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How to get auto insurance: a car insurance buying guide

 

After you’ve decided on the car of your dreams, the next step is finding a car insurance policy. And while the car insurance industry has made a lot of technological progress in recent years, getting auto insurance can be a taxing process.

The below guide describes the best ways to get car insurance in 2020, with a few handy tricks to ensure you find the best possible insurance rate for your vehicle. Let’s get started.

 

How to get car insurance — table of contents:
  1. What you need to get a car insurance quote
  2. How to determine what coverage you need
  3. Easy car insurance hacks
  4. How to shop for car insurance
  5. Additional tips and resources

 


 

What you need to get a car insurance quote

In order to get car insurance coverage as quickly as possible, have all the required information ready to go. Listed below is the information you need to get an auto insurance policy.

 

Insurance requirements

  • DOB(s) of all drivers on the policy*
  • Vehicle storage location address(es)*
  • Driver's license information of all drivers covered by the policy
  • Driving records of all drivers listed on the policy
  • Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN) of all vehicles on the policy*
  • Insurance history of all drivers listed on the policy

*These are the most basic requirements for a quote. If you want to get an accurate auto insurance quote, have these at the ready. While these details aren’t always required up front to get a quote, they will eventually help determine your rate.

An auto insurance company pulls a Motor Vehicle Report (MVR) when creating your quote. An MVR is an abstract of your driving record. Insurance companies use your MVR to project what kind of driver and client you might be and to price your policy accordingly. If you've provided inaccurate information during the insurance quoting process, your premium will be updated after the fact — there's no way around it.

Additional resources

Read more on how to get car insurance:

 


 

How to determine what type of car insurance coverage you need

Almost every state has certain minimum insurance requirements that must be met in order to be a legal driver. In many states, this may only be liability coverage, though it could also include other coverages such as:

  • Personal injury protection: Not available in every state, this coverage goes toward paying your own medical expenses regardless of who is at fault in an accident. 
  • Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage: covers you in the event you are injured by a driver who carries no insurance -- or at least not enough to fully pay your medical expenses. Sometimes available for property damage (UMPD)as well. 
  • Medical payments: covers medical expenses for you and those in your vehicle up to your limit. Applies regardless of fault.
  • Collision coverage: covers collisions with another vehicle or fixed object
  • Comprehensive coverage: covers your car against non-collision physical damages
  • Gap coverage: pays the difference between what you owe on a loan and the car's value after depreciation
  • Roadside assistance: covers you in the event that your car breaks down. Usually covers the cost of towing, tire changes, and sometimes re-keying.

 

Which coverage is right for you?

Everyone's situation is different. The level of insurance coverage that you choose depends on a number of factors, including what your drive and how much you drive. In general, it's recommended that everyone increase their liability limits to the highest amount you can reasonably afford. On top of any other mandatory coverage your state requires, use this guide to help determine some of the additional types of coverage that you should consider.

Is your car new?

If you have a car that is less than four years old or that still holds a high resale value, the following coverages are recommended along with your state minimums:

  • Comprehensive coverage
  • Collision coverage
  • Gap insurance 

Are you financing an older vehicle? 

Those financing an older vehicle may still be required by their bank or lender to carry physical damage coverage. Have a look at the following recommended coverages:

  • Comprehensive coverage
  • Collision coverage
  • Gap insurance
  • Roadside assistance

Does your state have low liability coverage limits? 

In most states, the mandatory minimum coverage is not enough to keep you properly protected. As such, it's recommended that you consider adding the following: 

  • Increased bodily injury and property damage liability limits
  • Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage
  • Medical payments (where available)

 

Get started buying car insurance — compare rates now!

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Easy car insurance hacks: 8 simple ways to save

Everyone is looking for ways to save money. Luckily, most car insurance companies are willing to play ball. Here are some of the ways that you may be able to receive a discount or a lowered rate on your auto insurance policy. 

 

Raise your deductible 

The math on this one is pretty simple: a higher deductible means lower payments. The reasoning for this is that you are assuming more of the risk in the event of a claim. 

Install an anti-theftdevice 

A car security system is a great way to put your car insurance company at ease and to lower your chances of your vehicle being stolen

Keep yourcredit score high 

Car insurance companies see a strong credit history as a sign of responsibility, which can save you money. 

Bundle your insurance policies 

Many companies allow you to bundle your auto policy with your renters or homeowners insurance. 

Take a defensive driving course 

Insurers love drivers who can keep a clean driving record. Taking such a course could get you an instant discount and also help you become a better driver, which saves you more money in the long run. 

Drive less 

By driving less, you lower your chances of getting into an accident. Those who only need a car for short drives may look into usage-based insurance programs, also known as telematics, which determine your premium by measuring your driving habits.

Pay all at once 

You can save money by paying your entire premium up front. 

Shop around 

This may be the best tip of all. Because each company has a slightly different method of determining rates, you can save quite a bit by regularly shopping for insurance quotes. 

 


 

How to buy car insurance in 4 easy steps

There are a few ways to acquire car insurance coverage for your new vehicle. Your personal preferences may determine which car insurance shopping method works best for you. You can get an auto insurance policy through an insurance agent dedicated to one particular insurer, an agent or broker representing multiple insurance companies, via a car insurance company's website, or by using an online car insurance comparison engine — this last option is a great way to avoid auto insurance broker fees.

 

How to get car insurance from an insurer's agent

These agents are known as “captive,” meaning they work for one insurance company exclusively, selling only that company’s policies. The benefit of working with a captive agent is their exceptional familiarity with the insurer's coverage options.

Farmers, State Farm, and Allstate are major auto insurers that commonly utilize captive agents.

How to get car insurance from an independent agent

The other way to pay for car insurance with an agent is through an independent agent or broker. Unlike a Farmers agent, who only sells Farmers products, independent agents are able to sell other companies' insurance products (as long as they have a relationship/partnership with them). The benefit of this is the ability to compare premiums from different insurance companies while developing a trusting relationship with an agent. One downside of this approach is the potential for additional car insurance broker fees.

How to get car insurance directly from an insurer's website

A common way to buy car insurance is to purchase a policy directly through an insurance company's website. Your user experience may vary, as some companies invest more in their online user experience than others. This a good alternative if you want to handle things yourself and you already understand the coverage you need. The downside of this is that you see only one company’s insurance rates.

How to get car insurance via an online comparison platform

The best way to shop — regardless of the product — is to find the cheapest price. Comparison tools (like The Zebra) show auto insurance premiums from different companies to help you find the best rate. The benefit of this is clear: you can see prices from a variety of insurance companies and get a cheap quote.

 

Ready to start saving?

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Additional resources


If you’re looking for more information on buying car insurance, including how to save and how much coverage you might need, see our guides:


Methodology and data sourcing


The Zebra is an independent, third-party source of unbiased insurance information, seeking to help our readers find the right coverage at lower rates. Consult an insurance agent or insurance provider before selecting a policy, as everyone's situation is different.

Ava Lynch LinkedIn

Based in Austin, TX, Ava has been in the insurance industry as a licensed agent for 4-plus years. Ava is currently one of The Zebra’s resident property insurance experts and has been featured in publications such as US News Report, GasBuddy, and Yahoo! Finance.