Most people know Washington for its dense evergreen forests, impressive mountain ranges, and diverse wildlife. It’s also home to Seattle, one of the most populous cities on the West Coast of the US. The Evergreen State is the 13th-largest state in the country by population with an estimated 7.7 million residents in 2021.
In 2020, there were about 5.8 million licensed drivers in Washington, according to the Federal Highway Administration. By law, every driver in the state must have car insurance. This page will explain how auto insurance works in the State of Washington. We’ll go over important laws and policies, how much you can expect to pay for insurance, top companies, and more.
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Average Washington Auto Insurance Rates
It’s always a good idea to look at your state’s average car insurance rates before you get a policy. This is because it allows you to see what other people pay for auto coverage. You can then compare it to what you’re paying. But keep in mind that many factors affect your final car insurance prices. This includes things like:
- Your car make and model
- Your age
- Your zip code
- Your gender
- Your claims history
Just how much does car insurance cost in Washington? The table below displays average Washington auto insurance rates, by coverage type, versus the average for the rest of the country:
|Coverage||Washington Average||US Average|
|Price Per Month||$88.90||$89.20|
Average Full Coverage Rates
The graph below shows the change in average Washington auto insurance rates from 2012 to 2019. Washington car insurance rates increased from $809 in 2012 to $1,066 in 2019. This was an increase of $257, or 31%.
Average Liability Coverage Rates
The following chart displays average liability car insurance rates in Washington from 2012 to 2019. Rates for liability coverage in Washington have been higher than the national average for the whole eight years. They reached their highest point in 2019 at around $700. This is almost a $150 increase from the average price of $550 in 2012.
Higher rates than the national average could be due to any of these factors:
- The state’s increasing population, especially in major cities
- Price optimization
- Natural market shifts
- More claims filed each year
Average Collision Coverage Rates
The next graph illustrates average collision car insurance rates in Washington state from 2012 to 2019. Interestingly, over the entire period, Washington residents have paid less for collision coverage than the US average. However, prices have still either gone up or stayed relatively the same year to year. A likely cause for this could be price optimization and inflation.
Average Comprehensive Coverage Rates
Below is a graph that shows average Washington comprehensive auto insurance rates from 2012 to 2019. While rates for comprehensive coverage have increased almost every year, the prices have remained either at or below $120. This is well under the national average, which eclipsed $160 in 2019. There are many possible reasons for this. For instance, Washingtonians may file less comprehensive claims because they experience fewer natural disasters than, say, Florida or California.
Why Do Auto Insurance Rates Keep Increasing in Washington?
Does your car insurance seem more expensive than last year? There could be several reasons you’re seeing a jump in your auto rates. Insurers cite reasons such as increased health care costs, rising driving and accident rates, and inflation. Inflation, in particular, is behind a lot of the auto insurance rate increases both in Washington and across the nation.
Though rates seemingly go up each year, there are steps you can take to lower your premium. It’s smart to compare quotes from the best companies in Washington. That’s the best way to find the cheapest auto insurance.
Washington Minimum Auto Insurance Requirements
Like all other states (except New Hampshire and Virginia), Washington requires drivers to have a minimum amount of car insurance. You must meet the bare minimum coverage requirements before you can get behind the wheel of a car. Below are the basic car insurance requirements in Washington state:
Washington requires minimum liability auto insurance coverage limits of at least:
- $25,000 of bodily injury liability (BIL) for the injury of one person in one-car accident
- $50,000 of bodily injury liability (BIL) for the injury of more than one person in one-car accident
- $10,000 of property damage liability (PDL) for one accident
It’s common to see state minimum car insurance requirements written in a shorthand form, such as “25/50/10.” You may see it on your insurance policy or other times you deal with your auto insurer.
You’ll satisfy state law if you get the minimum required coverage. But be aware that this is just the smallest amount of insurance the state wants you to have. You may not have full protection if an especially costly accident happened. If you can afford it, consider adding more coverage, such as collision and comprehensive insurance, to your policy.
Washington state insurance law doesn’t require drivers to have either uninsured or underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage. Also, be aware that roughly 20% of the drivers in the state don’t have car insurance. Because of this, UM/UIM is a good idea.
Find the Best Car Insurance in Washington
Compare quotes among leading car insurance companies to get better coverage and lower rates.
Valid Proof of Insurance
Washington drivers must show proof of insurance cards to the authorities when asked. This can be a physical or digital card. Your auto insurer should provide this card for you. Insurance identification cards must include the following:
- Name of your insurance company
- Your policy number
- The effective date of your policy
- The expiration date of your policy
- A description of the year, make, or model of the insured vehicles, as well as the name of the insured driver. You can use the word “fleet” for more than five vehicles owned by the same person or business.
