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Despite slipping in the standings from the year before, the District of Columbia was one of the 10 best cities in the country for public transportation in 2019. That means a lot of people living in the nation’s capital don’t need to drive themselves on a regular basis. As a result, the District ranks pretty low on a cars-per-person basis. With a population of more than 700,000, D.C. only has about 210,000 registered automobiles, or the same as roughly one car for every three people. There are some 346,000 motor vehicles registered in total in Washington, which also includes buses, motorcycles, and some commercial trucks. 

Those vehicles are then involved in some 26,000 crashes each year, according to D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department. But that points out just one of the many factors that impact insurance rates in Washington. Another is the risk of theft. Based on statistics from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, the District sees nearly seven motor vehicles stolen every day. It adds up to approximately 2,550 auto thefts annually. This moves Washington, D.C. onto a different, less favorable top 10 list – for states with the most stolen cars per capita. 

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The numbers help explain Washington’s relatively high prices for auto insurance. Consider: We used sample driver profiles to come up with a national average auto insurance cost of $1,320 annually. The identical profiles showed that D.C. drivers had to pay about 20% more – an extra $270 a year – for the same coverage. 

D.C. also has unique geographic – and symbolic – features that combine to increase insurance pricing. First, Virginia and Maryland surround Washington, so many people live in those states but drive to work and visit in the District. Next, since it’s the capital of the country, D.C. attracts millions of drivers from the rest of the states as well. The result is that the traffic density is much higher in Washington than you’d think based only on its own population. Indeed, 75% of crashes in D.C. involve people with driver’s licenses from different states. All these extra cars mean more opportunities for accidents and more reasons for insurers to increase coverage costs.

The average cost for insurance policies would be even higher if it weren’t for Washington’s age demographics. Going by decades, the largest group of licensed drivers in D.C. is made up of people between 30 and 39 years old. That happens to be the beginning of a long stretch of time when drivers see some of the lowest insurance rates in their lives. Most people in that age bracket are old enough to be experienced drivers who can handle nearly whatever daily driving throws their way. Yet they aren’t so old that fading eyesight and slowing reflexes have started to catch up with them. It’s the sweet spot for auto insurance.

Cheapest Car Insurance Companies in D.C.

The rates shown here are based on a study performed by Quadrant Information services on behalf of U.S. News. The study examined rates from nine largest car insurance companies in the United States, using certain driver profiles. Your rates will differ.

How We Found the Cheapest Car Insurance in D.C.

At U.S. News, we’re all about helping people make life’s important decisions. Our college rankings, launched in 1983, set the standard in educational rankings. Our ranking in other fields, like healthcare, government, and the automotive sphere, help people and thought leaders make choices that make lives better. Now we’re continuing to empower you with the information you need to make the right choices for your life with our Cheapest Car Insurance Rankings.

Our Study Rates

For this study, U.S. News worked with Quadrant Information Services to analyze a report of insurance rates in all 50 states from the 10 largest national car insurance companies, though not every company operates in every state Quadrant obtained publicly available rate data that car insurers file with state regulators. Our study rates are based on profiles for both male and female drivers aged 25, 35, and 60. Vehicles used include the 2015 Honda Civic, 2015 Toyota RAV4, and 2015 Ford-F-150, with annual mileage ranging from 6,000 and 12,000. 

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Three car insurance coverage levels were used, as were credit tiers of good, fair, and poor. Clean driving records and records with one accident, one speeding violation, and one DUI were also used in the calculations of certain driver archetypes. To get the state-wide study rates shown here, we computed the mean rate for male and female drivers ages 25, 35 and 60 who drive 12,000 miles per year, have medium coverage, good credit and a clean driving record. The rates shown here are for comparative purposes only and should not be considered “average” rates available by individual insurers. Because car insurance rates are based on individual factors, your car insurance rates will differ from the rates shown here.

How Much Does Car Insurance Cost in D.C.?

See the Cheapest Car Insurance Companies

When we looked at data from our sample driver profiles, the annual average representative cost of a car insurance policy in Washington came out to be $1,590. Maryland and Virginia compare with averages of $1,550 and $945, respectively, for the same profiles. Again with the same parameters, the national average was $1,320 per year. The short story: D.C. is a costly place to insure a car. 

Two insurers actually broke the $2,000-a-year mark in our study of D.C insurance rates. Again relying on the information from our hypothetical driver profiles, the average representative price of coverage from Nationwide was $2,205.89. Allstate’s study rate was $2,539.11. You’re paying almost double the national average at that stage. 

