–not a single accident or traffic ticket in over 10 years! Of course, her credit is also Excellent.
Lastly, welcome Grandpa Joe. He’s 65 years young and enjoys Sunday drives in his 1998 Honda Civic (for a total of 8,000 miles a year). He has a college degree, owns his home, and hasn’t had a traffic ticket or accident since 1994. He doesn’t believe in credit cards, but has a Good credit score.
While none of them are likely to be a perfect fit, which of these examples do you most closely relate to, for insurance purposes? Let’s see they measure up to one another when it comes to obtaining policy quotes in Virginia for basic, state-minimum liability coverage. (Quotes provided by thezebra.com.)
|Little Timmy||John & Jane Smith||Straight-Laced Sally||Grandpa Joe|
As you can tell, a history of accidents and citations seem to have more of an impact on quoted premiums than any other factor, followed by one’s credit score and age.
Virginia’s Unique Car Insurance Rules
There are a few state-specific rules in Virginia that will impact your premiums in either direction.
Drivers in Virginia can take advantage of a number of discounts from their auto insurance company. These include:
- Safe driver discounts
- Good student discounts
- Anti-theft discounts
- Safety features discounts (such as airbags)
- Multi-car discounts
- Homeowners discounts
The company you ultimately choose will determine whether these discounts are available to you, but the majority of companies in Virginia will offer most, if not all, of them.
Credit Is a Factor
In many states, insurance providers will take into account your credit history when determining your insurability. If you are insured in Virginia, expect to be quoted based on your creditworthiness.
For drivers in the Commonwealth, credit history will play a notable factor in determining both approval and premium costs. Depending on the credit history you’ve built over the years, this may be a good thing or a bad thing for your wallet!
Location Is, Too
Location doesn’t play as significant a factor in Virginia as it may in other states, but it will impact your premiums. Living in a rural part of the state will likely mean much lower premiums than if you lived in the heart of Northern Virginia.
You can expect your locale to be less important than your driving record, personal factors, and credit history, but just know that it’s still a part of the calculation.
If you have trouble getting the state-required minimum coverage ($25,000/$50,000/$20,000) in Virginia, you may be eligible to apply for the state-sponsored insurance program. This program was designed for high-risk drivers who may find it difficult to get approved for coverage on the voluntary market.
This program, called the Virginia Automobile Insurance Plan (or VAIP), was started in 1945 to help these drivers. It isn’t actually an insurance policy, however; it’s an organization that takes high-risk drivers who otherwise aren’t eligible, and “assigns” them to car insurance companies.
The frequency of these types of assignments are done in proportion to the amount of the state market that each company holds. Your policy, premiums, etc. will all be managed by the individual insurance company once you’ve been assigned, not VAIP. Keep in mind that you also cannot request a certain company, and your premiums are still likely to be quite high. The purpose of the program isn’t to obtain low-cost insurance, though–it’s to simply get you approved for any insurance.
In order to qualify, you’ll need to meet a few requirements. These include having a valid driver’s license, living in Virginia, and having a vehicle that is (or will be) registered in Virginia. You also much show proof that you’ve attempted to obtain coverage on the voluntary market within the last 60 days, to no avail.
Once you’re approved and assigned to an insurer, that insurer must offer you coverage for three years. After that time, they can either offer to renew your policy voluntarily or drop your coverage. If you’re still a high-risk driver and they don’t offer to renew your policy, VAIP will reassign you to a new insurer for another three years.
To find out more and learn if you qualify for VAIP, visit this page.
Top Car Insurance Companies in Virginia
Are you curious which auto insurers are the most popular in the Commonwealth? Here’s a look at five of the top providers which, combined, hold about 45% of the total market in the state:
Wondering how each of these companies measures up in customer satisfaction? We looked at scores and ratings from two of the most popular ratings bureaus, A.M. Best and JD Power, on the top five insurance providers in the state.
It’s interesting to note that while JD Power conducted a number of state-specific auto insurance surveys, they didn’t do one for Virginia. Instead, we will look at the study based on the New Engl and area.
State Farm is the largest auto insurance market shareholder in the state, insuring 15.3% of Virginia drivers. Here’s what its customers think:
- A.M. Best: “A++” rating
- JD Power: #5 in the New England region with a 3-star overall satisfaction rating
GEICO is the second-largest insurer in Virginia, holding a total 10.8% market share.
- A.M. Best: “A++” rating
- JD Power: #4 in the New England region with a 4-star overall satisfaction rating
Nationwide is the third-largest insurer in Virginia, holding a 6.7% market share.
- A.M. Best: “A+” rating
- JD Power: #9 in the New England region with a 3-star overall satisfaction rating
USAA holds the place of the fourth-largest insurer in Virginia, with a 6.5% market share. Of course, the company is only available to members, so it’s interesting to see them rank so high in the state. However, with the DC area’s large military population, it makes sense. Plus, USAA is known for their excellent customer service ratings.
- A.M. Best: “A++” rating
- JD Power: #2 in the New England region with a 5-star overall satisfaction rating
Allstate is the fifth-largest insurer with a 5.4% market share.
- A.M. Best: “A+” rating
- JD Power: #8 in the New England region with a 3-star overall satisfaction rating
JD Power took it a step further and shared their Northeast Region rankings for customer satisfaction, as well. It’s interesting to see USAA take the lead (though they are separated off from the chart, likely because of their membership requirement), while GEICO and State Farm maintained their #4 and #5 positions, respectively, and Allstate/Nationwide both dropped a spot.
If you want to learn more about being an insured driver in Virginia, here is a helpful PDF guide with tons of information. You can access it here.
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