I've Gotten Over 1,000 Car Insurance Quotes. Here's What I've Learned

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Learn from my hours of tedium. Use these tips to find your best deal fast.

I've been writing about auto insurance for a long time and I have gotten a lot of quotes over the years. Name any combination of insurance company, state, and driver age, and I've probably gotten a quote for it. And to answer your burning question -- yes, getting thousands of auto insurance quotes is every bit as dull as you might imagine.

But all those hours of tedium have taught me quite a bit about how to find your best quote as painlessly as possible. Here are some of my top tips.

Have your VIN and Social Security number ready

Do you know whether your car has a four- or six-cylinder engine? If not, you're probably going to want your vehicle identification number (VIN) handy. Most quote tools give you a choice between entering your VIN or your car's make and model to get a quote. Sometimes, the latter method requires you to know random facts about your car's engine or other features that someone who's not mechanically inclined (i.e., me) wouldn't know offhand.

Rather than getting a quote for the wrong type of vehicle, just dig out your VIN and have it ready when you get a quote. Your car's registration form should have it. You can also find it on your car itself.

Some quote tools also require your Social Security number to give you the most accurate price. You don't always have to enter it for a quote, but you will need it to purchase a policy, so it's good to have that standing by, too.

Double check all your information before you move on to the next page

There's a major difference in user-friendliness among car insurance quote tools. Some let you breeze right through and go back to change details after you've gotten your quote if you want. Others will forbid you from changing key information and will take you through the entire form only to suffer an error at the end before advising you to contact an agent for assistance. When you're on your 30th auto insurance quote of the day, that really hurts.

That's why you really should double check all your information before you move on to the next page. You might be able to go back and change it later, but if not, you'll have to start the quote over, so it's not worth the risk.

Calling an independent agent has its pros and cons

What's even worse than trying to get a quote from an insurer with a terrible quote tool is trying to get a quote from one that doesn't have a quote tool at all. Companies that sell through independent agents often require you to contact the agent nearest you to get a quote.

You have to call, give all the same information you'd give in a quote form, and then wait -- sometimes an hour, sometimes a day -- for the agent to get back to you with your quote. And if you initially call when the agent is out to lunch or busy with another client, you'll have to wait before you can even get the process started.

It's definitely a tedious process, but it has its upsides too. If you don't personally want to get quotes from a bunch of different companies, an independent agent can do that work for you. You tell them what kind of coverage you want and what you're looking to spend if you're on a budget and they'll get all your quotes and report back on the best deal.

Insurance companies charge the same person wildly different prices

Insurance companies all look at the same information, more or less, but each one weighs the various factors differently. That results in major price differences. Some companies give better rates to older drivers. Some hit you with stiffer price increases than others following an accident. Some charge less in certain ZIP codes than their competitors.

Because of these unique risk algorithms, there's no way to predict which insurer is going to offer you the cheapest car insurance rate until you get quotes. Sometimes, the price difference between two companies can be $100 per month, so shopping around can save you big bucks.

The default coverage isn't always what you want

Once you finally get to the quote page, the insurer will usually present you with its default level of coverage. Sometimes, this is influenced by your previous coverage levels, which insurers usually ask about in the quote form. But sometimes, it might just be what it thinks is a decent level of coverage. It might also include certain coverage options you don't really care about, like roadside assistance or medical payment coverage.

Before you purchase a policy, go through all of its coverage options, and make sure you uncheck the ones you don't want. You should also make sure the deductibles are set where you like. All these factors can affect how much your policy costs, so you may end up paying more or less than the initial quote to get the coverage you want.

Keep in mind that some types of auto insurance coverage are required by state laws, and auto insurers won't allow you to purchase less than that. If you see an option you can't eliminate, that's most likely because your state requires all drivers to have this type of coverage.

It can take time to get a handful of car insurance quotes and compare them, but if you follow the tips above, you can streamline the process. If you can't finish all your quotes right away or you're interested but not ready to make a purchase, most quote tools also give you the option to save a quote so you can return to it later. Doing this can save you time compared to redoing the entire thing when you're ready to buy.

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