Some companies could reduce your expenses significantly, however. Leading the way in terms of low costs in our study were USAA and Geico. They provided representative quotes of $765.56 and $877.33, in that order, when using our sample driver profiles.

D.C. Car Insurance Rates by Age

We already touched on how age affects insurance premiums in general, and now we’ll dive deeper into D.C.’s specific demographics. Right off the bat, your age and gender can be hugely influential on how much you pay for auto insurance. So we tested their effect in Washington with a series of standardized driver profiles that were based on men and women at three age levels: 25, 35, and 60 years old. The profiles had good driving records and drove 12,000 miles annually. We took into account vehicle types by setting up profiles for the same drivers in a 2015 Honda Civic car, a 2015 Toyota RAV4 crossover, and a 2015 Ford F-150 pickup. Every one of our hypothetical drivers had good credit, too, along with a medium level of insurance coverage.

The largest variations in policy costs in our data were at the two extremes. For Washington driver profiles at the youngest age we analyzed – 25 years old – the average annual insurance costs in our study for the female profiles was $120 a year lower than for the male ones. In fact, the profiles for 25-year-old men returned the highest representative premiums in the age-related component of our D.C. study: $1,850 per year. Turning to driver profiles for women and men aged 60, the advantage for the former was $50 annually. This is based on average annual insurance outlays in our study of $1,410 for the female sample profiles and $1,460 for the profiles of men. A mere $20 separated the representative premiums for men and women at the age of 35. In that case, the average insurance study quotes for our sample profiles for women came in at $1,530 per year. The cost climbed to $1,550 for male profiles. 

Company

25-year-old male

25-year-old female

35-year-old male

35-year-old female

60-year-old male

60-year-old female

Allstate

$2,861.67

$2,649.67

$2,540.67

$2,446.33

$2,474.33

$2,262.00

Geico

$840.00

$883.00

$905.00

$860.00

$888.00

$888.00

Nationwide

$2,664.00

$2,457.00

$2,146.00

$2,133.00

$1,944.33

$1,891.00

Progressive

$1,820.57

$1,716.14

$1,370.58

$1,431.74

$1,309.05

$1,276.47

State Farm

$1,966.67

$1,788.33

$1,624.67

$1,624.67

$1,476.67

$1,476.67

USAA

$959.00

$873.67

$709.00

$701.67

$681.33

$668.67

D.C. Car Insurance Rates by Credit Score

 Statistics show that there’s a direct correlation between drivers’ credit histories and the chance that insurance companies will have to pay an auto insurance claim. The lower the former, the higher the latter. 

To see the effect of credit scores on insurance costs in Washington, we created a series of similar driving profiles for men and women who had good, fair, or poor credit. All profiles represented customers who drive 12,000 miles a year, have a clean driving record, and are shopping for medium levels of insurance. Digging deeper, we also ran the same profiles for people at 25, 35, and 60 years of age, and when they’re driving a 2015 Honda Civic, a 2015 Toyota RAV4, and a 2015 Ford F-150.

The outcome? For driver profiles created with good credit scores, the average yearly cost in our analysis for auto insurance was $1,590. Representative rates jumped to $1,870 when the sample drivers had fair credit histories. Poor credit tacks on almost $1,270 more each year over the profile with good credit. Representative driver profiles in that case had a study rate of $2,860 annually. 

Company

Good

Fair

Poor

Allstate

$2,539.11

$2,797.94

$3,470.39

Geico

$877.33

$1,096.00

$2,230.67

Nationwide

$2,205.89

$2,374.28

$3,300.72

Progressive

$1,487.43

$1,923.60

$3,043.34

State Farm

$1,659.61

$2,084.61

$3,325.11

USAA

$765.56

$957.50

$1,798.94

D.C. Car Insurance Rates by Driving Record

Beyond your credit history, insurers also take a close look at your driving history when they calculate their premiums. That’s because a record of moving violations might be a good indication of risky driving behavior – the kind that’s more likely to lead to insurance claims. The study rates for car insurance certainly reflects this in Washington, D.C. Sample quotes for our profiles with clean driving records averaged $1,590 per year. From that benchmark, annual costs in our analysis rose to $1,840 with the very first speeding ticket. The average annual representative policy price when an accident was included on our profiles was $2,200. Finally, with a conviction for driving under the influence (DUI), our representative drivers faced study rates above $2,500 per year. It’s a more than $900 difference versus sample profiles with clear driving records. 

