Back in the day, buying car insurance usually entailed picking up the phone or visiting an insurance agent’s office. And your options might have been limited to the insurance companies your agent worked with.
Today, you can purchase car insurance online, but that has its own challenges. With such a wide selection of choices, it can be difficult to zero in on the right policy for you.
But don’t worry. We’ll show you how to find a good policy at a fair price from the best car insurance companies, all from the comfort of your couch.
What Information Do I Need to Buy Car Insurance Online?
Before you start your online shopping journey, you’ll want to make sure you have gathered all the necessary information. This will make the process go more smoothly and produce more accurate car insurance quotes.
Here’s the information you’ll need:
- Basic information, including the name, address and date of birth for every driver who will be listed on your policy
- Driver’s license information for every driver on the policy
- Driving history for every driver on the policy, including any completed safe driving courses, traffic violations and at-fault accidents
- Vehicle information, including year, make, model, current odometer reading and the vehicle identification number
- Current insurer (if you have one) and current coverage limits
To get your driving history, visit your state’s motor vehicle website. You usually can download and print out your driver history after paying a small fee, for instance $2 in California and $8 in Massachusetts and Florida.
Determine How Much Car Insurance You Need
The next step to buying car insurance online is to figure out how much car insurance you need. You want to dial in the right amount. If you buy too much car insurance, you’ll be paying for coverage you don’t need. But if you buy too little, you’ll be underinsured, which could result in major out-of-pocket bills if you cause a car accident.
Here are the main types of car insurance to consider:
If you cause a car accident, liability car insurance pays for injuries and property damage to others, such as their medical expenses and car repair bills. It also covers legal expenses if you are sued because of a car accident.
Every state (except for New Hampshire and Virginia) requires you to have a minimum amount of liability car insurance. For example, if you buy car insurance in California, you need to buy at least 15/30/5. Here’s what those numbers mean:
- $15,000 for bodily injury or death to one person
- $30,000 for bodily injury or death to more than one person
- $5,000 for property damage
It’s a good idea to buy more than your state’s minimum liability requirements. These amounts are usually inadequate. For example, if you cause a major car accident in California that results in serious injuries to the other driver and totals their car, $15,000 for medical expenses and $5,000 for car repair bills won’t get you very far. And you’ll be on the hook for any amount that goes above your policy limits.
It’s recommended that you buy enough liability insurance to cover what you could lose in a lawsuit.
Uninsured motorist insurance
Not everyone is an upstanding citizen that buys the required amount of car insurance. One in eight drivers does not have car insurance, according to the most recent data from the Insurance Research Council. And then there are drivers who only buy the state minimum and are underinsured if they cause an accident.
So what happens when someone without car insurance or not enough car insurance crashes into you? Uninsured motorist insurance (UM) and underinsured motorist insurance cover you and your passengers’ medical bills and other expenses, like lost wages, pain and suffering and funeral costs.
UM is required in some states and optional in others (you can reject coverage in writing). Even if UM is not required in your state, this is a good coverage to buy.
Collision and comprehensive insurance
If you want coverage for car repair bills for your own car, you’ll want to add collision and comprehensive insurance to your policy. These coverage types are often sold together, but they cover different types of problems:
- Collision insurance pays to repair or replace your car after a car accident, no matter who caused the accident. For example, if you crash into a guard rail or someone crashes into you at an intersection, you can file a claim under your collision insurance.
- Comprehensive insurance pays to repair or replace your car if it’s stolen or if it’s damaged due to other types of problems, like floods, fire, hail, vandalism, collisions with animals and falling objects.
If you lease your car or have a loan, your leasing company or lender will most likely require you to buy these coverage types. A policy including comprehensive and collision coverage, along with the liability insurance required to drive legally, is sometimes called full coverage car insurance.
Personal Injury Protection
If you or your passengers are hurt in a car accident, personal injury protection (PIP) covers you and your passengers’ medical bills and other expenses no matter who caused the accident.
The types of expenses covered by PIP include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages if you cannot work due to accident injuries
- Funeral expenses
- Rehabilitation costs
- Replacement services (such as house cleaning or child care) that you cannot perform due to accident injuries
PIP is required in some states and optional in others. Check with your state’s department of motor vehicles to determine if you are required to carry PIP coverage.
Medical payments coverage, sometimes called “Med Pay,” is usually sold in small amounts between $1,000 and $5,000. It covers medical bills for you and your passengers, no matter who is at fault for the accident. MedPay is not available in every state.
Other types of Car Insurance
You can buy more coverage types if you need them. Here are some to consider:
- Gap insurance. If you have a car loan or lease and your car is totaled by a problem covered by your policy (like a flood or car accident), gap insurance pays the difference between what you owe on your car and the car’s depreciated value.
- Rental reimbursement insurance. Suppose you need substitute transportation while your car is being repaired due to a problem covered by your policy (like a car accident). In that case, rental reimbursement insurance helps pay for transportation costs like a rental car or bus fare.
- Roadside assistance insurance. If your car gets a flat or breaks down, roadside assistance insurance can cover services like a tow truck, locksmith, jump-start or fuel delivery.
