Car Insurance Done the SMARTWAY™

Driving in the District of Columbia can be quite an experience. With nearly 700,000 residents, another three hundred thousand or so commuters from the surrounding suburbs every weekday, and loads of tourists, the roads certainly get crowded—including with many people who aren’t familiar with them.

It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that average car insurance rates in our nation’s capital city are some of the highest in the country. Although it might if you’re a new driver. In which case, we’re sorry to be the ones to break it to you.

But we can also make it up to you.

SmartFinancial is an innovative technology platform for comparison shopping for the lowest auto insurance rates. Just answer a few quick questions and we set you up with unbiased, carrier-neutral information and competing quotes from leading Washington, D.C. car insurance companies. It’s a fast, free, easy way to score a rate well below the regional average. Combined with all the info about how to save on your premium in this page, you can proceed with confidence that you’re paying as little as possible each month.

That’s exactly what I want to hear! Let’s get to it!

Washington DC Auto Insurance Rates

Finding the lowest car insurance rates is all about exploring your options. Every carrier has its own way of calculating premiums, and offers are influenced by lots of personal factors. There’s no overstating the importance of shopping around before signing on to a new policy. If you’re wondering where to start, consider the top three companies in the Mid-Atlantic region according to J.D. Power (see the full list).

  1. Erie Insurance
  2. NJM Insurance Co
  3. The Hartford

The ranking are based on average rates, payment options, policy flexibility, customer reviews, and other important considerations.

Of course, you don’t have to go through the hassle of getting quotes individually anymore. Just click right here to cover lots of ground instantly and get quotes from leading insurers in Washington, D.C.


Legalities 101

Just like how every U.S. state sets its own car insurance laws, so too does Washington, D.C. Learn more about its minimum coverage requirements and optional coverages a little further down on this page.

While mandatory auto insurance may seem like an imposition, it’s for everyone’s benefit—including yours. It protects people from potential financial hardship or even devastation following an accident. It’s also effective at keeping insurance costs down where they are; as pricey as average premiums are in D.C., they could certainly be higher.

The system is part of the unfortunate reality that most drivers eventually end up in some sort of traffic crash or incident.

Washington, D.C. Driving Safety

There’s lots of traffic in Washington, D.C., and plenty of motorists from out of town who don’t know the area. These factors contribute to a high accident rate—and with it, high car insurance rates. Distracted driving, impaired driving, speeding, tailgating, and failure to yield the right of way are some other key contributors.

Find a great deal of in-depth traffic crash data in the PDF version of the District Department of Transportation’s Traffic Safety Statistics Report for the District of Columbia (2013-2015).

Washington DC Driving Safety Stats

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Number of reported crashes in 2015
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Number of non-fatal crash injuries in 2015
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Number of crash fatalities in 2015

Driving Green

In addition to Federal tax credits, there are a number of incentives available to Washington, D.C. residents through the District and through local car insurance companies. So, not only do you benefit the environment with your eco-friendly driving, you also benefit your wallet.

  • Emissions Inspection Exemptions for Electric Vehicles

    Washington, D.C. motorists are required to have emissions testing performed at the time of auto registration and renewal. However, some zero-emissions and electric vehicles are exempted from inspection. Zero-emissions vehicles don’t need to undergo any inspections, while some others are only exempted from the initial test.

  • Reduced Registration Fees and Excise Tax Exemptions

    Many electric, hybrid, and clean-fuel vehicles that get at least 40 miles to the gallon for city driving qualify for a 50% discount on first-time registration fees in Washington, D.C. (as of this writing, that’s $36 instead of $72). And if your vehicle is eligible for this reduced rate, it’s also eligible for the hybrid vehicle excise tax exemption.

  • Car Insurance Discounts

    Do you drive an economy-size, all-electric, hybrid, or alternative fuel vehicle? If so, there’s a good chance your insurance carrier will offer a discount on your premium. Do you rely on public transportation, carpooling, walking, and/or biking to drive as little as possible? If so, there’s also a good chance you could save big with a pay-as-you-go option or a low mileage discount from your carrier.

