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Well known for its natural beauty, Montana showcases 55 state parks within its borders. It’s also home to Glacier National Park and the north and west entrances to Yellowstone National Park. But the Big Sky State has another distinction, too. It’s especially easy – and cheap – for non-residents to register vehicles in Montana. In fact, neither the driver nor the vehicle ever has to be in the state to complete the process. Nor does Montana charge fees like sales tax, which alone can add thousands of dollars to registration costs for premium vehicles. As a result, thousands of people living outside of the state register their vehicles there anyway to save money. This definitely skews the registration figures. So more than 1.4 million total light vehicles are registered in Montana even though the state’s population is just over 1 million people. If you tally up all of Montana’s registered vehicles, including boats, snowmobiles, and RVs, the number tops 2.9 million. 

Montana’s motor vehicles attract more thieves than you might think, too. The FBI’s Uniform Crimes Report indicates that approximately 2,600 vehicles are reported stolen each year in the state. That may not seem like a lot, yet it’s more on a per capita basis than any of the four states on Montana’s borders – much more, in some cases. For example, comparing Montana and Idaho, there are nearly twice as many cars stolen per 100,000 people in the former than in the latter. Montana drivers also have to deal with roughly 23,000 crashes annually, according to the Montana Department of Transportation. 

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Those increased risk factors have the expected effect on auto insurance: Montanans tend to pay premiums that are higher than the national average. Now, the difference isn’t that large. Our research, which is detailed below, recently used sample driver profiles to investigate the average annual car insurance costs across the country. Car insurance expenses in Montana were about 4.5% higher than the overall average for the United States. On the other hand, all of Montana’s neighbors were under that U.S. mark by at least a few bucks. Idaho’s average annual insurance premiums were almost 30% cheaper than for the nation as a whole. 

Also working to increase the cost of insurance in Montana is the age of its driving population. True, the state doesn’t have very many younger drivers, who usually have the least experience and have to pay the highest rates. Only about 5% of all licensed drivers in Montana are 19 or younger. The upward pressure on expenses comes at the opposite end of the spectrum, from drivers whose reflexes and vision may be starting to decline. Nearly a quarter of Montana’s licensed driving population is 65 or older. That’s exactly the age when average policy costs begin rising again for most drivers. 

Helping to moderate car insurance prices is the fact that Montana drivers have among the shortest commutes in the country. Less time on the road, driving near fewer vehicles, means fewer opportunities for accidents. This means fewer rate increases as well, and the average travel time to work in Montana is a mere 17.3 minutes. 

Cheapest Car Insurance Companies in Montana

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 Montana

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. 

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.

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How Much Does Car Insurance Cost in Montana?

See the Cheapest Car Insurance Companies

Based on our profile-driven data, the average cost of a representative auto insurance policy was $1,380 per year in the state of Montana. That compares to a national average of $1,320 a year using the exact same sample profiles. And as we mentioned, Montana is smack dab in the middle of four other states with lower insurance pricing in our study. Three out of four of those neighbors had annual average sample rates of $1,250 or lower.

For Montana, our hypothetical drivers received the lowest quotes from USAA, which is only available to military members and their families. This company’s rate in our study was $720 annually. Geico and State Farm had the least-expensive prices among companies with wider eligibility. Outlays for that pair were at $1,030 and $1,055 per year, respectively. Things jumped pretty quickly after that. The rest of the insurers topped $1,500 a year, according to our research, with the average from Progressive – the priciest company in our analysis of Montana insurers – reaching an annual sum of $1,835.

Montana Car Insurance Rates by Age

Among the most influential factors on insurance coverage come from your personal demographics. Age and gender are particularly important, and they work together to affect how much you pay for auto insurance everywhere. To see how this plays out in Idaho, we developed a series of standardized driver profiles that were based on men and women at three age levels. 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. 

In Montana, insurers are not allowed to set different rates based only on an applicant’s gender. The outcome is that men and women pay the same price for auto insurance when everything else is the same. Costs can vary by age, though, and this is reflected in our study results. The average annual representative insurance premium is $1,535 for all 25-year-old Montana driver profiles, regardless of the gender indicated. With 35-year-old sample drivers, the rates slipped to $1,385 per year. The average yearly expense for auto insurance fell again at age 60. Our sample seniors were quoted sample coverage prices of $1,225 a year. 

