Picking out the right car insurance, and knowing how much coverage to purchase, is tricky. But if you're an active-duty military member, veteran or the family member of one, you may have better options for auto insurance. Some companies offer discounts for vets, while other auto insurance carriers create policies specifically for them.
Car insurance companies that exclusively cover service members and veterans -- whether you're a sailor, Marine, soldier, airman, Coast Guardsman, National Guard member or reservist -- provide a pricing scale that larger insurers typically can't match. Eligibility for the families of service members or veterans will depend on the carrier. Military members and vets may have access to a variety of cheaper car insurance options that aren't available to the general public, often withhundreds of dollars below the national average.
If you fall into any of these categories, it's still critical to compare rates and policies. "Current and former military [personnel] should shop for insurance just like everyone else," said Dan Karr, CEO of ValChoice, an independent platform for insurance analytics and ratings. The way a provider handles claims should also be an important consideration when researching insurance policies, Karr added.
Here are some of our top car insurance company picks for military members, veterans and their families.
Best car insurance companies for members of the military and veterans
Active-duty military service members, veterans and their immediate family members are eligible to apply for United Services Automobile Association insurance. If you fall into one of these categories, you may find yourself eligible for cheaper rates than you might find elsewhere. Customers who switch their auto insurance policies to USAA saved $725 on average per year, according to USAA's website. Moreover, USAA's average annual premium for full coverage is among the most competitive, coming in at $1,209 compared to $1,771 for the national average, according to Bankrate.
The company has been around since 1922, when 25 US Army officers decided to insure each other's vehicles. Today, the insurance company serves millions; the insurer's low car insurance rates are a big draw, but USAA's high customer satisfaction scores from J.D. Power surveys are also alluring. Its overall customer satisfaction score averages to 884 across US regions; higher than the industry average of 834.
The bottom line: USAA is a worthy option to look into if you're eligible to buy a policy.
Geico doesn't quite match USAA's rates: The company's average annual premium for full coverage sits at $1,297 compared to USAA's $1,225, according to Bankrate. Nonetheless, Geico's rates fall well below the $1,771 national average, and its military discount makes for a good insurance choice if you're active or retired military.
All active-duty and retired personnel, as well as members of the National Guard or Military Reserves, are eligible for up to 15% off their total insurance rate premium. Moreover, Geico offers an additional Emergency Deployment Discount to customers who deploy into a military base in imminent danger pay areas, as designated by the Department of Defense. The company has a special customer service team dedicated to military assistance, as well as a toll-free line dedicated to serving military customers -- 1-800-MILITARY.
Check out our full review of Geico Auto Insurance.
Armed Forces Insurance has deep roots -- it was founded in 1887 by military leaders -- and while it's not as well-known as USAA, it's been around longer and has broader eligibility requirements, making it easier for more people to qualify for coverage.
AFI expands its coverage beyond active-duty and retired service members -- and their children and spouses -- to the Department of Defense civilian employees, officers of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the US Public Health Service. If you fall into one of those groups (or have in the past), AFI may be worth a look.
However, one of the most glaring differences between AFI and USAA is reflected in the companies' customer satisfaction and ratings. While USAA routinely scores high in customer satisfaction, feedback on AFI is more divided. AM Best has given AFI a B+ financial strength rating compared to USAA's A++. Moreover, AFI receives more than 3.5 times the complaints compared to the national industry average, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners,
Other carriers with notable discounts
Arbella is a regional insurance company offering car, home and business insurance policies in the New England area, though its auto policies are only offered in Massachusetts and Connecticut. If you live in either of these states, Abrella is worth exploring because the company offers up to a 10% discount for any active-duty service member deployed more than 100 miles away from your vehicle.
Farmers extends its "Affinity discount" for military customers who are active duty, active reserve, retired or honorably discharged veterans. Pair this discount with others from Farmers' robust list, including good payer (history of paying in full, on time), multicar and ePolicy discounts, and you're well on your way to bringing your annual premiums down.
