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Driving in the Gem State

The mountainous terrain in Idaho is a wonder to behold. It’s a pretty large state—the 14th largest by land area—but one of the least populated, with well under 2 million people. It’s a place for people who love their space, fresh air, and a rugged, natural landscape.

It’s also a great place for people who don’t want to pay a lot for car insurance. Idaho residents pay some of the lowest average rates in the country; in fact, the state consistently ranks in the cheapest five. That certainly doesn’t mean it’s not worth looking for ways to save—unless of course you like paying more than you have to. We’ll cover various opportunities to reduce your premium over the course of this page, but the most important advice is to comparison shop for the lowest rates. Our carrier-neutral information is designed to help you do just that.

Sounds great! Let’s get to it!

Idaho Auto Insurance Rates

Below are the top three car insurance providers in Idaho, according to a J.D. Power study completed in 2016 (see the full list).

  1. PEMCO Insurance
  2. The Hartford
  3. GEICO

If you’re at a loss where to start looking for your new car insurance policy, these companies are probably a good place.

Or, if you’d like to cover more ground more efficiently, try our instant rate comparison technology. SmartFinancial uses a little of your personal information to quickly—and securely—compile the lowest quotes on coverage that meets your needs. Take it for a test drive! Either click on your city in the list below, or just click here if you don’t see it.


Legalities 101

Like it or not, car insurance is mandatory in Idaho and everywhere else in the country. There are some steep penalties for driving without it, but more on that in the FAQ further down on this page. But your insurance protects you in the event of an accident, which could otherwise be a major—even devastating—financial burden.

Remember, no matter how safely you drive, you’re never in control of all the variables. As you can see in the next section, there are threats from drunk, aggressive, and distracted drivers, among others.

Idaho Driving Safety

Idaho’s seen an uptick in crashes and fatalities in recent years, and the state has a relatively high traffic accident death rate per capita. While 64% of the 2015’s crashes occurred on urban roadways, 78% of crash-related deaths were on rural roads; higher speeds, lower visibility, and longer distances for emergency vehicles to travel to accident sites and hospitals are major factors. Overall, substance-impaired driving was responsible for 40% of 2015’s fatal crashes. Aggressive driving was cited as a contributing factor in 52% of fatal crashes, and distracted driving was a factor in 23% of them.

For an in-depth look at road safety statistics, take a look at the PDF of the Idaho Transportation Department Office of Highway Safety’s report Idaho Traffic Crashes 2015.

Idaho Driving Safety Stats

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Number of reported traffic crashes in 2015
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Number of traffic fatalities in 2015
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Percent of 2015's fatal crashes occurring on a rural roadway

Driving Green

So much of Idaho remains unspoiled by man to this day. In fact, nearly 40% of the state’s land is owned by the U.S. Forest Service; that’s more than in any other state. If you’re one of Idaho’s many environmentally aware consumers and you make green decisions about your vehicle and/or driving habits, below are some savings you might be able to take advantage of.

  • Fuel-Efficient Vehicle Emissions Test Exemptions

    When you register your vehicle or renew your registration in Idaho, you’re required to undergo emissions testing. However, many electric vehicles, hybrids, and new autos are exempted from this, saving their owners or lessees time and money. Learn more about testing regulations and exemptions on the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality website.

  • Green Driver Auto Insurance Discounts

    If you maintain a low-mileage lifestyle, it’s not only environmentally friendly, it also substantially reduces your risk of an accident and filing a claim. That’s why many car insurance companies in Idaho provide low-mileage discounts. In addition to that, lots of economy, hybrid, and alternative fuel vehicles qualify for insurance discounts. Ask your carrier what they offer.

  • Special Fuel Excise Tax Exemptions

    Idaho classifies compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas (propane), hydrogen, and diesel fuels as “special fuels.” These are often exempted from state excise taxes. For more information, contact the Idaho State Tax Commission at (800) 972-7660.

Car Insurance Laws

Being a Minimalist

Idaho drivers are legally obligated to carry minimum limits of $25,000 bodily injury coverage per person and $50,000 per accident, along with at least $15,000 property damage coverage per accident.

