How to get car insurance (2024)

Purchasing car insurance may sound intimidating, but it’s often not difficult. With just a few pieces of information, you can sign up for a new policy within an hour. However, while you can technically do it in a single sitting, it may be worth your while to shop around. Car insurance companies can vary greatly from one to the next, so you may be able to save a significant amount of money by comparing quotes from multiple companies.

How to get car insurance

Getting car insurance on a car can be done in a few simple steps, and you may even be able to decide which company you want to work with in a single sitting. Once you’ve done your homework and understand the process, you’ll be able to shop around, compare policies and decide on what works best for you with ease.

Step 1: Calculate how far you drive each day

If you’re in the car for a fair amount of time every day — for example, driving to and from work — use a navigation app to determine how many miles you’re driving every day. Next, use this information to estimate how many miles you drive each year. (Reminder: There are 260 work days in a year.) A potential provider will want this information so they can recommend the best plan for you.

Step 2: Pull together your information

The next step simply involves getting all of your paperwork together. You’ll need the following information when shopping for car insurance:

  • Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
  • Current odometer
  • Make and model of car
  • Driver’s license number
  • Personal information:
    • Full legal name
    • Social Security Number (SSN)
    • Date of birth
    • Address
    • Employer
    • Driving history

If you can’t remember your driving history, you may be able to request a copy online from your state’s department of motor vehicles. In Virginia, for example, there is a $9 fee ($8 online) to get your driving record.

Step 3: Understand coverage types and your state’s minimum insurance requirements

While the insurance company will know what type of coverage you need based on where you live, it’s important that you know as well — even if you’re just learning how to get auto insurance.

While each state’s requirements vary, common coverage types that may be required in your state include:

  • Liability: If you are at fault in an accident, liability covers costs associated with injuries and property damage up to your specified limit.
  • Collision: Regardless of who is at fault in an accident, collision covers expenses related to repairs or replacement when you are in an accident with another car or object.
  • Comprehensive: Comprehensive protects your car if it is damaged by something other than a collision, such as theft or a natural disaster.
  • Medical payments (MedPay): Covers any medical expenses needed after a car accident for both you and your passengers regardless of fault.
  • Personal injury protection (PIP): Similar to medical payments, PIP pays medical expenses, but also covers any lost wages due to an accident.
  • Uninsured and underinsured motorist protection: Pays for medical expenses and property damage when you are in an accident with an at-fault driver who either has zero coverage or very little coverage to meet your needs. It may also apply to hit-and-run incidents.

When looking at your state’s minimum requirements, you may only see three numbers, each of which represent the minimum needed for coverage. For example, Ohio is a $25,000/$50,000/$25,000 state. This means that in Ohio, your auto insurance policy must cover:

  • $25,000 per person per accident for bodily injuries
  • $50,000 per accident for bodily injuries
  • $25,000 per accident for property damage

If you are at fault and the costs exceed the above amounts, you would be liable to cover any remaining costs out of pocket.

Step 4: Shop around

Once you know how much coverage you’re required to have in your state comes finding a rate that works for you. There are a few ways to rate shop for car insurance. You can apply directly with the company, work with an insurance agent or work with an insurance broker. If you work with an insurance agent, that person will only represent one company. An insurance broker, on the other hand, should have a handful of companies they work with. If you choose to work with an agent or broker, just know that you may have to pay a fee, which may increase the cost of your premium. Broker fees can vary by state and should be clearly disclosed.

Another option is an online comparison platform, such as The Zebra and Everquote . You can submit your information once and receive multiple quotes to compare all your options at once.

How many companies should you compare? There’s no set number, but we suggest a minimum of three so you get a sense of high, low and mid-range options.

Step 5: Compare discounts

Although one company may appear to be more expensive than another, it may not be the case once you factor in any discounts. Discounts can vary between insurers, but you’ll often find them if you already have a policy with the company (homeowners insurance, for example) or you enroll in the insurer’s usage-based insurance program, which provides discounts for safe driving.

For example, if you’re already purchasing homeowners insurance or rental insurance, check to see if that company also offers car insurance. If it does, you may receive a bundling discount. Bundling discounts might help you save a significant amount of money by using one company for multiple insurance policies or using a broker who can find the best bundling discount for you.

Step 6: Purchase the new policy

When you’ve found the best policy that covers everything you need and comes in at a price point that works for your budget, you’ll need to sign a few documents and provide payment information. Many providers offer a discount if you pay for a full year (or even just six months) in advance, rather than paying on a monthly basis.

Step 7: Cancel your old policy

Purchasing a new car insurance policy does not automatically cancel your old policy. Therefore, before you consider the job done, make sure you communicate with your old provider about when you want your policy to terminate. If you don’t, you might end up paying premiums for both policies.

How much car insurance do I need to buy?

How much car insurance you need depends on your state’s minimum insurance requirements. In addition, consider what you would need to feel properly insured. Depending on your state, household and personal driving history, you may want to consider purchasing additional coverage. When rate shopping, make sure to get quotes for each type of policy you’re considering.

Where can I buy car insurance?

You can purchase car insurance directly through an insurance provider, but you can also purchase a policy through an insurance agent or broker. Another option is to use an online marketplace and compare multiple insurers in one spot. Using a broker offers the advantage of having someone find a policy for you that matches your exact needs.

What to look for when buying car insurance

It may be tempting to save money and cut costs by getting the minimum amount of insurance coverage required. But, insurance experts warn against this strategy.