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

$1,878.98

$1,878.98

$1,742.39

$1,742.39

$1,591.12

$1,591.12

Farmers

$1,960.59

$1,960.59

$1,772.87

$1,772.87

$1,536.64

$1,536.64

Geico

$1,115.37

$1,115.37

$1,029.62

$1,029.62

$944.16

$944.16

Nationwide

$1,690.57

$1,690.57

$1,563.96

$1,563.96

$1,372.36

$1,372.36

Progressive

$2,116.06

$2,116.06

$1,823.70

$1,823.70

$1,562.56

$1,562.56

State Farm

$1,148.78

$1,148.78

$1,067.38

$1,067.38

$949.60

$949.60

USAA

$837.00

$837.00

$693.44

$693.44

$623.99

$623.99

Montana Car Insurance Rates by Credit Score

To see the effect of credit scores on insurance costs, 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.

Starting with profiles with good credit scores, the price of an example policy averaged $1,380 every 12 months. Assuming nothing else changes, that cost jumped to $1,610 for sample drivers with fair credit. A poor credit history rachetted costs up to $2,460 per year in our representative quotes. The reason is that the insurance companies’ own statistics show that people with lower credit scores file more claims. 

Company

Good

Fair

Poor

Allstate

$1,737.50

$2,036.42

$2,623.01

Farmers

$1,756.70

$1,978.46

$2,995.82

Geico

$1,029.72

$1,158.79

$2,248.76

Nationwide

$1,542.30

$1,707.76

$2,365.11

Progressive

$1,834.11

$2,165.88

$3,499.88

State Farm

$1,055.25

$1,336.62

$2,176.72

USAA

$718.14

$885.91

$1,312.13

Montana Car Insurance Rates by Driving Record

Folks with poor driving histories are also more likely to file claims with their car insurance companies. That’s why insurers can be quick to raise rates even after just one incident. In Montana, including a solitary speeding ticket with our sample profiles was enough to boost the representative average cost of driving insurance by 15% – from $1,380 per year to $1,585 per year. Getting into an accident added another $385 each year to the average study cost of car insurance in the state. At that stage, a sample driver’s annual expense for auto insurance in Montana would be close to $2,000. The price in our analysis of an insurance policy skyrocketed to $2,270 annually if our study profiles showed a conviction for driving under the influence (DUI). To put that into context, it marks a jump of 65% over what a sample driver with no tickets or violations would pay. 

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 pickup.

Company

Clean record

With 1 speeding violation

With 1 accident

With 1 DUI

Allstate

$1,737.50

$1,944.10

$2,271.24

$2,368.06

Farmers

$1,756.70

$1,756.70

$2,425.69

$2,349.87

Geico

$1,029.72

$1,029.72

$1,432.36

$2,417.27

Nationwide

$1,542.30

$2,066.54

$2,685.85

$3,665.50

Progressive

$1,834.11

$2,239.85

$2,825.28

$2,587.45

State Farm

$1,055.25

$1,124.42

$1,193.56

$1,124.42

USAA

$718.14

$937.02

$955.42

$1,384.44

Montana 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.

Insurance companies in our study ended up charging more for policies with higher levels of coverage, and the explanation is simple. The more coverage you have, the more your insurance company is exposed to the risk of a claim. The insurers then raise their prices to cover the difference in risk. Our statistics bear this out. For driver profiles with the lowest level of coverage, the average representative cost of a typical insurance policy in Montana was $1,270 annually. Each increase in coverage went on to boost prices in our study by approximately $100 per year. Our theoretical drivers paid an average of $1,380 a year for medium levels of coverage in our examples and $1,480 a year with our maximum level.

Company

Low

Medium

High

Allstate

$1,670.37

$1,737.50

$1,815.90

Farmers

$1,647.20

$1,756.70

$1,861.63

Geico

$986.32

$1,029.72

$1,100.81

Nationwide

$1,142.20

$1,542.30

$1,713.91

Progressive

$1,745.39

$1,834.11

$1,939.83

State Farm

$985.00

$1,055.25

$1,158.52

USAA

$694.00

$718.14

$751.96

Montana Car Insurance Rates by Annual Mileage

Montana is the fourth-largest state in the country by area, and yes, that does include Alaska. It’s a lot of room to roam, but the state’s drivers may not have to worry about that too much. Annual insurance study costs in Montana averaged $1,340 for a sample policy if our profiles were limited to 6,000 miles a year. Yet doubling that travel distance only caused average policy prices to bump up by 3% in our research. Keeping all other parameters unchanged, adjusting the profiles to 12,000 miles of annual driving brought the average cost to $1,380.

