Auto Insurance Shopping: What You Need to Know

Shopping for auto insurance is something we all eagerly anticipate, right? We just love surfing online for the best rates, and asking our friends and family for their auto insurance recommendations.

If you’re thinking, “You’re crazy!” you’re not alone.

We all know we need the protection auto insurance provides in case of an accident; but shopping for the right company with the right policy at the right price can take an investment of time and energy we’re just not sure we’re ready to expend.

After all, we work hard enough already, right?

But most people don’t know that shopping for car insurance doesn’t have to take a lot of time or effort. With a little reading and education on the subject in general, you can actually find great coverage at a minimal price–and have money left over for other things.

Besides, knowledge is power!

So, what should you know before jumping online or picking up the phone to ask for car insurance quotes?

Here it is, in a nutshell:

  1. Your auto insurance premiums are determined mainly by ratings. Insurance companies rate you according to the amount of claims risk you present, and then group you with others like you who have similar risk rates. Such factors as age and gender, where you live, your driving record, your marital status, prior insurance coverage, the number of miles you drive yearly, and your vehicle’s make and model all come into play when determining ratings.
  2. Discounts can dramatically lower car insurance rates. Rewarded to those considered low risk by their auto insurance companies, discounts are available for insuring multiple vehicles, taking driver education courses, being a good student, installing safety or anti-theft devices, being a good driver, low-mileage driving and purchasing more than one policy type with the same insurer.
  3. Auto insurance requirements are set by each state individually. Depending on whether your state is a tort or a no-fault state, the type and amount of car insurance coverage required by law varies. Check with your state insurance department to find out which system your state operates under and the legal limits you must carry on auto insurance.
  4. It’s wise to consider optional coverage. It makes sense to purchase collision and comprehensive coverage on your car, unless you drive an older vehicle. Collision covers damage to your car when it impacts another car or fixed object. Comprehensive pays for auto damage from almost all other causes, including fire, weather, vandalism, floods and theft.
  5. If you drive an older car, the claims you file under these circumstances may cost your auto insurance company more than your car is worth–which makes purchasing collision and comprehensive an ill-advised move.

  6. Protect yourself at all costs. Don’t even sign an application for car insurance until you contact your state’s department of insurance to make sure any companies you’re considering purchasing from are licensed in your state! It’s illegal for unlicensed insurers to sell insurance–and you may get stuck without coverage if you fail to check them out first.
  7. Once you’ve purchased an auto insurance policy, remember it is a legal contract. So read it carefully, make sure you understand the rights and responsibilities it spells out, and ask questions about anything you don’t understand. Both your insurance agent and your state department of insurance are valuable resources for information.

  8. Do your research before making your final decision. There are a number of unbiased resources at your disposal, so take advantage of them before you sign on the dotted line. You can find auto insurance information at your local library, in articles online, from consumer groups, through auto insurance publications and, of course, from your state’s department of insurance.

Don’t let the shopping process drag you down when it comes to auto insurance. Read up on the subject, get a grasp on the relevant issues, and move forward with confidence.

You’ll save yourself time and money–so you can move on to more important things!

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