Under state law, your carrier must automatically offer you uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage in the amounts of $25,000 bodily injury coverage per person and $50,000 per accident. However, you can reject this additional coverage in writing if you prefer to go without it.

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$ 25,000
Bodily injury coverage per person

Maximum payment for serious injury or death to a single person

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$ 50,000
Bodily injury coverage per accident

Maximum payment for serious injury or death to more than one person

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$ 15,000
Property damage per accident

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

Maximizing Your Return on Investment

Carrying just the minimum coverage to satisfy the law is fairly common. But keep in mind that this doesn’t protect you in a variety of circumstances. If you think of your auto insurance as an investment into your financial security, you might decide it’s worth a little more each month to add on optional coverages. There’s peace of mind in knowing that your wallet is well protected from all sorts of potential expenses—some of which can be significant.

Optional coverage in Idaho

  • Collision
  • Comprehensive
  • Gap Coverage
  • Accident Forgiveness
  • Roadside Assistance
  • Custom Equipment
  • New Car Replacement
  • Loss of Use
  • Medical Benefits
  • Travel Expenses
  • Rental Car

Idaho motorists can get greater peace of mind and financial safeguards with optional coverages like these. Some exclusions will apply. Also, note that banks and other institutions offering vehicle financing typically require you to carry certain add-ons—often comprehensive and collision coverage.

Our article 11 Mistakes People Make when Shopping for Auto Insurance helps you steer clear of some common missteps that can keep you from getting the best coverage at the best price.

Idaho car insurance companies

The Hartford
State Farm
American Family
Liberty Mutual

*This list of car insurance companies is based on the ratings for the Northwest region in the J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Auto Insurance Study. 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 Idaho Kids

Idaho Car Seat Regulations

Idaho offers the following car seat recommendations:

Infants and toddlers up to 2 years old—or up to the weight and height limits established by the manufacturer—should always be secured in a rear-facing car seat in the back seat of the vehicle. A forward-facing car seat is appropriate from that point on, up to 4 years of age or until the child reaches the height and weight limits for the seat.

Generally, kids should be at least 40 pounds before moving on to a seat belt-positioning booster seat. These are to be used for children up to 4 feet 9 inches tall. Note that lap belts alone are not adequate for securing a child in a booster seat; they require a shoulder strap, too.

At 4 feet 9 inches tall, kids should be able to be properly secured by most auto’s built-in seat belt systems. The lap belt should lay across their upper thighs and the shoulder strap should pass across their chest.

Leaving Children Unattended in a Vehicle

It’s dangerous to leave kids alone in your car, truck, or SUV. On hot days (or even temperate ones if the vehicle is parked in the sun), the interior of a vehicle quickly heats up well beyond the outside temperature. Children (and pets) can suffer severe illness, permanent harm, and even death from overheating in an automobile. Kids are also at risk of hurting themselves or being targeted if they’re unsupervised, as well.

While almost half of U.S. states currently have laws specifically prohibiting leaving children unattended in a vehicle, Idaho isn’t one of them. That said, Idaho does have a law against causing a child harm or placing a child in a potentially harmful situation. There is precedent for such child abuse and neglect laws to be applied to leaving a kid alone in a vehicle.

Just don’t do it. Not even with the windows cracked. Not even for a little while. And if you see a young child left unattended in a vehicle, you’re encouraged to call 9-1-1.

Car Insurance FAQ

Is my credit score a factor when obtaining car insurance in Idaho?

Yes, it is. Insurance companies calculate your insurance score—a number they use in determining your premium—based on a variety of personal factors. Your credit score, which is believed to provide insight into the odds of your filing a claim—is one such factor.

Does Idaho offer a good-driver discount?

