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How to Shop for Car Insurance

Close up of a car insurance policy next to a calculator and car keys to depict factors that determine car insurance premiums.

You always hear the advertisements that claim that you can save money from switching car insurance carriers, but if you don’t know how to shop for auto insurance or you have been with the same provider for years, you may not know where to start. Follow this detailed guide below for tips and advice on shopping for auto insurance.

When is the Best Time to Compare Car Insurance?

Car insurance rates frequently change, so it is always a good idea to keep your eyes open for a better price. However, there are a few life milestones that may spark a search for auto insurance quotes:

• When your teen driver gets their license. Teen drivers can be costly to insure, so adding one to your policy could mean a significant increase in your premiums. You may want to compare car insurance quotes with the addition of your teen driver as some companies offer increased discounts such as a good student discount.

• When you get married. Getting married is likely to lower your car insurance, but you might find that you can get an even better rate with another company. A marriage may also prompt a car insurance search if you and your spouse have different providers.

• When you buy a home or move. When you move or buy a home, you may be interested in a renters or homeowners insurance policy. You might be eligible for a discount if you have all of your policies with one provider, so a move might be an excellent time to explore your options.

• If you get a DUI or have a bad mark on your driving record. Whether your rates increased from a speeding ticket or worse – your carrier dropped you because of a DUI, a bad mark on your driving record could be a great time to start a car insurance search.

What Information Do I Need to Obtain Car Insurance Quotes?

In order to make the search process more seamless, it’s essential to have the following information on hand as you shop car insurance providers:

• Your vehicle information. This includes your vehicle’s year, make and model, as well as its mileage and vehicle identification number, also known as its VIN.

• An account of your driving record. Whether you have a clean driving history or a few points or tickets, it is crucial to know the details to get an accurate quote.

• Your personal information. In addition to general information, you should also have your social security number and driver’s license number on hand.

What Methods Are Available to Shop Car Insurance?

Depending on the insurance companies you select, oftentimes, you can obtain car insurance quotes online, over the phone, or in-person. It is important to note that rates and premiums can vary based on the way you shop. Below are some facts to consider with each option:


Pros: The decision to buy car insurance online would be a good one for you if you are most interested in convenience and have a basic understanding of the coverage options and what you would like in your policy.

Cons: Unfortunately, online quotes can be estimates and not representative of the exact amount you can expect to pay. Furthermore, online quotes involve sharing personal information online, which some people find risky. Depending on which sites you use to obtain quotes, you can open yourself up to being contacted by multiple companies, which can be seen as a hassle for some.

Through an Independent Agent or Broker

Pros: An independent agent or broker is someone who works with many different insurance providers. The benefit of working with an independent agent is you can meet with someone one-on-one who can compare quotes from multiple insurance companies.

Cons: Independent agents work on commission, which means they may try to up-sell you on coverages you don’t necessarily need. Therefore, unless you have a general knowledge of insurance coverage, then an independent agent may not be the route for you. Additionally, independent agents tend to favor certain companies and are not required to offer you the most affordable auto insurance policy, so you may want to do some additional research on your own.

Through an Exclusive Agent

Pros: An exclusive agent is one who only sells insurance for the company in which they work. The benefit of working with an exclusive agent is the opportunity to connect with a person who can provide advice on the coverage that is best for you. It also enables you to form a lasting relationship with your trusted insurance representative.

Cons: Exclusive agents are also partially paid based on the commission of the policies they sell, which means they may try to up-sell you. It is also important to note that they cannot compare rates from other companies as they only represent the company they work for.

What Coverages Should I Consider When I Compare Car Insurance Quotes?

In order to get accurate comparisons from company to company, it is essential to note the following coverages and amounts on your policy quotes:

• Liability coverage limits. Liability coverage is the most common form of auto insurance. Liability coverage includes bodily injury and property damage insurance. This coverage will help to pay for injuries and damages to another person or their property, resulting from an accident that you cause. The lower your liability limits are, the cheaper the premium will be, but it is important to have enough coverage to protect you in the event of an accident.