Valid Proof of Financial Responsibility
Washington state allows drivers to prove financial responsibility as an alternative to buying standard car insurance. With this method, you must be able to prove that you have enough money to cover any damages that occur in a car accident.
You can prove financial responsibility (FR) in Washington by depositing sixty thousand dollars in your bank. Another valid way you can prove FR is by owning approved securities that equal sixty thousand dollars. To satisfy Washington’s proof of financial responsibility requirement, you must get a certificate of deposit or liability bond from the Department of Licensing (DOL).
If you’re a driver using a certificate of deposit as proof of FR, your insurance card must contain:
- Your certificate number
- Your name, or the driver’s name being covered by the certificate
If you use a liability bond as proof of FR, your insurance card must have:
- The name of the company that gave you the bond
- The bond number
- Your name, or the driver’s name being covered by the bond
Penalties for Driving Without Insurance
Things could get even worse if you get into an accident without auto insurance in Washington. The Washington State DOL warns that you could lose your license if you’re at fault in a car accident and can’t provide proof of insurance. This is typically the case if you can’t cover the costs of the damages or injuries caused by the accident.
It’s also important to note that driving without coverage will make it harder to buy car insurance in the future. Insurers might label you a high-risk driver and increase your rates if they discover that you’ve had a lapse in coverage. A lapse is when you go a period without having any auto insurance.
Best Car Insurance Companies in Washington
It’s important to find the right company when you’re buying car insurance. This is usually an insurer that offers the best value at a reasonable price. Common features of the best auto insurance providers include:
- Friendly and attentive customer service
- Quick and easy process for filing claims
- A range of discounts
- Competitive rates
Top Companies by Market Share
A smart place to begin when searching for the best companies in Washington is by looking at the top ten insurance carriers by market share. This allows you to see which companies other people generally work with, as well as how big each insurer is.
Below is a list from 2020 of the top ten car insurance companies by market share in Washington state:
|Rank||Company||Direct Premiums Written||Market Share|
Top Insurers by J.D. Power Rating
Another good way to find the best auto insurance in your state is by looking at the top companies by J.D. Power rating. J.D. Power comes out with a new list of the top companies in each region every year. They rank each company by customer satisfaction.
The following table lists J.D. Power’s top car insurance companies in the Pacific Northwest in 2022 (note: USAA didn’t fit the criteria of the study and isn’t on this list):
|Rank||Company||Customer Satisfaction Score (Out of 1,000)|
Best Companies Based in Washington
There are a few auto insurance companies based in Washington state. You may want to get insurance with them for several reasons. For instance, locally based companies often offer unique benefits and sometimes better rates than many of the major insurers. The most well-known insurance providers headquartered in Washington are PEMCO, Safeco, and the Mutual of Enumclaw.
Washington Auto Insurance Laws
Car insurance laws often vary from state to state. This includes everything from required types of coverage to if you even need to have insurance. Below are some of the specific auto insurance laws in Washington state:
No-Fault or Fault?
No-fault states require you to buy insurance that pays for injuries, medical bills, and other related costs after a car wreck. This type of coverage is typically personal injury protection (PIP), which works regardless of fault in an accident.
Washington is not a no-fault car insurance state. But it is an at-fault state. This means you’re responsible for covering the damages and injury costs of other drivers if you cause an accident.
In Washington, you have the option of adding PIP to your policy. By law, insurers must offer you PIP when you get a policy. If you don’t want it, you must tell your provider in writing.
A totaled car is a vehicle that’s been badly damaged to the point where its repair costs exceed its actual cash value (ACV). The State of Washington requires insurance providers to use the total loss formula (TLF) before they declare a car as totaled. With the TLF, your car becomes a total loss if your car’s damages and salvage value cost more than its ACV.
Once your car has been declared a total loss, your insurer must give you a payout equal to your car’s ACV, or how much it was worth at the time of the accident. But, according to the Office of the Insurance Commissioner, your insurer must do the following if you can’t agree on your car’s ACV:
- Replace your car with one of similar value
- Give you a settlement equal to the ACV of a “comparable” car
Salvage and Rebuilt Titles
A car has a salvage title if an insurance company declares it a total loss. Washington law restricts driving a salvage vehicle on any public roads or highways. A salvage title car must get rebuilt and repaired properly before it can get back on the road.
Most insurance companies won’t insure salvage title cars. This is in large part due to the fact that these cars are illegal and unsafe to drive.
How to Get a Rebuilt Salvage Title in Washington
You have some options if you own a salvage car. For instance, you can sell it. It’s common for people or auto shops to buy salvaged titles for spare parts, or to restore them later. You can also take the necessary steps to get it a rebuilt title if you want to drive it again. To get a rebuilt title in Washington state, you must:
- Get your car the repairs it needs
- Undergo a thorough vehicle inspection (your vehicle must be in a complete state)
- Own a vehicle that’s 5 years old or newer, and it was 6-20 years old or had a market value of $7,930 before getting totaled
Insuring Cars with Rebuilt Titles in Washington
Once repaired, your rebuilt salvage car will need insurance before hitting the road. You can generally get coverage on a vehicle with a rebuilt title in Washington state. However, most companies will only give you limited coverage options. For example, many insurers won’t offer full coverage for rebuilt titles.