Where Do I Get Car Insurance Quotes Online?
Now that you have gathered your information and determined how much car insurance you need, you’re ready to start gathering quotes. Don’t skip this step and only get one quote from one company. Insurers don’t price their policies the same, and you can often find the same coverage cheaper at a different company.
The best way to find a good price is to compare car insurance quotes from several different insurance companies.
There are generally two places you can find car insurance quotes online: through an insurer’s website or on a comparison website. Let’s look at both.
Buying car insurance online through an insurance company website
You can typically find free car insurance quotes on an insurance company’s website. The insurer’s website will likely have a button to click to begin your quote.
You will be asked to enter information such as your:
- Date of birth
- ZIP code
- Contact information
- Vehicle type
- Driver history
You’ll also have the option to select your coverage types and policy limits and add additional drivers, if applicable.
After you enter all of the necessary information, you’ll get a quote. Typically you will also have the opportunity to review and edit your coverage selections. If you are satisfied with your coverage selections and price, you may have the option to purchase the policy.
But before you make a purchase, we recommend getting insurance quotes from multiple insurers. You may be able to beat the price you were quoted or find better coverage options.
Buying car insurance online through a comparison site
If you want to get quotes from multiple insurers at once, you can use a comparison site. You’ll need to enter information similar to that requested by insurer websites. The comparison site will then offer car insurance quotes from multiple insurers.
A comparison site can be a useful tool to get an at-a-glance look at multiple quotes. But some websites might only offer a limited number of quotes. Or the website might not show you the quoted rate and instead redirect you to the insurance company’s website, where you may have to enter more information.
If you are not satisfied with your quotes, you may want to use both comparison sites and insurers’ websites.
What Other Ways Can I Buy Car Insurance?
If you don’t want to buy car insurance online, you can speak with an insurance agent in person or over the phone. There are generally two types of agents:
- Captive agent. This type of agent only sells policies from one specific insurance company or one group of related insurers.
- Independent agent. This type of agent works with a variety of car insurance companies.
It’s a good idea to speak with an independent insurance agent who can gather multiple quotes from several different insurance companies.
Tips To Save Money When Buying Car Insurance Online
Perhaps the biggest appeal of buying car insurance online is the convenience factor, but it’s also a good way to save money. Even if you already have car insurance, it’s worth getting quotes to see if you can find a better deal elsewhere. More than half (58%) of drivers believe they overpay for car insurance, but only 29% switched companies, according to a recent Forbes Advisor survey.
Here are some tips to consider when buying car insurance online:
- Compare quotes. Don’t just go with the first quote you find online. Comparing car insurance quotes among several different insurance companies is the best way to save money.
- Look for discounts. Insurance companies offer a wide range of discounts and the savings can vary from one insurer to the next. For example, our analysis of car insurance discounts found that good driver discounts can range between 10% to 40%.
- Bundle your policies. Bundling is when you insure two different insurance types with the same insurance company. For example, auto and home insurance bundling discounts can range from 5% to 25%.
- Increase your deductible. Your car insurance deductible is the amount that is deducted from your insurance check if you make a claim under certain coverage types (such as a collision or comprehensive insurance).
Deductibles typically range between $250 to $1,000 (or more). Generally, a higher deductible amount will result in lower premium payments.
- Be picky about optional coverage for older cars. In some cases, it doesn’t make financial sense to buy certain optional coverage types, like comprehensive and collision coverage, for an older vehicle. If you’re not sure what to buy, it doesn’t hurt to pick up the phone and speak with an independent insurance agent. You can also check out our guide for when to drop collision and comprehensive insurance.
Pros and Cons of Buying Car Insurance Online
You can typically buy car insurance online in less than an hour. But it may not always be the best way for you to buy insurance. Here are some pros and cons to consider.
Pros for buying car insurance online
- Convenient. You can comparison shop among several insurance companies any time of the day from the comfort of your home.
- Quick. You can typically get quotes in a matter of minutes and if you find a policy you like, you can often buy it and download your proof of insurance within an hour.
Cons for buying car insurance online
- Lack of guidance. If you are not certain of the coverage types and amounts you need, it may be better to speak with an agent who can guide you through the process.
- Quotes can be inaccurate. The quotes you receive online can be much different than the actual cost of your policy. That’s partially based on the information you provide versus what your insurer gathers, such as your driving history, past car insurance claims and your credit-based insurance scores (in most states).
How Much Does Car Insurance Cost?
Nationally, the average cost of car insurance is $1,569 per year, according to a Forbes Advisor analysis of car insurance rates among large insurance companies. But your rates will vary depending on several factors.
Car insurance premium factors include:
- Your driving record
- The driving record of all drivers on your policy
- Your vehicle
- Where you live
- Your age and driving experience
- Your claims history
- Your car insurance coverage selections
- Your car insurance deductible
- Your credit-based insurance score (except in California, Hawaii, Massachusetts and Michigan)
- Other factors, such as marital status, home ownership, gender and occupation
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