Tennessee is a good place to be a car owner. The weather is moderate, car theft isn’t a big problem, and, in addition to being one of the ten cheapest states to live in, your insurance rates are pretty moderate. An average of $871 annually — more than $100 less than the national average — gets you solid coverage in Tennessee. But we think you can do even better than that, and we’re here to show you how.

Tennessee Minimum Liability

Tennessee requires fairly standard limits for bodily injury and property coverage:

  • $25,000 bodily injury coverage per person
  • $50,000 body injury coverage per accident
  • $15,000 property damage coverage per accident

But that doesn’t mean you can or should stick to these minimums. $25,000 could be a drop in the bucket if you’re involved in an accident where someone is seriously hurt, for example—and you’d be responsible for covering whatever the insurance didn’t. A general recommendation would be to shoot for 100/300/100 (This is the shorthand method of referring to coverage amounts, and we’ll stick with it for this review).

Unless you’re driving a junker, we’d also urge you to take a look at two additional types of coverage: collision and comprehensive. Collision covers repairs to your own car if you’re in an accident, while comprehensive has you covered for the many non-accident-related mishaps that happen every day, like theft and natural disasters.

Tennessee Auto Insurance Reviews

State Farm

State Farm has an easy-to-use quote tool that, after answering questions about the policy’s drivers and cars, offers three options, from a basic policy without comprehensive and collision to a premium version that gave us increased bodily injury ($100/300k) and property damage ($100k) coverage. The middle option, though, with 50/100/50 and $500 deductible on comprehensive and collision, was what we were looking for, and it comes in at $408 for six months, which includes $63 of discounts. That makes it the most expensive premium of the five companies we evaluated.

Because discounts can vary between states, State Farm offers a web page of discounts that are specific to Tennessee auto owners — the company ties with Geico for having the largest number of discounts.

One of those discounts is called “Drive Safe and Save,” and it’s worth exploring. You save five percent just by signing up. Then, the company uses your OnStar capability or, if you don’t have it, a small beacon device, to determine in real time how safe your driving is — the more you stick to speed limits and drive safely, the higher your discount is, up to a whopping 45 percent. That could bring your premium down to a far more reasonable rate than the one we got.

As far as providing educational resources for their customers, State Farm’s website is second to none. Its Simple Insights blog is extensive, with articles on car safety, financial well-being, and demystifying the whole insurance process. Interactive calculators let you figure out how you could be spending less and if you’re better off paying down debt or investing your money. In fact, even if you don’t choose to insure your car with State Farm, we suggest you spend some time on the site, especially if you’re new to the insurance process.

State Farm also earns good marks from consumer rating organizations — an 89 reader’s score from Consumer Reports puts it in a tie for first place with Geico, although J.D. Power wasn’t as impressed, giving it a two out of five overall rating. Moody’s, A.M. Best, and S&P Global all gave it high “A” level marks for financial stability, though, so you know it’s well-established and not going to disappear or balk when you submit a claim.

Geico

There’s a lot to like about Geico. In fact, in several categories, it came in at the top of our list. J.D. Power, for example, gave it a rating of four out of five in both claims and overall customer satisfaction. None of our other companies scored that high. At Consumer Reports, meanwhile, it earned a reader score of 89, tied with State Farm for first place. We give that number some weight, based as it is on nearly 24,000 responses to a CR survey.

Geico’s quote tool is easy to use and informative. You are prompted along the way to enter information that might result in a discount. Discounts are numerous, and some are fairly unique. For example, there’s a discount if you’re a member of certain alumni associations, business organizations, credit unions, military and educational organizations—you can even score a discount if you subscribe to National Geographic magazine.

All in all, you’ll find more than 800 groups listed, making it likely that one or more will fit you. After ten minutes, we had a great quote in hand: $291 for six months, which included $99 in discounts.

Geico also impressed us overall with the information that can be gleaned from its website. Unlike State Farm, it doesn’t have a comprehensive and nicely organized blog, but with a little searching, you’ll find things like a glossary of insurance terms, safety information and videos, and even a tool to find cheap gas prices near you. Geico also scored high for financial stability, which is what you’d expect of a company owned by mega-corporation Berkshire Hathaway.

Tennessee Farmer Mutual

The second most popular insurer in Tennessee is Tennessee Farmer, also known as Farm Bureau Insurance of Tennessee. It’s a regional company, and as such it doesn’t offer all the bells and whistles that you find at the larger national firms. But if you like working with local agents and a company that knows the Tennessee landscape intimately, it’s worth a look.

Tennessee Farmer is too small a company for Consumer Reports to review, and only one of the three financial ranking institutions (A.M. Best) rates it — but that ranking is an A+, so we feel pretty confident in the company’s financial solidity.

Tennessee Farmer also scored well in J.D. Power’s regional ranking of southeastern U.S. insurance companies. Out of 16 companies, including powerhouses such as USAA, Auto-Owners, and State Farm, Tennessee Farmer came in first.