Liberty Mutual is another insurer that offers a robust set of discounts, including one that extends to active, retired and reserve members of the US armed forces. Though Liberty Mutual's average annual premium for full coverage sits a bit higher than the national average using the military discount along with homeowner, bundling multicar, good student or early shopper discounts can help make its policies more affordable.
Best car insurance for military and veterans, compared
|Company||Benefits||A.M. Best Financial Strength Rating*|
|USAA||Family coverage, low rates, award-winning service and coverage.||A++|
|Geico||Military personnel, emergency deployment, dedicated hotline for military customers.||A++|
|Armed Forces Insurance||Department of Defense civilian employees and NOAA and PHS commissioned officers eligible.||B+|
*A.M. Best financial strength rating scale runs from D (lowest) to A++ (highest).
What is the best car insurance for military members?
The best carrier will differ for everyone, depending on your specific situation, how much coverage and what kinds of coverage you want. According to our research, USAA and Geico offer among the most competitive rates out there for service members, and they both cover a wide range of coverage options and discounts to help formulate a policy that fits your needs and budget.
Whichever auto insurer you choose, your military service may potentially mean savings. For that reason, it's important to always check your eligibility and inquire about the rates and discounts that service members, veterans and their families can get.
What should you do when applying for car insurance as a service member or veteran?
- Look for quotes from a variety of insurance companies. Make sure to include companies that offer military discounts, as well as those that only serve the military.
- Choose the plan that makes the most sense for you, based on eligible car insurance discounts, the company's customer service rating, auto claims satisfaction, coverage options and the final price.
- Gather documented proof of your identity and military service such as your military ID or DD-214 (or the service of your family member, along with proof of relation).
- Submit the appropriate documents to your insurer of choice, then wait for final approval.
How can you save on car insurance as a veteran?
Some carriers only serve members of the military, such as USAA and AFI. These insurers generally have competitive rates compared to other mainstream carriers available to the general public. If USAA and AFI don't serve your needs, mainstream carriers like Geico, Liberty Mutual and Farmers also offer discounts for military members. If you pair a low premium rate with a variety of discounts, including a military discount, you may be able to bring your annual premiums down substantially and save on car insurance in the long run.
How do you get a military discount on car insurance? What documents do you need to show you're eligible?
The requirements to receive a military discount differ from insurer to insurer. For example, while Geico simply gives all active-duty military and retired personnel up to a 15% discount, Arbella will only apply up to a 10% discount if you're an active-duty military member that is deployed more than 100 miles away from your vehicle. You'll want to check what each insurer's parameters are for qualifying for a military discount.
That said, the documents to prove your eligibility for military discounts are similar across the board. You'll likely need to show one or more of the following documents:
- Military orders if you are actively serving
- Academy appointment letter or ROTC contract
- Discharge certificate
- Letters or statements showing membership in an eligible military group, such as the Navy League of the United States or the Armed Forces Benefit Association.
CNET reviews insurance carriers and products by exhaustively comparing them across set criteria developed for each category. For auto insurance, we examine average annual premium rates for full coverage, consumer complaints, collision repair scores, the carrier's financial strength, auto claims satisfaction and overall customer satisfaction. For this list, we also investigated available discounts for military members, veterans and their families. Our data comes from a multitude of sources.
Auto insurance rates come from Bankrate, which gathers data using Quadrant Information Services. We also use both J.D. Power annual surveys that collect data on customer auto claims satisfaction and overall customer satisfaction.
Consumer complaints are taken from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, which collects consumer complaints across states, indexing complaints on a scale that takes into account the industry average. We collect the financial strength rating of each carrier from the A.M. Best Rating.
Last, we collected collision repair scores from the Crash Network Insurer Report Card, which collects data from collision repair professionals, including mechanics, to gauge the quality of collision claims service from insurance carriers.
More car insurance advice:
The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.