These study rates are drawn from our curated driver profiles for men and women at ages 25, 35, and 60. Our profile criteria also include good credit scores, medium levels of coverage, and 12,000 miles of annual driving in three vehicles: a 2015 Honda Civic, a 2015 Toyota RAV4, and 2015 Ford F-150.

Company

Clean record

With 1 speeding violation

With 1 accident

With 1 DUI

Allstate

$2,539.11

$2,934.72

$3,335.61

$3,223.06

Geico

$877.33

$926.67

$1,433.83

$2,493.33

Nationwide

$2,205.89

$2,499.83

$3,179.06

$4,223.11

Progressive

$1,487.43

$1,928.77

$2,196.72

$1,858.29

State Farm

$1,659.61

$1,818.44

$1,976.89

$1,818.44

USAA

$765.56

$927.78

$1,055.44

$1,483.33

D.C. Car Insurance Rates by Coverage Type

Of course, not all drivers want the same amount of insurance protection. With that in mind, we also varied our profiles by high, medium, and low coverage levels. What we kept the same were details such as having both a good credit score and an accident-free driving record. Also in place was our 12,000-mile annual driving limit with 2015 model-year examples of the Honda Civic, Toyota RAV4, and Ford F-150. In terms of personal characteristics, our sample rates averaged the data from female and male driver profiles represented as 25, 35, and 60 years old.

The lowest insurance levels naturally required the lowest outlays in our study. Specifying the very least amount of coverage with our profiles led to average insurance representative costs of $1,510 annually. The study rates increased to $1,590 yearly for medium levels of coverage. Maxing out coverage levels for the sample drivers took the average annual price of auto insurance in our analysis to $1,660. 

Just remember: You don’t want to be penny-wise and pound-foolish. The difference in premiums between the highest and lowest levels of coverage in Washington ended up being $150 a year (or about $12.50 per month). This is definitely a non-negligible amount of cash for most people. However, if you’re only carrying a minimal amount of car insurance and you do get into an accident, you could be on the hook for quite a bit more. 

Company

Low

Medium

High

Allstate

$2,451.78

$2,539.11

$2,654.22

Geico

$837.00

$877.33

$919.67

Nationwide

$2,097.33

$2,205.89

$2,264.11

Progressive

$1,419.13

$1,487.43

$1,551.83

State Farm

$1,529.61

$1,659.61

$1,767.22

USAA

$733.00

$765.56

$801.83

D.C. Car Insurance Rates by Annual Mileage

You might think that the number of miles you drive each year would have a major impact on your auto insurance rates. After all, the longer you’re on the road, the shorter your odds of getting into a crash. This really wasn’t the case in Washington, though. The average car insurance policy had a study rate of $1,530 per year when we set a 6,000-mile annual limit for our profiles. Raising the limit twice as high – to 12,000 miles a year – only changed representative premiums by 4%. At that mileage, the cost for the same policy came to $1,590 for the longer-distance driver profiles.

Note that these rates are for illustration purposes only. They are based on driver profiles for 25-, 35-, and 60-year-old men and women with a clean driving history and good credit records. To further expand our sample size, profiles were created for a medium level of insurance on a trio of popular vehicles: the 2015 Ford F-150, 2015 Toyota RAV4, and 2015 Honda Civic. 

Company

6,000 miles annually

12,000 miles annually

Allstate

$2,539.11

$2,539.11

Geico

$794.50

$877.33

Nationwide

$2,205.89

$2,205.89

Progressive

$1,487.42

$1,487.43

State Farm

$1,429.78

$1,659.61

USAA

$711.39

$765.56

D.C. Auto Insurance Minimum Coverage Requirements

If you plan on registering a car in Washington, D.C., you should also plan on getting auto insurance. You can’t legally do the first until you’ve acquired the second. Moreover, the District requires a certain minimum amount of insurance coverage for all drivers:

  • Bodily injury liability: $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident
  • Property damage liability: $10,000 per accident

Additionally, insurers have to offer the following coverage, although it can be declined by drivers:

  • Uninsured motorist property damage: $5,000 with a $200 deductible
  • Underinsured motorist bodily injury: $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident

The bodily injury liability coverage is essentially for other peoples’ injuries or deaths that occurred in an accident you caused. Property damage liability covers other peoples’ physical property, including their vehicles, in the same situations. The coverage for uninsured and underinsured motorists is more like protection against those folks. This insurance is designed to pay for your injuries or damages if there’s an accident caused by drivers who either don’t have coverage of their own or don’t have enough.

You should also know that if you have your license or registration revoked in D.C., you may face additional requirements. These include having your insurer file an SR22 certificate as proof of your future financial responsibility. 