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

$1,663.06

$1,737.50

Farmers

$1,756.70

$1,756.70

Geico

$944.11

$1,029.72

Nationwide

$1,542.30

$1,542.30

Progressive

$1,834.11

$1,834.11

State Farm

$940.58

$1,055.25

USAA

$686.01

$718.14

Montana Car Insurance Rates by City

We had a bit of a surprise when we evaluated insurance costs for Montana cities. Generally speaking, drivers pay higher prices for auto insurance in bigger cities. This is because the chances of having a car stolen or damaged in traffic often increase along with population density. Yet our study findings told a far different story in Montana. Sample profiles for drivers in the city of Whitefish, with a population of fewer than 6,500 people, were quoted representative average policy costs of $1,410 annually – the highest in our study. Two of the three next smallest cities, Miles City and Havre, were similarly expensive locations. The annual average sample premium topped $1,400 a year in those places as well. Helena’s average in our study was the lowest in the state – $1,225 – despite the city being No. 6 in Montana for population. The average yearly cost projections were $1,363 for theoretical drivers in Billings, Montana’s largest city. 

That outcome is the result of getting quotes for our comprehensive series of custom driver profiles. They allowed us to see statistics for male and female drivers with no accidents on their driving record and no problems on their credit scores. The vehicles used for our research were the 2015 Toyota RAV4, 2015 Ford F-150, and 2015 Honda Civic. In all scenarios, we assumed drivers were covering 12,000 miles annually and had a medium level of insurance coverage. We also broadened our database by developing sample profiles for drivers who were 25, 35, and 60 years old.

City

Average Rate

Billings

$1,363.00

Missoula

$1,246.80

Great Falls

$1,335.44

Bozeman

$1,295.39

Butte

$1,348.00

Helena

$1,226.85

Havre

$1,407.65

Belgrade

$1,292.84

Miles City

$1,412.16

Whitefish

$1,406.49

Montana Auto Insurance Minimum Coverage Requirements

Insurance companies have to offer two kinds of auto coverage in Montana for any motor vehicle that’s driven on public roads. Liability insurance, for accidents caused by you, is required. The minimum coverage amounts are:

  • Bodily injury liability: $25,000 per person in a single accident, $50,000 for all people in any one accident

  • Property damage liability: $20,000 per accident

Insurance companies doing business in the state also have to offer uninsured motorist policies. These are for situations where you’re involved in an accident caused by another driver, but that driver isn’t carrying the proper insurance. The same minimums just mentioned apply. Montana does let you reject this coverage if you prefer to risk carrying only liability insurance. Drivers can also submit personal proof of responsibility to the state in lieu of a traditional insurance policy. 

Cheapest Car Insurance in Montana

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

State Farm

Drivers with a Clean Record

Geico

Drivers with One Speeding Violation

Geico

Drivers with One Accident

State Farm

Drivers with One DUI

State Farm

Low-mileage Drivers

State Farm

High-mileage Drivers

Geico

Drivers with Low Coverage

State Farm

Drivers with High Coverage

Geico

Drivers with Used Cars

Geico

Drivers with New Cars

State Farm

To find which car insurance company offers the lowest rates in Montana, our study used representative driver profiles with good credit, medium insurance coverage, a clean driving record, and 12,000 miles of annual mileage. Our profiles included male and females with the ages of 25, 35, and 60. The vehicles used in our study are the 2015 Honda Civic, 2015 Toyota RAV4, and 2015 Ford F-150.

USAA – which limits its coverage to members of the military and their families – charged the lowest amounts in our study by a substantial margin. The average sample auto insurance premium at that company was $720 a year. The next lowest prices were from Geico and State Farm. Their projected quotes were for $1,030 and $1,055 per year, in that order. Our sample profiles faced the steepest costs at Progressive, where the average representative price of the typical car insurance premium was $1,835 annually. No other insurer exceeded $1,800 a year. 

Why Car Insurance Rates Vary in Montana

The amount that insurance companies charge for premiums is mostly based on the likelihood that they’ll have to pay a claim. So Montana drivers who are less likely to make claims get the lowest pricing. Who are these lucky folks? They’re the older drivers who have spent more time on the road while avoiding accidents and other driving infractions. It also helps to live in a more rural area or smaller town, and good credit scores are a definite bonus.

Anything that pushes the needle in the opposite direction – from a speeding ticket to missing a bill or two – can raise your rates.

skynesher / Getty Images

How to Get the Cheapest Car Insurance in Montana

Since you can’t go back in time to avoid a car accident, or magically add a few years to your age, you have to follow other strategies if you’d like to lower your insurance expenses. One method that’s equally easy and effective is to get quotes from multiple insurance companies. Remember, that’s what we did in our study, and the prices we got back were far different, even for the exact same profiles.

