Can You Really Get $20 Down Payment Car Insurance?

You may have seen ads for low-cost car insurance, with some companies offering insurance for as little as $20 down. But is that for real?
Last updated Sept. 26, 2022 | By Kate Daugherty | Edited By Mindy Woodall
A hand holds several 20-dollar bills arranged in a fan

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You may have seen some ads promoting low or no down payment options for car insurance. Some promotions claim you could pay as little as $20 to get a new insurance policy. But is such a great deal too good to be true?

Probably, yes. No one wants to pay more than they have to for car insurance, but odds are slim that you’ll be able to get an insurance down payment as low as $20. All car insurance companies require at least some money down, and most of them charge more than $20.

Companies who advertise such cheap car insurance are often obscuring heavy restrictions about who qualifies and what type of insurance coverage you’d get.

In this article

What is a down payment for car insurance?

When you request a car insurance quote, you’ll see that the company requires a down payment, sometimes called a deposit, before your new policy takes effect. Insurance companies will not give you insurance coverage without having you pay at least some money upfront. Although some companies do offer payment plans.

Your down payment acts as a deposit on your car insurance policy. It’s usually part of the cost of your premium — not a separate charge. The insurance company uses deposits to help verify your legitimacy and check that you have a working payment method.

How much is a normal car insurance down payment?

In most cases, your down payment will be some percentage of your total premium. If you plan to break up your premium into monthly installments, you may be required to pay a percentage of your first month’s bill (usually either 50% or 100%).

There are no official limits on insurance down payments, and the car insurance company can ask for two months or more worth of payments upfront before your coverage takes effect.

If you’ve got some money in the bank, many insurance companies also offer the option to pay your entire six-month or annual premium upfront in exchange for a discount.

The exact deposit amount and the cost of your monthly car insurance payment will depend on the insurance company you choose, your types of coverage, and other factors such as your credit history, so make sure to consider all of your options when researching how to switch car insurance.

Can you get a $20 down payment on your car insurance?

In short, probably not. The cheaper your car insurance premium, the less expensive your down payment usually is. But even cheap auto insurance down payments usually cost more than $20. You may find that only drivers who want the state-minimum required insurance coverage, and who have perfect driving records and credit histories, are eligible for the lowest down payments.

If you need more than minimum coverage (most people do), or if you have some marks on your driving record, you’ll probably have to pay a higher down payment than $20.

What factors could stop you from getting a $20 down payment car insurance

Many factors go into deciding your auto insurance rates, including:

  • Your driving record
  • How much you use your car
  • Where you live and work
  • The type and amount of coverage you need
  • The kind of car you drive and how much it's worth
  • Your age
  • Your gender
  • How you use your car (commuting, pleasure driving, etc.)
  • Your credit history

Even if you are an ideal candidate with a perfect driving history, a high credit score, and a less-expensive car, it’s unlikely that you will only have to pay $20 for your car insurance down payment. Sometimes, even state regulations can prevent you from getting a low down payment option.

If you drive a high-value vehicle, don’t have insurance or credit history, or are a new driver, then you probably won’t be able to find a low down payment option — much less one that costs only $20.

Six ways to reduce your auto insurance down payment

To get the lowest down payment possible, you’ll want to make sure you’re receiving the best car insurance rate possible. There are many different ways you can try and get lower rates on your car insurance. Here are six of them:

1. Decrease your coverage

Depending on the value of your car and its age, you may be able to decrease the amount of collision or comprehensive coverage you carry.

Although nearly all states require you to maintain certain levels of liability coverage, as your car ages, you can start to remove optional full coverage options. According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), if your premium costs more than 10 times the worth of your car, it’s probably not your most cost-effective option.

2. Increase your deductible

Increasing your deductible, which is the amount you pay before insurance kicks in after an accident, could save you some serious money on your premiums.

Even increasing your deductible from $200 to $500 could reduce your collision and comprehensive coverage costs by 15% to 30%, according to the III. Going to a $1,000 deductible might save you 40% or more.

You should know that if you raise the deductible, you need to make sure you have that same amount of money set aside in a savings account. You’ll need to pay that cash upfront before your insurance takes over in the case of an accident.

3. Compare different insurance providers

Pricing can vary from one company to another, so make sure to compare multiple auto insurance quotes and coverage offerings before settling on a policy. It’s easy to get a free quote from multiple auto insurance companies online, including big names such as Progressive, Geico, Allstate, and State Farm.

Before you commit to an auto insurance policy, check on the company’s financial health, customer service reviews, and claims process.

4. Ask for premium discounts

Most insurance companies offer various discounts on their policies. Insurance discounts are available for things such as being a safe driver, having good credit, or bundling multiple insurance policies together (such as home and auto insurance).

Even driving fewer miles than the average person could qualify you for a discount. Ask your insurance provider directly if there are any additional discounts you may qualify for, or check the company’s website for discount details.

5. Keep a clean driving record

Your insurance rates tend to go up after you’ve been in a car accident, but they can also increase if you get speeding tickets or other moving violations within the span of a few years. Do your best to keep your driving record clean to be eligible for the best rates available.

6. Increase your credit score

Along with a clean driving record, a solid credit score can help you keep your insurance rates low. Most insurance companies use credit scores to help determine your auto rates. To improve your credit score, make loan and credit card payments on time and keep your credit utilization rate under 30%.

FAQs

Is it possible to get car insurance with a $20 down payment?

Maybe, but it’s unlikely. Many insurance companies require at least one month’s payment before coverage starts, and that will probably cost you more than $20. Some insurance companies offer discounts for paying a higher cost upfront, but few offer down payments as low as $20.

The people who get the cheapest car insurance down payments are generally those who only want minimal coverage and who have high credit scores and perfect driving records.

Is car insurance cheaper if you pay upfront?

Usually, yes. It’s often cheaper if you pay your entire premium for a six- or 12-month policy upfront because some insurance companies offer a discount if you pay all at once.

If you’re a new customer, the insurance company may waive its down payment requirement completely if you pay your entire annual premium before your new policy goes into effect. 

Do I have to pay a deposit for car insurance?

Yes, all car insurance companies require some sort of deposit or down payment. No-deposit car insurance ads are often misleading. Most insurance companies require you to pay the amount of one monthly payment before coverage begins. Some companies require even more than that.

If you don’t have any credit or car insurance history, or if you have bad credit, you may be required to put up additional money as part of your deposit or down payment. 

Bottom line

Although a $20 down payment is possible, most insurance companies don’t offer it. Even when insurance companies do have down payments that low, they’re usually only offered to a few customers who meet several criteria.

Even if you can’t get a $20 down payment, check out our tips to save money on car insurance and research the factors that affect car insurance rates to make sure you get a good price on your new policy.

  • You could save up to $500 with some companies
  • Compare dozens of providers in under 5 minutes
  • Fast, free and easy way to shop for insurance
  • Quickly find the perfect rate for you

Author Details

Kate Daugherty Kate Daugherty is a freelance writer based in Denver, Colorado. She specializes in personal finance, grant writing, and senior health.