Cheapest Car Insurance in D.C.

Note: Due to USAA's limited membership, we excluded them from this segment evaluation.

Category

Cheapest Company

Drivers with a Military Affiliation

USAA

Single Young Adult Drivers

Geico

Married Adult Drivers

Geico

Senior Drivers

Geico

Drivers with Good Credit

Geico

Drivers with Poor Credit

Geico

Drivers with a Clean Record

Geico

Drivers with One Speeding Violation

Geico

Drivers with One Accident

Geico

Drivers with One DUI

State Farm

Low-mileage Drivers

Geico

High-mileage Drivers

Geico

Drivers with Low Coverage

Geico

Drivers with High Coverage

Geico

Drivers with Used Cars

Geico

Drivers with New Cars

Geico

We established which companies have the lowest average insurance representative rates in Washington, D.C., by comparing prices for a wide span of drivers. Included were sample profiles for women and men, all with clear driving histories. Additionally, we ran the profiles for drivers at three ages – 25, 35, and 60 – and with a medium level of insurance coverage. We held credit scores constant at “good” in each situation, while limiting miles driven to 12,000 per year. As for what was driven, our vehicle examples were the 2015 Toyota RAV4, 2015 Ford F-150, and 2015 Honda Civic.

Allstate finished up with the most expensive coverage in Washington, D.C. The average annual cost in our study of an auto policy with that company was $2,540 – $340 per year higher than for Nationwide, the next-most costly insurer, according to our analysis. The good news is that much lower prices were available. Geico checked in with an average policy representative price of $880 per year, and USAA undercut all rivals at $765 a year. That said, only military members and their families are eligible for insurance with USAA. 

Why Car Insurance Rates Vary in D.C.

The simple story here is that insurance companies have to charge enough in premiums so that they make a profit after paying their claims. To do this, insurers set their rates based on how likely a driver is to file a claim in the future. And how do they figure that out? It’s not personal. Insurers back their decisions with statistics that show what factors are most closely correlated with filing auto insurance claims. D.C. denizens then pay different rates depending on how all those factors intermingle on their own insurance applications.

Right off the bat, the statistics indicate that younger drivers file more claims than older drivers, which makes sense. If you’re older, you’ve probably been driving for a longer time and have more experience behind the wheel to help you avoid accidents. Your driving history can reflect your driving skills as well, so this is another part of the rate-setting process for insurers. 

Pure math puts credit scores into the mix. They may seem unrelated to driving, but the numbers indicate that people with worse credit happen to file an increased number of claims.

The flip side to all this is that drivers with the opposite characteristics tend to make fewer claims and cost insurers less money. You can see lower insurance costs when you’re an older driver who has both good credit and a good driving record.

How to Get the Cheapest Car Insurance in D.C.

There’s not much you can do about the factors we just mentioned when you apply for insurance. For instance, you can’t go back in time and clean up your driving record to lower your coverage pricing. Yet that still leaves a broad range of strategies available for getting better rates. 

Merely shopping around can make a huge difference in what you pay. In our study, the average annual insurance quote was $1,775 less at the cheapest company than at the most expensive. Even if we take USAA out of the equation – because of its limited customer base – the difference is a significant $1,660 per year between the next-cheapest company, Geico, and the most expensive. You can also maximize savings by getting new quotes each year. 

Richard Drury / Getty Images

Be sure to ask about all possible discounts, too. You can start with the ones we’ve already discussed, like price breaks for good credit scores and clean driving records. It’s also common to see discounts for bundling home, auto, and other types of insurance with the same company. More ways to save on insurance include discounts for:

  • Students with good grades
  • People who pass qualified defensive driving classes
  • Members of organizations such as credit unions, college alumni associations and veterans groups

Some companies offer a high-tech opportunity for insurance discounts. They’ll put a tracking device in your vehicle and custom-tailor pricing based on your specific real-world driving habits. 

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Important Laws Around Auto Insurance in D.C.

Washington, D.C., follows a “no-fault” approach to auto insurance claims. If you are in an accident and are injured, you have to file a claim with your own insurance company first, regardless of who caused the accident. In certain cases involving permanent disfigurement or disability, a victim who is not at fault – at all – can still sue for damages from the party who did cause the accident. To be clear, any amount of “contributory negligence” on the part of the victim will bar the suit. Also, the statute of limitations for starting one of these actions is three years after the time the injury occurred. The no-fault laws do not apply to property damage, however. The insurance company of the driver who caused the accident pays for the damages to the other party's vehicle.

