Car insurance premiums in Washington are statistically lower than the average in the country and substantially lower than in nearby California. The average auto insurance policy in Washington state costs approximately $1,279 a year. Considering the otherwise high cost of living throughout the state, car insurance is one of the most reasonably priced bills that residents might expect to pay.

There are dozens of factors influencing auto insurance premiums, and rates may change from one city or neighborhood to the next. Additionally, your own driving record and claims history will have a much greater effect on your premiums than your geographic location does. Nevertheless, it’s important to understand what factors influence your insurance cost so that you can be prepared for fluctuations whenever you move.

What determines the cost of my car insurance?

Car insurance companies base their prices on the risk a vehicle has of sustaining damage. The higher your likelihood of being in an accident, the more your insurance will cost. Your rates will also be affected if your vehicle is at a high risk of being stolen, vandalized, or obtain weather-related damage.

Generally, cities with congested traffic and long commutes will have higher premiums than areas with excellent public transportation or shorter commutes. Much of Washington is very friendly to pedestrians and bicyclists as well, allowing people to spend less time driving. The population of Washington is also much lower than California, which accounts for some of the discrepancy in price between the two areas.

The number of drivers operating without insurance also plays a factor in determining coverage costs. Uninsured drivers can cause accidents that must be paid by an insurance company without hope of reimbursement, requiring that company to increase premiums in order to compensate. Washington has a relatively high number of uninsured motorists, with approximately 16 percent of drivers not carrying insurance.

Crime rates vary from one neighborhood to the next and will have bearing on your insurance premiums. Areas with a high incidence of crime against property, such as vandalism or theft, will have higher premiums than neighborhoods with no crime. Auto theft is a concern in parts of Washington. Seattle and Tacoma are the 9th and 10th worst cities in the country for auto theft, respectively.

Weather also plays a factor in determining insurance premiums. Areas that are prone to flood, windstorms and hail have higher premiums to compensate for this type of damage. Places that receive a lot of snow also tend to have a higher incidence of weather-related traffic accidents, which translates to higher premiums throughout the area.

Car Insurance Requirements in Washington State

Washington requires drivers to carry a minimum of $25,000/$50,000 of injury liability insurance and at least $10,000 for property damage. The liability limit means that your insurance company will pay up to the amount of the limit for any single accident. Damage or injuries exceeding the limit could be charged to you through collections or a lawsuit, so you may wish to purchase coverage with a higher limit in order to protect your assets. Other optional car insurance many drivers opt for includes:

Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Because of the fairly high number of drivers without insurance in the state, this may be a wise investment. You can purchase uninsured motorist coverage for your own injuries or vehicle damage; in the event that a person without insurance hits you, the uninsured motorist coverage will compensate for their lack of liability coverage. In Washington, uninsured motorist also protects your vehicle from damage caused by hit-and-run accidents.

Full Coverage Car Insurance

Generally this means that you carry collision and comprehensive coverage in addition to liability insurance. When you are involved in an accident, you owe the repair shop a portion of the repairs, called the deductible. The average deductible for most policies is $500, although you can raise or lower this amount as necessary. Full coverage insurance is only necessary if you have a lien holder on your vehicle, but it’s a good idea to carry it as long as your car is new or valuable.

Supplemental Car Insurance

You can also choose to buy supplemental coverage such as personal injury protection, roadside assistance or rental reimbursement coverage. Washington is not a no-fault state, so if you are involved in an accident that someone else caused you can sue that person for your medical expenses. This means that you are not required to carry any first-party medical insurance on your own policy. Nevertheless, it could be a good idea to carry this coverage, especially if your own health insurance has a high deductible.

Whether you’ve just moved to Washington or have lived there a long time, you can save money on auto insurance by comparison shopping for the best rates. Once you obtain a free quote online, you can contact the company to see if there are any further discounts you may qualify for. For example, you might be able to save money by installing an anti-theft device on your vehicle or keeping the car parked in a garage at night. You can also ask any questions you may have about your coverage and work out a policy that will suit your needs as well as your budget.