Carriers obviously appreciate customers with a low risk of filing a claim, so good drivers with clean records frequently have opportunities to save through insurance discounts. Other discounts commonly offered by Idaho auto insurance companies include:

  • Full Pay
  • Multiple Car
  • Multiple Policy
  • Good Student
  • Resident Student
  • Accident Free
  • Vehicle Safety
  • Anti-Lock Brake
  • Anti-Theft Device
  • Home Ownership
  • New Car
  • Passive Restraint
  • Utility Discount

Does Idaho allow the use of digital insurance cards?

Not only is it allowed, but Idaho started the trend! Back in March of 2012, Idaho became the first state in the country to enact legislation allowing its resident drivers to show electronic proof of coverage.

What happens if my coverage lapses?

Under Idaho law, all registered vehicles must have financial accountability with the legally mandated minimum coverage at all times. First-time offense penalties in Idaho are fairly lenient compared to those in many other states, but driving without insurance puts you and other motorists at risk and should never occur.

The first time you drive without insurance, your license will be suspended until you can show proof of coverage and pay a reinstatement fee. Also, you’ll face fines of up to about $130. Fines may increase as much as tenfold on your second infraction, though, and you may also be sentenced to up to 6 months in jail (or face less jail time and additional fines).

What are Idaho’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) percentage limits under the state's driving under the influence (DUI) laws?

It’s illegal to drive in Idaho at the following BAC percentages:

.08%+ at 21 years old or older
.04%+ for commercial vehicle drivers
.02%+ at under 21 years old

Idaho enforces stricter penalties for drivers registering a BAC of 0.20% or higher. In such situations, the penalties are increased to match what they would be if the driver had an additional prior offense within the last 10 years (i.e., a first-time offender would face second-time offender penalties, and a second-time offender would face third-time offender penalties). Learn more about DUI consequences two questions down.

What are the chemical test refusal penalties in Idaho?

In Idaho, you aren’t allowed to refuse a breath, urine, or blood test requested by a law enforcement officer who suspects you of a DUI. Officers may also require additional drug testing if you are believed to be impaired by any substance. Refusing a test results in revocation and a 1-year suspension of your driver’s license and a $250 civil penalty.

What are the consequences of being convicted of a DUI?

More than 10,000 drivers are arrested for DUI in Idaho annually. The first offense is a misdemeanor violation that can carry up to a 6-month jail sentence, up to $1,000 in fines, and a 90 to 180-day license suspension.

A second offense within 10 years is also a misdemeanor. There’s a minimum of 10 days in jail, but the sentence may go up to 1 year depending on the circumstances. Your license will be suspended for 1 year, not starting until you’re released from jail, and fines may reach up to $2,000. You’ll also be required to have an ignition interlock device installed at your own expense.

A third offense within 10 years, which is a felony, carries a minimum of 30 days and up to 5 years in jail. Fines may reach up to $5,000 and installation of an ignition interlock device is mandatory. Your license will be suspended for at least 1 year, and possibly up to 5 years, beginning at the time of your release from jail.

Does Idaho offer driver improvement courses to reduce my insurance premium?

Some car insurance carriers offering coverage in Idaho reward drivers who complete a state-approved defensive driving course with a discount. Ask your representative if such an incentive is available. Check with your county to locate an approved course in your area (or one that’s available online).

Is there any way I can reduce the cost of my Idaho car insurance?

We’ve already covered a variety of discounts and incentives above that can reduce your premium, so be sure to ask your carrier which ones you qualify for. Also, you can cut the cost of your coverage by skipping the monthly installments and paying upfront. Another effective strategy is to opt for a higher deductible in exchange for a lower premium. Don’t forget that your credit score and driving record matter when it comes to your car insurance costs, so be careful with them. Finally, when you’re looking for a new policy, be smart and shop around for the lowest rates on coverage that’s just right for you.

What is uninsured motorist coverage and is it required in Idaho?

If you get into an accident caused by a driver who’s illegally on the road without auto insurance, you can end up on the hook for all your costs associated with the crash. Uninsured motorist coverage protects you from this risk. In Idaho, your carrier must by default include uninsured motorist coverage of $25,000 bodily injury per person and $50,000 per accident in your policy; however, you can waive this coverage in writing if you want.

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