How to Get Car Insurance: Tips for Shopping & Buying
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. That way, you can quickly find the lowest price for the coverage you need.
The way you choose to buy insurance is entirely up to your personal preference. Some people want the personal support of an agent, while others like the convenience of purchasing insurance online. No matter which method you choose, remember to verify your state’s car insurance requirements before purchasing a policy. Nearly all states have a minimum liability coverage requirement, which you are obligated to meet. You can also buy additional liability coverage if you want it.
There are other options to review, as well. You can get medical payments coverage (MedPay or PIP) to pay for your medical bills after a collision. Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage picks up the bill if the other driver in an accident doesn’t have enough coverage to pay for the damage. And many insurance companies also offer optional features like rental car coverage for when your car is getting repaired after an accident.
Whatever options you choose, these steps will help you get the right policy.
How to Shop for Car Insurance in 7 Steps:
1. Gather driver and vehicle information
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 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.
2. Decide how you want to buy and manage your insurance
If you want to work with an independent insurance agent, they can give you an objective opinion on your choices and provide assistance once you’re a policyholder. But, of course, they charge you for that helpful advice.
Buying insurance online is cheaper, since you can cut out the middleman and do your own research. However, the great deals and low prices that online insurers quote aren’t necessarily what you’ll end up paying. And it can take a lot of work to compare policies or file a claim after you have a policy.
3. Familiarize yourself with your state’s car insurance laws
Almost all states require car insurance coverage, and every state has laws about damage caused by vehicles. The penalties for breaking those laws 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.
4. Compare prices
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.
5. Look for discounts
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.
6. Consider supplemental coverage options
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.
In addition, personal injury protection covers medical bills regardless of who is at fault in an accident and can help replace your paycheck if you miss work due to a collision-related injury. And gap insurance covers the difference between your insurance payment and the value of your car in case it’s stolen or totaled.
7. Pick a premium and deductible you’re comfortable with
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.
Final step - paying for your policy
Once you’ve chosen 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. There are multiple plans available, ranging from two payments to monthly payments over the course of your policy. 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.
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