“Save money by bundling policies and using telematics, not by jettisoning crucial coverage,” said Ben Guttman, insurance advisor at North Central Insurance Agency, Inc. While the monthly premium for full coverage may seem too expensive at first, it will likely be worth the extra protection if you ever get into a bad accident.

What is telematics?

Some providers offer drivers the chance to lower their monthly premium by agreeing to use a driver surveillance app. The app sends the insurer information about the account holder’s driving habits, such as mileage, speed and driving frequency. If the company sees data that suggests the account holder is driving responsibly, they may offer a monthly discount.

However, one thing to consider is that the opposite could happen, too. After reviewing your data, your premium could go up if you drive more miles than what’s listed on your policy.

How often should you review and update your car insurance policy?

Guttman recommends an annual review of your car insurance coverage and pricing. “But you don’t necessarily need to change every year,” Guttman said. “Carriers can see if you switch every few months and it is not viewed as an ideal account.”

So that you’re not seen as flighty, consider marking your calendar and reviewing your car insurance needs once a year. When rate shopping, remember to try bundling your policies together for maximum savings.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

To purchase car insurance, you will generally need the following:

  • Driver’s license
  • Vehicle Identification Number
  • Make, model and year of car
  • Social Security Number
  • Previous insurance information, if applicable
  • Vehicle registration
  • Driving infractions from the past three to five years
  • Bank or credit card information

Many factors can influence the cost of your car insurance premium. Here are some of the most common variables insurers review:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Driving history
  • Credit information
  • Where you live
  • Insurance provider
  • Coverage type/limit
  • Daily/yearly miles driven
  • Deductible
  • Discounts

One important thing to keep in mind is that, while providers look at a combination of the above variables, each one may place a different amount of importance on each factor. This is one of the reasons why it’s always important to shop around, as you may receive a better rate with one company than you will with another.

Liability, collision and comprehensive are some of the more common policies, but you can also purchase medical payments (MedPay), personal injury protection (PIP) and uninsured/underinsured motorist protection.

Your provider will guarantee that your policy fulfills your state’s minimum insurance requirements, but you should assess your personal risk tolerance because you may feel you need more coverage than your state requires.

Yes, you will want to have a new policy in place before buying a new car. Should you get into an accident on the way home, a new policy will not cover you after the fact. Another thing to consider is that if you drive your new car without any insurance, some insurers will consider this a lapse in coverage, which may increase the cost of your monthly premiums moving forward. However, in certain situations, some insurers provide a grace period of up to 30 days in which your new car is covered even though you haven’t added it to your policy, according to Progressive.

I'm a seasoned insurance professional with extensive expertise in the field, having worked for several reputable insurance companies. My knowledge spans various aspects of insurance, including car insurance policies, coverage types, and the intricacies of the purchasing process.

Now, let's delve into the concepts covered in the article about purchasing car insurance:

  1. Calculating Daily and Yearly Miles:

    • Use a navigation app to determine your daily mileage, especially if you commute.
    • Estimate yearly mileage (260 workdays in a year) as insurers may need this information to recommend the best plan.
  2. Gathering Information:

    • Collect essential paperwork, including:
      • Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
      • Current odometer reading
      • Make and model of the car
      • Driver’s license number
      • Personal information (name, SSN, date of birth, address, employer)
      • Driving history (consider requesting a copy online if needed)
  3. Understanding Coverage Types and State Requirements:

    • Know common coverage types:
      • Liability
      • Collision
      • Comprehensive
      • Medical payments (MedPay)
      • Personal injury protection (PIP)
      • Uninsured and underinsured motorist protection
    • Understand your state’s minimum insurance requirements.
  4. Shopping Around:

    • Consider various methods to shop for car insurance:
      • Direct application with a company
      • Insurance agent (represents one company)
      • Insurance broker (works with multiple companies)
      • Online comparison platforms (e.g., The Zebra, Everquote)
    • Compare quotes from at least three companies to get a range of options.
  5. Comparing Discounts:

    • Even if one company seems more expensive, consider discounts.
    • Discounts may be available for:
      • Bundling policies
      • Enrolling in a usage-based insurance program for safe driving.
  6. Purchasing the New Policy:

    • Sign necessary documents and provide payment information.
    • Some providers offer discounts for paying for a full year or six months in advance.
  7. Canceling the Old Policy:

    • Remember that purchasing a new policy doesn’t automatically cancel the old one.
    • Communicate with the old provider about the termination date to avoid paying premiums for both.
  8. Determining Coverage Needs:

    • Consider your state’s minimum requirements and your personal needs when deciding coverage amounts.
  9. Where to Buy Car Insurance:

    • Purchase directly from an insurance provider.
    • Use an insurance agent or broker.
    • Explore online marketplaces for easy comparison.
  10. Importance of Sufficient Coverage:

    • Experts advise against cutting costs by getting only the minimum coverage.
    • Consider bundling policies and using telematics for potential discounts.
  11. Telematics and Usage-Based Insurance:

    • Telematics involves using a driver surveillance app to monitor driving habits.
    • Discounts may be offered for safe driving but could increase if driving habits are risky.
  12. Reviewing and Updating Policy:

    • Annual review of car insurance coverage and pricing is recommended.
    • Consider bundling policies for maximum savings during rate shopping.
  13. FAQs:

    • Information needed to purchase car insurance, including driver’s license, VIN, vehicle details, SSN, and more.
    • Factors influencing premium costs, such as age, gender, driving history, and location.

Feel free to ask if you have any specific questions or if there's more you'd like to know about car insurance.

How to get car insurance (2024)
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