You can get car insurance online, over the phone, or in person with an insurance agent. The best way to shop for car insurance is to compare quotes from different insurance companies online so that you can quickly find the lowest price for the coverage you need.
How to Get Car Insurance
- Gather driver and vehicle information
- Decide between buying insurance directly or through a third party
- Familiarize yourself with your state’s car insurance laws
- Consider supplemental coverage options
- Compare prices
- Look for discounts
- Pick a premium and deductible you’re comfortable with
- Pay for your policy
Getting car insurance can be overwhelming if you don’t know how to buy it or how much to get. But if you take your time and follow these steps, the process will be much easier. Below, we’ll explain how to go about accomplishing each step.
8 Steps for How to Get Car Insurance
To get a quote from a car insurance company, you need to provide the following information about the driver(s) and vehicle(s) that you want on the policy:
- Driver name and date of birth
- Driver's license number and issuing state
- Vehicle Information Number (VIN)
- Current mileage on your car
- Address where the vehicle is registered
- Name of registered owner
- Prior insurance carrier and expiration date
- Vehicle’s date of purchase
- What you use the vehicle for (work or leisure)
This information lets the insurance company check your driving record for speeding tickets and vehicular accidents, which increase your insurance costs. Your car factors into your premium, too – a newer car is more expensive to insure than an older car with high mileage. And if you use your vehicle for a long commute to work, you’ll pay more than a customer with a short commute.
You have three main options for how to buy insurance. You can purchase it directly, use a captive agent, or work with an independent agent/broker.
Buying insurance directly from a company online or over the phone is a convenient option, since you can cut out the middleman and do your own research. Plus, online-only insurance companies are often more affordable because fewer overhead costs allow them to offer lower rates. However, it might take more effort on your part to compare policies or file a claim in the future since you won’t have the help of an agent.
If you use a captive agent, you’ll be working with a direct representative from the insurance company. This is a good option if you want to build a long-term relationship with the insurer and have someone to guide you through your coverage options. And if you need to file a claim in the future, they’ll be your point of contact with the insurance company.
Unlike captive agents, independent agents and brokers don’t work for a specific insurance company. They can show you a variety of policies and options with several different insurers, and they can give you a more objective opinion on your choices. Since brokers usually work off commission, their services are free to use. However, an extra broker’s fee may be added into the cost of your premium.
Almost every state requires drivers to carry a certain amount of bodily injury and property damage liability insurance. Together, they pay for other people’s expenses up to the limits of your policy after accidents that you cause. But the minimum amount of liability coverage isn’t always enough to cover others’ expenses after an accident, so if you’re in a good financial position, you should purchase higher liability limits than required by law.
Some states require drivers to purchase additional coverage beyond basic liability insurance, too. For example, several states require uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, which pays for your expenses if you’re hit by a driver who is uninsured or doesn’t carry enough insurance to cover your costs. And if you live in a no-fault state, you’ll likely have to buy personal injury protection (PIP), which pays for your medical bills regardless of who is at fault in an accident.
The penalties for driving without insurance in states where it’s required range from a ticket to jail time. Even if you have insurance, you could still be breaking the law if you don’t have the right amount of coverage. Don’t risk getting a penalty that could cost you money, time, or your driving privileges.
In addition to the liability protection required by your state, there is a wide range of optional car insurance coverage that drivers should at least consider. You can get comprehensive coverage for multiple kinds of car damage: vandalism, theft, flooding, hail, or wildlife on the road, for example. Or you can get collision coverage for damage to your own vehicle caused by an accident.
In addition, if it’s not required by your state, you can purchase PIP or medical payments coverage and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
Compare quotes from several companies, even if you've shopped around in the past. You can get quotes online from different companies to compare prices easily from home.
Insurance companies offer a selection of discounts to draw customers from all stages of life. For example, homeowners can get discounts if they bundle car insurance with their home insurance policy. And a clean driving record could pay off with a company that offers a safe-driver discount. When comparing your options, don’t be afraid to ask insurance companies what kind of discounts they can offer you.
If you’re willing to pay more in the event of an accident, you can go with a high deductible to lower your premium. A low deductible, on the other hand, means a higher premium. So, you’ll need to weigh the odds to determine whether it’s better to pay more out of pocket now or, potentially, later.
Once you’ve picked a policy, you can choose from a variety of methods to pay for it. Major insurance companies accept money orders, checks, credit cards, debit cards, or transfers directly from your bank account.
Some companies offer a small discount if you pay in full at the beginning of your policy. Otherwise, you can pay in installments. Depending on the insurance company, these plans can range from two payments to monthly payments over the course of your policy. Plus, you can set up automatic payments online or over the phone, or you can opt into bill reminders from your chosen company.
If you have any questions about the payment process or your billing cycle, don’t be afraid to ask your insurance company – they can help you find a payment plan that works for you.