You should be able to get liability insurance for your rebuilt car from most companies, though. This is because you need it to legally drive in the state. Keep in mind that auto insurance on a rebuilt title is typically much more expensive than a clean title car. This is because a rebuilt vehicle used to be a total loss, making it look potentially more risky to providers.
You’ll likely need to file a claim if you get into a car accident that causes injury or property damage. It’s important to make a claim with your insurer as soon as possible to ensure that you get the coverage you need. If you wait too long to talk to your provider after an accident, you might not remember everything about the accident. Or you risk your auto insurance not covering your car’s damages. Be sure to check with your insurer on its policies for filing a claim.
What to Expect After Filing an Insurance Claim in Washington
Filing a claim can be a confusing process. This is especially true if you haven’t done it before. You may not know how long it will take to hear back from your insurance company, or how it works for them to reimburse you. However, Washington law sets some standards for insurers to follow when customers file a claim. Here are some things you can expect:
- Your insurer must get back to you within ten business days
- You should get a specific explanation of how you’ll receive coverage
- Your insurer must be available and quick to respond to any of your questions
- Your provider must reimburse you in a timely manner
Your credit score is a common rate factor that car insurance companies use to determine your premium. They often do this on the belief that your credit history can show your reliability as a customer. If your credit isn’t great, you could end up paying more for insurance.
Not all states allow insurers to use your credit score when deciding your rates, though. The State of Washington passed a law in 2021 that bans insurers from using your credit or FICO score as a car insurance rate factor. This law will stay in effect until three years after the government declares the COVID-19 pandemic over.
Washington state has laws and requirements that insurers must follow if they want to cancel a customer’s policy. By law, your insurance company must give you 20 days of written notice before canceling your policy. Your auto insurer can cancel your insurance in Washington for any reason within 60 days of signing your policy. After 60 days, however, they can’t cancel your insurance policy, unless you:
- Don’t pay your rates on time
- Have had your driver’s license suspended or revoked
- Have committed fraud or another crime related to the information on your policy
Washington Drunk Driving Laws
It’s illegal to drive while under the influence of drugs and alcohol in Washington state. You can get a DUI conviction if you’re caught driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08. You’ll also get a violation if you’ve been taking drugs (prescription or recreational) before operating a vehicle.
You’ll lose your driver’s license in Washington if you get arrested for a DUI. The state will suspend your license for three months to two years, depending on the severity of your violation. However, you may be able to avoid a suspension if you request a hearing within seven days, in which the examiner decides in your favor.
You’ll also face a lengthy license suspension in Washington if you get convicted of a DUI in court. Washington will suspend your license for three months to four years. They’ll decide the length of suspension based on the severity of the DUI, as well as past traffic violations on your driving record.
You must get an SR-22 form in Washington following a DUI conviction. An SR-22 is a form that proves that you meet the state minimum liability insurance requirements. You must maintain an SR-22 for three years after a DUI.
To get an SR-22 form, you must first find a company that’s willing to insure drivers with a DUI. They can then sign the form for you and help you file it with the state. But keep in mind that not every insurer will offer an SR-22.
Washington State Driver’s License Violations
Unlike many other states, Washington doesn’t have a driver’s license points system. Instead, it keeps track of the tickets on your record for a certain amount of time. If you get too many tickets in a short period, you could get a license suspension.
In Washington state, you’ll get a driver’s license suspension for 60 days if you get six violations in one year or seven violations in three years. After you lose your license, you’ll have to go through a one-year probation period.
Most Popular Cars in Washington
Popular car models often vary by state. The top cars are often the ones that are most sold or sought after by consumers. These were the most sold cars in Washington in 2021:
- Toyota RAV4
- Honda CR-V
- RAM 1500/2500/3500
- Toyota Tacoma
- Ford F-Series
Most Stolen Cars in Washington
Auto insurance companies focus on the most stolen cars in each state. They do this because it reflects some level of risk of theft or damage, which could cost them more money. If you own one of the most stolen cars in Washington, it could cost more to insure. These were Washington’s most stolen cars in 2021, per the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB):
- 1998 Honda Civic
- 1997 Honda Accord
- 1999 Ford Pick-Up (Full Size)
- 1999 Honda CR-V
- 1999 Chevrolet Pick-Up (Full Size)
- 1998 Subaru Legacy
- 1991 Toyota Camry
- 1999 Toyota Corolla
- 1995 Acura Integra
- 2000 Subaru Impreza