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Driving in the Evergreen State

From snow-capped mountains to urban tech centers and forested islands, Washington State offers something for residents and tourists of all interests. This diversity in landscape and population means there’s always something new to do and someplace new to explore, but it also increases driving dangers, and therefore insurance rates. Our carrier-neutral information helps make shopping for insurance less complicated and time consuming.

Auto insurers base your rates on numerous factors that affect risk, such as your age, gender, marital status, vehicle type and age, location, driving record, claims history, credit history, and how much you drive. However, each insurance company weighs these factors differently, which means you may receive very different quotes from different carriers. Always comparison shop and compare rates to make sure you get the best deal possible.

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Washington Auto Insurance Rates

Not sure where to begin your search for car insurance? Try checking out the top three auto insurance companies in Washington State and the Northwest region of the United States (see the full list).

  1. PEMCO
  2. The Hartford
  3. GEICO

Selecting an auto insurance company is a personal and important decision, so consider a variety of factors before making a final decision. Key considerations include the company’s customer satisfaction rankings, premiums, and the number of rejected claims.

Choose your city from the list below to start comparison shopping now. If your hometown’s not showing, that’s no problem. Click here to start comparing rates instantly.


Legalities 101

Washington automobile insurance is important even if you’re an excellent driver. You never know if other motorists on the road will obey traffic laws or make a mistake, and insurance protects against more than just accidents. What happens if a tree falls on your car or you get trapped in a hail storm? You should always carry as much car insurance as you can afford. The below safety information for Washington may convince you to increase your coverage.

Washington Driving Safety

Washington motorists face many risks, from rain-slicked roadways to tourists distractedly gazing at the state’s natural beauty and other attractions. Plus, according to a statewide observational study, nearly 10% of drivers in Washington are distracted while driving, and fatalities from distracted driving are climbing.

For more information on driver safety in Washington, refer to the Washington State Department of Transportation 2014 Annual Collision Summary and the CDC’s Washington drunk driving infographic.

Washington Driving Safety Stats

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Number of fatal crashes in 2014
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Number of collisions due to distracted driving
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Percent reporting driving after drinking too much

Driving Green

Washington is well known as a bastion of conservation-minded people, organizations, and policies. The state encourages residents to go green by offering money-saving incentives and other perks. The local laws and incentives are continuously evolving, though, so check with your local licensing branch to remain current.

  • Emissions Test Exemptions for Alternative Fuel Vehicles (AFVs)

    Washington exempts certain eco-friendly vehicles from emissions testing. These vehicles include hybrids, electric vehicles, compressed natural gas vehicles, propane-powered vehicles, and diesel vehicles that weigh under 6,001 lbs. or are of a model year newer than 2007. Motorcycles are also exempt.

  • Auto Insurance Discounts for Eco-Friendly Driving and Green Vehicles

    Some insurers in Washington offer auto insurance discounts to reward green driving and fuel-efficient vehicle ownership. Hybrids, AFVs, and economy cars are generally eligible for discounted rates. Low-mileage discounts are also available.

  • Federal and State Tax Incentives

    In addition to the federal tax incentives offered to eco-friendly drivers, Washington exempts new and used-and-converted vehicles that use clean alternative fuels from state motor vehicle sales use taxes. These vehicles may include passenger cars, light-duty trucks, and medium-duty passenger vehicles. Clean alternative fuels include hydrogen, electricity, propane, and natural gas.

Car Insurance Laws

Being a Minimalist

Drivers in Washington must carry auto insurance in the amount of $25,000 of bodily injury or death for one person per accident, $50,000 of bodily insurance or death for any two people in a single accident, and $10,000 of property damage liability insurance. Alternatively, drivers can apply for a certificate of deposit to pay for liability insurance or have a liability bond of at least $60,000.

Driving a motor vehicle in Washington State without the required insurance can cost you $550 or more in fines. Drivers of motorcycles, mopeds, motor-driven cycles, state or publicly-owned vehicles, and—yep—horseless carriages more than 40 years old, do not need to carry insurance.

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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

Maximum payment for injury or death to multiple people 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

Full coverage insurance is not required in Washington State, but some lenders insist on it for financed vehicles. Consider this additional expense when calculating the price of your auto loan, and always check with your finance company before making changes to your insurance policy.

Optional coverage in Washington

  • Auto Loan/Lease (or "gap")
  • Personal Injury Protection
  • Medical Payments
  • Uninsured Motorist
  • Collision
  • Comprehensive
  • Emergency Road Service
  • Car Rental
  • Custom Equipment
  • Death, Dismemberment, and Loss of Sight

Optional coverages are those added onto a policy that are not required by law. They are intended to provide greater financial protection and peace of mind. Some exclusions will apply.

