• I live in California and own my car outright, but car insurance is still a major expense.
  • My car insurance company, Esurance, recently raised my rate by about $25 a month (including the service fee) even though I haven’t submitted a claim or had any traffic violations in over two years.
  • I comparison shopped insurance rates for over an hour, but decided to stick with Esurance for a few reasons.
  • I couldn’t find anything significantly cheaper, I like the company’s clear and easy-to-use platform, and I still pay below the California average to insure my car.
  • Read more personal finance coverage.

Cars are not cheap.

Alas, I live in the car capital of the country, Los Angeles, and despite working mostly from home, I still need wheels.

I’m lucky to own my car outright, so I don’t have to worry about a monthly lease or loan payment, but California’s gas prices are the highest in the nation at over $3.60 a gallon, on average, and I pay over $250 a year to register my car with the DMV. Not to mention oil changes, repairs, and maintenance costs. Plus, car insurance is a big expense – and mine just got even bigger.

In September, about a month before my insurance policy was set to renew, I got a notice from my insurer, Esurance, that my rate would be going up. My six-month premium would increase from about $727 to $890. I’ve always been on a monthly payment schedule, which charges a $5 service fee after the first month, so that shook out to an increase of roughly $25 a month, to about $150.

The average cost of insuring a car in California is over $1,800 annually, according to a report from Reviews.com, so even with the increase I came out just below average.

Still, I've had no accidents, tickets, or violations in the last two years and my credit score is in great shape, so what gives? Esurance said in its email notice that "rates are changing across the state" of California and "the recent rise in extreme weather has caused more claims than predicted."

After some research, I discovered it's normal for car insurance rates to increase periodically due to factors out of our control, like a rise in the cost of medical treatments, car repairs, and legal fees. And when rates go up, it's often industry-wide, not necessarily insurer-specific.

But I was still curious if I could find something cheaper.

I spent an hour researching and was surprised by what I found

Over the next week or so, I spent about an hour comparison-shopping car insurance rates. I didn't want to change my coverage or deductible amounts, so I compared my exact policy - which doesn't include comprehensive or collision coverage, as they're optional in California - to three other popular insurers: Allstate, Geico, and 21st Century.

While every company gave me a good driver discount despite an accident I was at-fault for two years ago, age has a significant affect on premiums and I'm still in my 20s. I also drive a hybrid, which can be more expensive to insure than a fully gas-powered car.

Ultimately, Geico was the only insurer that quoted a lower six-month premium than Esurance - a difference of about $72 - but it wasn't enough to win me over.

My insurer is easy to use and my policy is affordable

In the end, I decided to stick with Esurance for a few reasons. Firstly, I'm already getting a $480 "good driver" discount, which is more than any of the others were offering. Second, although my policy rate increased by about 20% for the six-month period, it's still affordable for me. Lastly, I love Esurance's clear and easy-to-use platform - I know exactly what's covered with my policy and I can make changes at any time.

I paid my 6-month premium in full and saved $20

Up to now, I have been paying my car insurance premium in monthly installments, which most insurers charge extra for (Esurance charged a $5 monthly fee after the first month).

Once I decided that it wouldn't be worth it to switch insurers all together, I dipped into my emergency fund to pay the six-month premium upfront, saving $20 in total. I realize that's no savings to write home about, but it does feel good to have that expense completely taken care of.

My desire to find a cheaper policy led me to develop a good habit that could save me a lot of money. When it comes time for my policy to renew next spring, I'll be ready to comparison shop again.