• Coverage options. Liability insurance is a requirement in many states; however, there are additional coverages that you may consider as well. If you want to add-on coverage that would help to pay for damages to your vehicle in the event of an accident, you may consider comprehensive or collision insurance.

• Deductible. Your deductible is a selected amount that you will pay out of pocket in the event of a claim before your insurance policy pays any money out. Your insurance premium is likely to decrease the higher your deductible is. While you likely want to avoid a high premium, you should avoid selecting such a large deductible that it will be difficult to pay in the event of a claim.

• Premium and policy period. If you are shopping to find the best price, the number you will look at most closely is the premium, which is the amount you will pay for your policy. It is important to pay attention to the policy period as some companies offer annual policies while others have a six-month policy period.

How Much Coverage Do I Need?

A licensed insurance agent can make recommendations about how much coverage you should have; however, if you are shopping for car insurance online or want to have a better understanding of what your coverage options are it is crucial to consider the following:

• Your state’s minimum required limits. When it comes to liability insurance, most states have minimum limits that every driver must obtain. For example, in the state of California, the minimum limits are $15,000 bodily injury liability coverage per person and $30,000 per accident, and the property damage liability minimum is $5,000. Your first thought may be to select these limits; however, consider the damage you could cause from a serious accident. If you caused an accident that resulted in more than $5,000 in damage or $30,000 in injuries, you would be required to pay the remaining balance out of pocket unless you increased your limits.

• If you have a lease or a loan. If your vehicle is financed or leased, you will likely be required to carry comprehensive and collision coverage. Collision coverage is the insurance that will help to pay for any damages to your vehicle resulting from a collision, regardless of who was at fault. Comprehensive coverage will help to pay for any damages to your vehicle that resulted from anything other than a collision, such as a tree branch falling on your car.

• Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. This coverage will help to pay for damages that result from an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver. Some providers automatically include this coverage, while others do not. It is also important to note that it is a requirement in some states.

How Do I Take Advantage of Available Discounts?

You might think that insurance providers will offer all available discounts upfront; however, there might be a discount that they overlooked or that they did not know you were eligible. Be sure to ask for all possible discounts and keep possible ones in mind such as:

• Multi-policy discount
• Multi-vehicle discount
• Good payer discount for direct deposit or discount for paying your premium in full
• Good driver discount
• Defensive driver discount
• Anti-theft discount
• Paperless discount
• Low-mileage discount for drivers who drive less than average or use public transportation
• Group discounts, which may be available through your employer, alumni associations, and more

Six Additional Tips to Consider

1. Consider quotes from multiple companies. It is wise to get at least three price quotes from different companies to compare wisely.

2. Check out local providers in addition to national companies. Many drivers often think of the more massive, national names when it comes to auto insurance, but local and regional providers rank very high in terms of customer satisfaction and should not be overlooked.

3. Be honest. You might think that it is harmless to say your car is used only for pleasure instead of commuting or using a different address in a better neighborhood in order to obtain lower premiums. However, being dishonest with your insurance provider can be extremely risky. If your lie is exposed in may leave you on the hook to pay a claim that you thought would be covered.

4. Ask your friends and family for recommendations. While you might default to considering the most prominently advertised company, you should also seek the advice of friends and family on insurance companies that they would recommend.

5. Additional coverage options. Beyond comprehensive and collision coverage, you may also be interested in additional options such as roadside assistance, which provides towing coverage or assistance for flat tires, or new car replacement coverage that would pay-in-full for a new car if your car was totaled.

6. Avoid a gap in coverage. Do not cancel your old policy until your new policy has started in order to avoid any lapse in coverage. You should be aware that you may be entitled to a refund when you cancel your current policy.

While it can take a bit of legwork to do all of the research, drivers can save as much as 10 to 40 percent by switching carriers. Additionally, once you are comfortable with your provider, you will be likely to stay with them. With that said, start your search today to find the optimal insurance policy to meet your needs.

How To Get Cheap Car Insurance

No more calling multiple car insurance providers to get quotes, Freeway does that for you. We work with the top car insurance companies in the country so we can get you multiple quotes in just a few minutes. Let us handle the hard work. Give us a call today at 877-599-4418 to speak to a live agent who will give you a free, customized car insurance quote.

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