Take a look at our post 10 Things to Consider when Shopping for a New Auto Insurance Policy for some tips to help you choose wisely.

Washington car insurance companies

The Hartford
State Farm
American Family
Liberty Mutual

*This list is based on consumer ratings for the Northwest region listed in the J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Auto Insurance Study. Ratings are derived from five areas: coverage options, policy price, claims experience, billing, and interaction. USAA is only open to U.S. military personnel and their families and was therefore not included in the rankings.

Car Safety for Washington Kids

Washington Car Seat Regulations

Washington State children must ride in a child restraint until their 8th birthday or until they reach a height of 4 feet 9 inches. The restraint system, which may be a car seat, booster seat, or vest, must be used correctly according to the vehicle and seat manufacturer’s instructions.

Infants should ride in a rear-facing seat with a 5-point harness for as long as possible, per manufacturer instructions regarding weight and height requirements. Older infants and toddlers should transition to a forward-facing upright seat.

Children who are 8 years or older or at least 4 feet 9 inches tall and wear a seat belt must use it correctly or continue to ride in a booster seat. Vehicles with lap-only seat belts are exempt from booster seat requirements.

Children under 13 years old should sit in the back seat whenever possible to prevent potential injuries from airbag deployment in the event of an accident.

Leaving Children Unattended in a Vehicle

It’s a misdemeanor to leave children under 16 years old unattended in a vehicle with the engine running. Subsequent violations will result in license revocation. Residents of Washington are encouraged to report any suspected unattended child to their local police department.

Of course, there are other reasons not to leave your child (or a pet) alone in a car that have nothing to do with losing your license. Even in Washington’s cool climate, temperature inside a car parked in the sun can quickly become dangerously high, possibly leading to illness, brain damage, or death. Plus, unattended children are at increased risk of being kidnapped or injured, and they have been known to knock parked cars into gear. It’s never a good idea to leave a child alone in a vehicle.

Car Insurance FAQ

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

Yes, insurers in Washington may use information contained in your credit report in determining your premium. If your credit score causes your rates to increase, the insurance company must tell you what factors contributed to that increase in cost.

Does Washington offer a good-driver discount?

Driving safely and avoiding accidents can earn you a good-driver discount in Washington. Each carrier has different rules regarding the definition of a good driver, so check with your insurance company. Other potential discounts include:

  • Claim-Free
  • Pay-As-You-Drive
  • Defensive Driving
  • Home Ownership
  • Anti-Lock Brake
  • Anti-Theft Device
  • Good Student
  • Multi-Car
  • Multiple Line
  • Passive Restraint
  • Vehicle Safety

Does Washington allow the use of digital insurance cards?

Yes. Any time you’re behind the wheel in Washington State, you need to be prepared to show proof of insurance to law enforcement officers. Proof of insurance can be provided in either paper or digital format.

What happens if my coverage lapses?

Coverage lapses or failure to provide proof of insurance in Washington can result in severe penalties, including up to a $450 fine. Lapses in coverage may also raise your insurance premiums in the future.

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

It is illegal for individuals to operate a motor vehicle in Washington with the following BAC percentages:

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

Driving under the influence in Washington State refers to operating a motor vehicle while affected by drugs, alcohol, or both. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medications.

What are the chemical test refusal penalties in Washington?

Washington’s “implied consent” law means that drivers are considered to have given consent to a breath or blood test if suspected of driving under the influence. If arrested, you have the right to refuse the test, but doing so will result in suspension of your driver’s license for at least one year, depending on your number of previous offenses; the refusal can also be used as evidence against you in court.

What are the consequences of being convicted of a DUI?

Driving under the influence in Washington will result in suspension of your driver’s license and may also require you to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle. Fines and criminal penalties, including jail time, are also possible.

The severity of your punishment may vary depending on several factors, including your BAC at the time of your arrest and whether you are a first-time or repeat offender.

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

Yes. Washington allows drivers to take defensive driving courses for a possible reduction in the cost of their insurance premiums. Classes can also be used to fulfill legal obligations or to prevent traffic tickets from appearing on your record. Classes can be completed at a commercial driver’s training school or from an approved online provider.

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

You can reduce your monthly insurance costs by shopping around and comparing rates, selecting the right car and level of coverage, choosing a higher deductible in exchange for a lower premium, maintaining a good driving record and credit history, and applying for special discounts.

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

Uninsured motorist insurance covers injuries an uninsured or underinsured driver causes to someone else. This coverage is optional in Washington, but it’s recommended to protect your assets and health.

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