Also, be proactive about asking for discounts when you’re doing your research. Some of these benefits may come into play as a regular part of your application. For instance, many insurance companies provide lower rates for things we’ve already discussed, such as your driving record or how many miles you travel each year, but a little digging can unearth more savings. You should inquire about discounts for paperless billing, for bringing all of your insurance needs to the same company, and for students who get good grades. Speaking of school, many insurance companies will offer price breaks if you pass a qualified course for advanced driving skills. 

An additional option to check out is an affinity group partnership. This is where social or professional organizations work together with insurance companies to offer lower premiums for their members. College alumni associations, veterans groups, and credit unions are merely a few examples.

If you don’t mind someone looking over your shoulder, a variety of insurance companies can set you up with an in-vehicle tracking device. The insurers then base their rates on your real-world driving behaviors. As long as you stay safe, your premiums stay low. 

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Important Laws Around Auto Insurance in Montana

Montana is an “at-fault” state, which essentially means that whoever causes an auto accident is the person primarily responsible for damages. In an accident where multiple drivers are at fault, Montana courts will determine the comparative negligence of each person and reduce damages accordingly. So if one driver wins damages of $1,000, but the court finds that person was 40% at fault, the amount he or she recovers is decreased by $400. The hitch is that if you are found to be more than 50% at fault for the accident, you can’t recover any damages at all. 

 Digital insurance cards and proof of registration are both valid in Montana. 

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Montana Driving Laws and Punishments

The penalties for driving without proof of insurance start with a fine of at least $250 but no more than $500. If you are convicted a second time, the fine is $350 and your license and registration are suspended. A third conviction, and any after that, is punished by a suspended license plus a fine of $500, up to 10 days in the county jail, or both. Montana drivers who have had their licenses revoked are required to provide proof of financial responsibility. This can include a traditional insurance certificate, a certificate of deposit or money, or a certificate of self insurance for certain fleet owners.

Montana does not have state laws that prohibit texting and driving. However, many cities, counties, and reservations have banned the use of handheld cellphones while you’re behind the wheel. Among the locations with these laws are Billings, Missoula, Great Falls, and Bozeman.

Operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or marijuana is explicitly banned in the state. Drivers with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher are assumed to be under the influence – although that assumption can be rebutted with evidence. For those who consume marijuana, it is illegal to drive with a THC level of 5 ng/ml or higher in the blood. The punishment for a first conviction in either case is at least 24 hours but not more than six months in jail. Additionally, the state imposes a fine of between $600 and $1,000. If someone in the vehicle was 16 years old or younger, all of those penalties are doubled. 

The court can also require drivers to participate in 24/7 alcohol and drug monitoring programs or forfeit their vehicles after a first conviction for driving under the influence (DUI) . A fourth conviction is considered a felony. It’s punishable by between 13 months and five years in prison, as well as fines of up to $10,000.

Montana Car Insurance FAQs

Is car insurance required in Montana?

Auto coverage is mandatory in Montana for both liability and property damage.

Which cars are required to be insured in Montana?

All motor vehicles that are registered or titled in Montana have to be insured. That said, proof of financial responsibility can be used instead of conventional insurance coverage. 

When should I get car insurance in Montana?

Once you move to Montana, you have 60 days to register or title your vehicle. Since that requires insurance, you have the same amount of time to get your coverage. 

What happens if my car is not properly insured in Montana?

A first conviction for driving without proof of insurance is a misdemeanor in Montana. It’s punishable by a fine of between $250 and $500 or up to 10 days in jail. On a second conviction, drivers have their licenses revoked for 90 days and five points are added to their driving records. The penalty for a second offense is at least $350 in fines or 10 days in jail. You’ll have to pay $500 in fines, spend up to six months in jail, or both for three or more convictions. 

Is Montana a no-fault state?

Montana is an at-fault state. It awards damages for auto insurance claims based on how much each person involved contributed to a crash. One exception is that a driver with a higher percentage of responsibility can’t recover damages from a driver who is less at fault. 

Do I need uninsured motorist coverage in Montana?

No, you don’t need uninsured motorist coverage in Montana. All insurance companies do have to offer this coverage in Montana, but you can reject it, in writing, if you prefer. 

Is liability insurance required in Montana?

Yes, liability insurance is required in Montana. The following minimum coverage amounts are necessary for bodily injury liability: $25,000 for one person in a single accident and $50,000 for all people in a single accident. For property damage liability, at least $20,000 per accident is needed. 

Does Montana accept digital insurance cards?

Showing an image of your physical card on your phone or digital device is valid for proof of insurance in Montana.