When it comes to choosing a car insurer, you’ve got a lot of options. Nationwide, 24 companies collected more than $1 billion in premiums in 2013, and there are many more companies on top of that.

Your choice of insurer will have a big effect on prices. It will also determine the quality of service you get with your policy. .

Different Companies, Different Prices

A big difference between insurance companies is who they want as their customers. Companies target different groups of drivers. Some insure only drivers with clean records. Others specialize in insuring drivers with accidents or violations. As a result, they’ll tweak their prices to attract the types of customers they want.

There are also companies that cater to certain groups of people. For example, USAA provides coverage only for military members and their families.

What this means is there isn’t one company that’s the best for everyone. Instead, you need to find the insurer that’s right for you. The only way to do that is to shop around and get quotes from a handful of companies.

AutoInsurance.com’s quote process helps you do this by giving you actual quotes from multiple insurers. You get to compare real prices and can see which company has the best deal.

Finding a Top-Rated Company

You don’t want to choose an insurer just because it’s popular or cheap. You also want to get good customer and claims service. There are three main ways you can get a sense of an insurer’s customer service:

  1. Review customer-satisfaction studies from companies like J.D. Power & Associates.
  2. Review consumer-complaint data from state regulators.
  3. Ask friends and family about their experiences with their insurers.

Checking a Company’s License Status

If you’re buying from a small company you’ve never heard of, you may want to do your homework first. Take a couple minutes to research whether it’s licensed to sell insurance in your state. If you buy a policy from an unlicensed insurer, the policy could be worthless.

Luckily for you, state regulators often provide online tools you can use. First, find your state insurance regulator’s website. Then, find the license lookup tool. It will usually be named something like “company lookup” or “license lookup.” Once you’ve found it, enter the full name of the insurer, and see if it’s licensed. If it is, you’re good to go. If it’s not, you should probably contact your state insurance regulator.

Most Popular Car Insurance Companies

Even though there are many insurers to choose from, some are more popular than others. In 2012, 70% of the $174 billion that Americans paid in premiums went to the 10 largest companies.

Market Share by Company in 2012 :

1 Allstate 10.00% market share, $17.48 billion in premiums

2 Berkshire Hathaway (GEICO) 9.58% market share, $16.75 billion in premiums

3 Progressive 8.26% market share, $14.44 billion in premiums

4 Zurich (Farmers, 21st Century) 5.88% market share, $10.28 billion in premiums

5 USAA 4.83% market share, $8.45 billion in premiums

6 Liberty Mutual 4.73% market share, $8.26 billion in premiums

7 Nationwide 4.08% market share, $7.14 billion in premiums

8 Travelers 1.94% market share, $3.39 billion in premiums

9 American Family 1.89% market share, $3.30 billion in premiums

Did You Know?

Car insurance premiums

The 10 largest car insurance companies wrote more than $121 billion in premiums in 2012. That's about 70% of all car insurance premiums that year.