How to Shop Online for Car Insurance
Shopping online for auto insurance might seem daunting at first, but if you do some homework ahead of time and compare quotes, you can find the best auto insurance coverage at the most affordable price for you.
Find a Reputable Source for Car Insurance Quotes
Basically, there are two ways you can shop for auto insurance online:
- Shop for quotes directly from a car insurance company’s website.
- Shop for quotes from websites that let you compare many quotes from several providers.
Although both are viable options, the second option allows you to shop more efficiently and effectively, as you don’t have to look up names of various insurance companies and visit their websites on your own.
Get Clear on Your Budget
Before you begin shopping for car insurance, make you sure know how much you can reasonably afford.
Price should never be the only factor when choosing an auto insurance policy (you need adequate coverage, after all), but if you choose a policy you can’t afford, late or skipped payments could lead to cancellation of your policy. A resulting lapse in coverage can lead to a number of consequences, including:
- License suspension.
- Higher car insurance rates in the future.
So, as you shop around for quotes, take note of those that offer the exact coverage you need at a price you can afford. Always remember that cheap car insurance does not necessarily mean good car insurance.
Gather Your Information
When you start to shop around, you'll need to share information of your own, which may include:
- Name and address.
- Date of birth.
- Type, year, make, and model of your vehicle.
- Primary type of use for your vehicle.
- Zip code where your vehicle is kept overnight.
- Ownership status of your vehicle.
- Marital status.
- License status.
- Social Security number.
- Highest level of education.
- Auto insurance history.
- Information about other drivers to be included on the policy.
Be aware that you might need to give permission to the insurance company to review your motor vehicle report and credit reports.
Decide Which Coverages You Need
First, understand that most states require some form of liability insurance either in the form of a liability insurance policy or another proof of financial responsibility, such as surety bonds.
After that, it’s pick and choose. Some of the post common forms of coverage include:
- Collision: Unlike liability insurance—which covers the other party’s damages—collision insurance covers YOUR damages should you be involved in an accident.
- Comprehensive: Comprehensive insurance covers loss and damages to your vehicle unrelated to traffic accidents. Covered events usually include theft, vandalism, weather conditions, and natural disasters.
- Uninsured and underinsured motorist (UM/UIM): These types of coverages protect you should you be involved in an accident with a driver who doesn’t have enough—or any—car insurance.
- Personal injury protection (PIP): PIP covers your medical expenses, lost wages, and funeral expenses if the other party’s liability coverage isn’t enough.
- PIP is often referred to as “no-fault insurance” and is required in many states.
Visit our Coverages section to learn more about which types of coverages you might need.
NOTE: Most states require you purchase collision and comprehensive policies if you lease your vehicle or don’t yet own it outright (i.e., you are still making payments on it).
A skilled car insurance agent or broker can help you determine which coverages are best for you and your budget based on your own personal needs.
Order Your Driving Record
Your driving record—also known as a motor vehicle record or MVR— is a record of your driving history. It shows information about:
- Your driver’s license.
- Any traffic violations.
- Any at-fault accidents.
Driving records help car insurance agencies evaluate the risk associated with insuring you. Because most car insurance companies look at driving records* when determining quotes, it’s important you know what’s on yours. Specifically, it’s important to know your information is correct.
For example, if your state uses a driving record point system and your points aren’t accurate, you can contact your driver license agency to see about correcting them. Likewise, if you have a traffic violation and your state offers the option to remove such violations by completing a traffic school, you can ask about enrolling in such a course before shopping for car insurance.
* Most auto insurance companies look back five years; however, note that this is just an average and not a rule. Your insurance agent will be able to tell you how many years they review.
Begin Shopping for Car Insurance
Now that you have a few reputable sources for quotes, it’s time to start applying for them.
Always apply for at least 3 quotes from different providers. Different car insurance companies offer different premiums based on factors like:
- Your driving record.
- The coverages you need.
- The different discounts and rewards programs they offer.
Be honest on your application; giving false information could keep your initial quotes from matching your actual premiums.
Also remember to include any information that might help lower your rates. Such information includes:
- Extra safety features on your vehicle.
- Any driver safety courses you’ve successfully completed.
- Your occupation and marital status.
- Your annual mileage.
Research Auto Insurance Companies
Once you’ve chosen a few companies that have given you acceptable quotes, it’s time to research them. There are several ways to research car insurance companies:
- Check the companies’ reputation as well as legal and financial standings using:
- Your state’s Department of Insurance. This agency lets you know if a company is licensed to sell insurance in your state.
- Financial ratings agencies such as J.D. Power and A.M. Best.
- The Better Business Bureau (BBB), which is a great place to look for any customer complaints and how the company handled them.
- Find any family members or friends who use the same companies.
- Ask questions such as how long they’ve been with the company, how the company has handled their rates in terms of traffic violations and at-fault accidents, and how they’d rate their customer service experiences.
- Ask each company about discounts and good-driver rewards programs.
- Ask about multi-line insurance policies.
- Will you get a discount if you “bundle” more than one line of insurance (such as your car insurance and homeowner insurance)?
- Evaluate the companies’ social media accounts.
- Ask potential insurance companies about issues such as coverage and discounts and assess their responses.
Shopping for online quotes is never just about which company offers the cheapest car insurance. Do your research so you feel comfortable knowing you’ll be adequately protected in the event of a loss.
Pick Your Carrier
Now that you’ve shopped around, researched a few companies, and gotten some car insurance quotes, it’s time for you to choose the right insurance company for you!
Remember, if you have specific questions about your policy, your auto insurance agent can help you determine what will work best for you.