Car Insurance Laws

Being a Minimalist

If you have a registered vehicle in Washington, D.C., you’re required to carry at least $25,000 bodily injury liability coverage per person, $50,000 bodily injury liability coverage per accident, and $10,000 property damage liability coverage.

Your auto insurance policy must also include uninsured motorist coverage in the amounts of $25,000 bodily injury per person, $50,000 bodily injury per accident, and $5,000 property damage per accident subject to a $200 deductible.

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$ 25,000
Bodily injury coverage per person

Maximum payment for serious or permanent injury or death to a single person

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$ 50,000
Bodily injury coverage per accident

Coverage for multiple people injured in a single accident

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$ 10,000
Property damage per accident

Maximum payment for all damaged property in an accident caused by you

Maximizing Your Return on Investment

Minimum coverage provides significant protection, but many consumers involved in serious accidents find it to be inadequate. It’s always recommended to extend your coverage limits beyond the minimums if you can afford it. Also, keep in mind that the required liability and uninsured motorist coverage in Washington, D.C. won’t pay for a variety of repairs and services you may need under all sorts of different circumstances.

If you look at your car insurance as an investment, you’ll probably come to the conclusion that just a little more expenditure on your policy can provide a huge return when you need to file any type of claim.

Optional coverage in Washington DC

  • Auto Loan/Lease (or "gap")
  • Collision
  • Comprehensive
  • Customized Parts and Equipment
  • Emergency Road Service
  • Excess Electronic Equipment
  • Medical Payments
  • Rental Coverage
  • Towing and Labor
  • Travel Expenses

Some exclusions will apply.

Vehicle financing sometimes means that certain optional coverages aren’t actually optional. Most lenders insist that you take out collision and comprehensive coverage, and possibly others, in your policy.

12 Things You can do to Lower Your Auto Insurance Premium is a recommended read if you’re hoping to find ways to balance out the added cost of optional coverages.

Washington DC car insurance companies

Erie Insurance
NJM Insurance Co
The Hartford
Plymouth Rock Assurance
State Farm
21st Century
Liberty Mutual

*This list of car insurance carriers is based on the ratings from the J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Auto Insurance Study for the Mid-Atlantic region. Ratings are derived from five key service areas: claims, price, interaction, policy offerings, and billing. USAA is a military-only option and is therefore not including in the above rankings.

Car Safety for Washington DC Kids

Washington, D.C. Car Seat Regulations

Babies up to 1 year of age and 20 pounds must be properly secured in a rear-facing car seat; if your seat’s size limit allows you to continue this practice longer, it’s safer to do so. The car seat should be in the back seat of the vehicle, but if one isn’t available, you can only use the front passenger seat if there’s no airbag, or if it’s deactivated.

After a child reaches 1 year and 20 pounds, you may switch him or her to a forward-facing car seat. This should be used until the child reaches its manufacturer-designated weight and height limit, at least up to 40 pounds. Once the child outgrows the safety seat, he or she must use a booster seat until reaching either 8 years of age or 4 feet 9 inches tall. Going by height is safer than age, though, as height is what determines whether a kid can be properly secured in a vehicle’s built-in seat belts. It’s safest to use a booster seat for as long as permitted by its size limit.

Washington D.C.’s car safety seat program Project Safe-Child makes car and booster seats available to residents at discounted prices.

Leaving Children Unattended in a Vehicle

Washington, D.C. may not yet have a law addressing this issue, but it’s still an important one for all parents, guardians, and other caregivers of small children to be aware of. It’s dangerous to leave young kids alone in a vehicle.

There are some obvious concerns, like that the child could get hurt while playing around in the car, SUV, van, or truck, or that he or she could be victimized by a passer-by who notices the opportunity. Also, if the keys are in the vehicle, a child can set it into motion, potentially striking something or someone.

A less obvious risk—though it’s thankfully getting increased attention in recent years—is vehicular hyperthermia. That refers to overheating in a hot car. Interior temperatures can skyrocket well beyond the outside temperature in a matter of minutes. And this isn’t just possible on really hot days; it can happen on warm or even mild days if the vehicle’s sitting in direct sunlight. This situation can lead to dehydration, heat stroke, brain damage, and death (in pets as well as children).