Getting an online quote was a bit clunky — it takes a while just to find the quote tool on the website. You have to plug in your zip code on the home page, which takes you to a listing of local agents in your area. From there, you click on the agency of your choice and are taken to a page which features the quote tool hidden at the bottom of the page.

If you make it that far, though, you may be pleasantly surprised — our quote came in at $336 for six months, which placed them solidly in the middle of our field. There were, however, few discounts, and the company adds two fees to this number: a one-time processing fee of $15, annual membership dues of $25.

The Tennessee Farmer website didn’t thrill us, either. It’s neatly organized and clearly presents the few available discounts and endorsements, but there’s no learning section. You can pay your bill and file a claim online. So, the basics are covered — but that’s about it.

Allstate

Despite not making it to the top of our list, there were some things we liked very much about Allstate. Its website, for example, is packed with information that would be invaluable to insurance newbies. Its quote tool is easy and intuitive, and lets you choose from among three proposed levels of coverage or create your own customized policy. It also managed to find eight discounts for us, saving almost $300—which still left us with a quote of $406, second only to State Farm

Although it scored in the “A” range with financial rankers Moody’s, A.M. Best, and S&P Global, Allstate was at the lower end of the rating scale. All three agencies judged it to be slightly less stable than our other contenders, although not enough for the average consumer to worry about.

Having said that, the differences between Allstate and the other top car insurance companies in Tennessee are minimal. The company’s reputation for claims satisfaction, backed by a three out of five score for claims from J.D. Power and “excellent” rating from Consumer Reports for “timely payment,” make it worth quoting with when you’re looking for the best auto insurance in Tennessee.

Progressive

Progressive makes it easy to get a quote, and the number we received — $244 for six months — was the cheapest quote we got from our five contenders. Its quote tool allows you to try out different levels of coverage to customize your own policy; there’s even a name-your-own-price tool that lets you input what you want to pay per month and see what coverage you can afford for it.

Progressive does some things a little differently than many other companies. For one thing, it works with independent insurance agents, rather than dedicated agents who are employed by the company. There’s some benefit to you there: an independent agent can look for the best coverage for you from among all the companies they work with; you’re not tied to a particular company.

For another, they offer service centers in some areas that provide concierge services following a claim. From providing estimates for repairs to leasing you a loaner, it’s one-stop convenience. The bad news? There are none in Tennessee — yet. If you travel a lot, though, this might appeal to you.

Tips for Tennessee Drivers

Protecting Tennessee’s Teens

Teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are nearly three times more likely to be in a fatal crash than drivers aged 20 and older, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

Tennessee addressed this problem by creating the Graduated Driver License Program, a multi-tiered program that eases novice drivers into full driving privileges as they develop more driving skills. Each of the three tiers (learner permit, intermediate restricted license, and intermediate unrestricted license) requires further training and practice before students finally earn their full driver’s license.

Two of our companies, State Farm and Progressive, offer discounts geared toward teen/student drivers, and State Farm’s website also includes helpful articles on teens and safety behind the wheel.

You Need Insurance. No, Really.

Have you been driving without insurance in Tennessee? You’re not alone. Tennessee ranks in fifth place among states with the highest percentage of uninsured drivers. Twenty percent of Tennesseans — that’s well more than a million people — have no coverage.

We don’t encourage this; it’s not even legal to park your car on a public road if you have no insurance in Tennessee. Here are a couple of ways you can make insurance more affordable:

  • Raise your deductible. When we changed the deductible from $500 to $2,000, for example, on our Progressive quote (the lowest one we got), we brought the six-month cost of our policy down to very reasonable $207.
  • Drop coverage you can live without. When we took collision off that Progressive quote, it brought it down to under $200. If you’re driving around in a 2018 model sports car, you won’t want to do that. But if your car is older or not in great shape, it’s probably not necessary to have collision, because it would be cheaper to buy a newer car than to fix the old one if you’re in an accident.
  • Drive a different car. Some cars are just cheaper to insure, for a variety of reasons including crash statistics and repair costs. In 2016, for example, the Jeep Wrangler SUV featured the lowest premiums per cost of any car in the U.S.

Consider Comprehensive

Let’s talk comprehensive insurance. While Tennessee is blessed with a pleasant and moderate climate, it does lead the list of states that have the highest percentage of tornadoes with fatalities. On average, there are 19 tornadoes a year in Tennessee.

If you live in a tornado-prone area (West and Middle Tennessee get more than East), consider adding comprehensive coverage to your car insurance policy. While not required by Tennessee law, comprehensive is the insurance that protects you from non-accident-related happenings, like, say, when a tree falls on your brand new pickup during a storm. It also covers flood, fire, and animal damage, as well as theft and vandalism.

Tennessee isn’t a top state for car theft (California leads that list), but like tornados, theft happens, especially in urban areas. Comprehensive insurance averages $134 a year — and may be considerably less if you go with a higher deductible and shop around. If you finance your car purchase, you may be required to carry comprehensive, but even if not, it’s worth looking into if you worry about natural disasters or theft.