For proof of insurance and vehicle registration, the District now allows drivers to display their “cards” in digital form on smartphones or other digital devices. Don’t worry about privacy, either. Per Washington’s statutes, letting law-enforcement officers see your phone for insurance purposes does not give them consent to look at anything else on it. 

D.C. Driving Laws and Punishments

Washington prohibits the use of mobile phones or other electronic devices while driving, but with a few exceptions. Calling with a hands-free system is allowed, as is calling first responders or hospitals in an emergency. Similarly, emergency personnel and law-enforcement officers can use their phones when it’s for their jobs. A violation is penalized by a $100 fine. If it’s your first time violating the statute, the fine for calling will be suspended if you can prove you have a qualifying hands-free phone system. There’s no such alternative if the violation is for texting. Regardless, the offense is considered a moving violation in D.C. – although points are not added to your driving record unless the violation led to an accident.

Driving after consuming alcohol or drugs, including marijuana, is handled according to two criteria in D.C. Drivers are considered impaired when alcohol or drugs affects their ability to control a vehicle “in a way that can be perceived or noticed.” The penalties for driving while impaired start with a fine of $500, up to 90 days in jail, or both. For the most serious situations, a third violation can lead to a $5,000 fine, a year’s imprisonment. Washington also will suspend your license at the same time. 

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With driving under the influence, or DUI, the focus is less on your observable behavior and more on the amount of drugs or alcohol that’s actually inside of you. It works like this: A first-time conviction for DUI is punished by a $1,000 fine and/or up to 180 days in prison. Washington then enforces mandatory jail time depending on the results of blood, breath, or urine tests. For example, a 10-day minimum sentence is required for drivers with an alcohol concentration level of .20 grams per either 100 milliliters of blood, .20 grams per 210 milliliters of breath, or .32 grams per 100 milliliters of urine. Traces of Schedule I drugs and controlled substances in a driver’s body will trigger mandatory jail time as well.

 With a third DUI violation, fines start at $2,500 and can climb to $10,000, and convicted drivers can spend up to a year in jail. Again, mandatory sentences are required based on blood alcohol concentration levels. 

Washington, D.C., Car Insurance FAQs

Is car insurance required in Washington, D.C.?

Yes, drivers are required to carry bodily injury liability coverage and property damage liability coverage in Washington, D.C. 

Which cars are required to be insured in Washington, D.C.?

Any motor vehicle that is registered in D.C. needs to be insured. The District also offers reciprocity stickers for the many residents who maintain primary homes elsewhere but have their cars in Washington. If a vehicle qualifies for one of these stickers, it also has to be insured. Finally, non-resident vehicle owners need the minimum amount of insurance for any time that vehicle is in D.C.

When should I get car insurance in Washington, D.C.?

Residents have to move quickly, as Washington requires that you get your car insured immediately after purchase. Non-residents who live in the District have to acquire the minimum amount of insurance within 30 days. That’s because they need to register their vehicles within 30 days and insurance is necessary for that. 

What happens if my car is not properly insured in Washington, D.C.?

The District of Columbia has fines for both driving a vehicle without insurance as well as for having an uninsured vehicle registered in the city (even if it's not being driven). Owning an uninsured vehicle registered in D.C. can earn you a fine of $150. If after 30 days you do not provide the DMV with proof of insurance, the fine will go up by $7 for each subsequent day, up to a possible total of $2,500. Your driver's license may also be suspended for up to 60 days. 

If you're caught driving an uninsured vehicle in D.C., the fine is $500 for the first offense. The fine increases by 50% for each subsequent violation (for example $750 for the second offense and $1,125 for the third). You may also have your license suspended for up to 60 days.

Is Washington, D.C. a no-fault state?

Yes, D.C. is a no-fault state, which means you're required to file a claim against you own insurance company in the case of any accident, even if it wasn’t your fault. You are allowed to file a civil action against the responsible party in a few situations, but only if you aren’t to blame for any part of the crash. 

Do I need uninsured motorist coverage in Washington, D.C.?

No, uninsured motorist coverage is not required in D.C. However, insurance companies are required by law to offer coverage for accidents involving underinsured motorists, but drivers can decline it.

Is liability insurance required in Washington, D.C.?

Yes, liability insurance for both bodily injury and property damage is necessary. This includes coverage of $25,00 per person and $50,000 per accident for bodily injuries or death. The required coverage for property damage is $10,000 for each accident.

Does Washington, D.C. accept digital insurance cards?

Yes, digital insurance cards are currently valid alternatives to paper ones for drivers in Washington.