Car Insurance FAQ

Is my credit score a factor when obtaining car insurance in Washington, D.C.?

Yes. Most places in the country, including Washington, D.C., allow carriers to reference your credit history when calculating your “insurance score.” This is a formula for estimating risk and rates. Read more about the practice on the D.C. Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking website.

Does Washington, D.C. offer a good-driver discount?

Lots of carriers reward 3 or more years without an accident or moving violation with a good-driver discount. Ask yours if this is available, and what their specific requirements are for eligibility. And while you’re at it, inquire about other common discounts, such as:

  • Claims-Free
  • Credit Score
  • Anti-Lock Brakes, Air Bags, or Daytime Running Lights
  • Good Student Grades
  • Continued Policy Renewals
  • Accident-Free
  • Anti-Lock Brake
  • Anti-Theft Device
  • Home Ownership
  • Multi-Car
  • Multiple Line
  • Passive Restraint

Does Washington, D.C. allow the use of digital insurance cards?

Sorry, but no. As of this writing, Washington, D.C. is one of the last few holdouts in the country still not allowing drivers to show digital proof of coverage on a smartphone, tablet, or other mobile device.

What happens if my coverage lapses?

If your auto insurance lapses or is terminated for any reason, you must immediately surrender your vehicle tag and registration to the DMV. Failure to do so results in various fines and penalties. You cannot drive again until you can show proof of coverage.

What are Washington, D.C.'s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) percentage limits under the state's driving under the influence (DUI) laws?

It’s against the law to operate a motor vehicle in Washington, D.C. with the following BAC percentages:

.08%+ at 21 years old or older
.04%+ for commercial vehicle drivers
Any at under 21 years old

In Washington D.C., you can be convicted of driving while intoxicated (DWI) at a BAC of 0.08% or higher. However, if a law enforcement officer believes your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle is impaired by drugs or alcohol, but you have a lower BAC, you can be convicted of driving under the influence (DUI). D.C. has a zero-tolerance law for underage drinkers who drive.

What are the chemical test refusal penalties in Washington, D.C.?

Washington, D.C. has an “implied consent” law that means all motorists have consented to chemical screening at the request of a law enforcement officer who suspects them of driving while impaired. Refusing the test will result in a 1-year license suspension, and it may be used as evidence against you in court.

What are the consequences of being convicted of a DUI?

Penalties are determined by how many prior offenses you have. Also, if your BAC is at least 0.20%, penalties start increasing. Other aggravating factors include having a minor in your vehicle while driving impaired, operating a commercial vehicle, and carrying illegal drugs. Even a first offense with no aggravating circumstances may result in jail time, up to $1,000 in fines, license revocation for up to 6 months, and other penalties. Get more information on the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department website.

Does Washington, D.C. offer driver improvement courses to reduce my insurance premium?

Many carriers reward you with a discount if you voluntarily take a driver improvement course. Ask your agent if this is available to you. These are the same courses you would take to following a moving violation or court order to prevent points from being assessed against your license. Find a District-approved course through the DMV, or find an approved online course here.

Is there any way I can reduce the cost of my Washington, D.C. car insurance?

If you’ve been paying attention over the course of this page, you’ve picked up on lots of potential savings, from green driving incentives to all sorts or discounts. Also, opt for a higher deductible in exchange for a lower premium. Striving to keep up your credit score and maintain a clean driving record are good long-term tactics, too. The single best way to minimize your monthly car insurance costs, though, is to diligently comparison shop for the lowest quotes on D.C. auto coverage.

What is uninsured motorist coverage and is it required in Washington, D.C.?

Uninsured motorist coverage is applied if you’re in an accident caused by a driver who’s illegally operating their vehicle without auto insurance. It also applies in the event of a hit-and-run incident. While this type of coverage is optional in some places around the nation, it’s mandatory in Washington, D.C. Your policy must have minimum limits of $25,000 bodily injury coverage per person, $50,000 bodily injury coverage per accident, and $5,000 property damage coverage per accident subject to a $200 deductible.

Uninsured drivers in Washington DC
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