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Car Insurance Quotes: Everything You Need to Know

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Car insurance quotes are estimates of the price a person will pay for auto insurance coverage. These quotes are calculated based on a motorist's driving history, age, gender, location, the number of miles they drive, and their vehicle. We'll cover how to get car insurance quotes online, on the phone, or in person from an insurance agent.

What are car insurance quotes?

Car insurance quotes are cost estimates from auto insurers. The estimate tells a person how much they would pay monthly for auto insurance coverage (the monthly "premium"). Get quotes from several of the best auto insurance companies to get a fair price.

Why is it important to get auto insurance quotes?

Car insurance prices vary by insurer. Some auto insurance companies are more expensive for particular motorists than others. Getting auto insurance quotes helps motorists to ensure they are paying the most affordable price for comprehensive coverage.

What to know about car insurance quotes

Different insurers have different processes for getting car insurance quotes. Some allow drivers to get quotes online and others require a phone call to an agent. Providing personal details to insurers is important to get accurate quotes because many different factors affect the cost of auto insurance. It's also a good idea to have a rough estimate of how much insurance should cost so drivers can compare quotes and see how their prices compare to the average.

How much should my car insurance be?

The national average auto insurance premium is $2,646 across the United States. But premiums can vary based on location, driving record, and many other factors.

For example, the best cheap California car insurance sees an average premium of $2,346. In Connecticut, it's $3,435. The national average premium across the U.S. for a driver with an accident on their record, on the other hand, goes up to $3,210.

What factors affect your car insurance quote?

Insurers take several key factors into account when setting your price. When getting car insurance quotes, it's important for motorists to be aware that the costs they pay are determined by some of the following criteria.

Where you live

Insurance is more expensive in some states than others. For example, North Carolina and Ohio have some of the cheapest insurance in the nation while Michigan and Louisiana have some of the country's most expensive coverage. While drivers can do little about where they live, it's important to realize that motorists in areas where the accident risk is higher will pay more.

Who you are

Insurance companies ask for age, gender, and marital status to see how likely a person is to make a claim. Insurers collect detailed data on accidents according to age and gender to understand the risk of providing coverage. Some people -- such as younger drivers and male drivers -- considered as an overall group, get into more accidents. They also tend to get higher auto insurance quotes, since companies believe they are riskier to insure.

Marital status

Married drivers are often seen as behaving more safely. Insurers also view married people as being more financially stable than singles. As a result, drivers who get married can expect to get less expensive car insurance quotes than those who are single.

Homeownership impact on car insurance costs

Homeownership can sometimes reduce car insurance costs. Insurers may see homeowners as more financially stable and more risk averse, which can result in lower premiums. Homeowners also have the opportunity to bundle coverage, buying home and car insurance together. This can result in a discount that reduces policy premiums.

Education levels

Drivers with more education are often offered lower premiums when getting car insurance quotes. Education level is also correlated with level of risk, which explains this phenomenon.

Insurance history and credit score

Drivers with good credit who have not had lapses in insurance coverage are seen as more responsible and less risky to insure. As a result, they will benefit from lower premiums when obtaining car insurance quotes.

How you drive

Insurers also consider a motorist's personal driving history. If a person has a clean driving record, they're more likely to get cheap car insurance quotes. If they have a history of at-fault accidents that led to insurance claim payouts, they'll pay more. People also get higher price quotes if they have a DUI or moving violations, or if they haven't been driving long.

Vehicle type

More expensive cars often cost more to repair, and they cost more to replace if they're damaged beyond repair. They're also more likely to get stolen. Because of all that, they're more expensive to insure. On the other hand, if a vehicle has excellent safety and anti-theft features, that reduces the risk of injury claims or theft, and makes insurance costs cheaper.

What information do you need to get a car insurance quote?

Insurers ask for a lot of information to get an accurate picture of a driver and vehicle owner. Most insurers request a person's Social Security number and their VIN (vehicle identification number) when they get auto insurance quotes. While people don't have to provide this, it can result in more accurate price estimates.

Even if you don't give an insurer your Social Security number, if you're wondering how to get car insurance quotes, be ready to provide the following details.

Your contact information and personal details

The insurer needs to know your name, address, phone number, marital status, and at what age you got your driver's license.

Your driving history

The insurer asks for details about any accidents or violations in your driving record. This includes the date of the incident and the cost of any insurance claims paid out.

Your vehicle information

Insurers need to know its make, model number, model year, safety features, and anti-theft features. They'll also want to know if it is owned, leased, or financed.

Your intended vehicle use

You need to provide information about other drivers in your household, including their ages. The insurer also asks for details about your commute and the number of miles you drive each year. You also say whether you use the vehicle for pleasure, for getting to work, or for business purposes.

How to get the cheapest car insurance quote

These tips will help you get cheap car insurance quotes.

Shop around

Shopping around is the best way to get the cheapest coverage. Use websites that let you get multiple quotes at once to make this process easier.

Speak to an agent

Insurance agents can provide quotes and help motorists to match their coverage to their needs. Some insurance agents will also shop around with different insurers for their clients so they can find the lowest car insurance quotes on their behalf.

Captive insurance agents vs. independent agents

Some insurance agents only represent particular auto insurance companies. These are called captive agents. They give you quotes just for the company they work for, such as State Farm or Nationwide.

Other insurance brokers are independent agents and can help you compare car insurance quotes from several insurers. In either case, you should never have to pay a fee for help from an agent.

Bundle coverage

If someone buys multiple policies from the same insurer, they usually get a discount. When possible, bundle different kinds of policies -- such as home and auto. It can save on premium costs.

Consider signing up for programs that track your driving habits

Many insurers offer discounts if a motorist downloads an app that tracks their driving behavior. Those who are willing to share this information can look for a company that reduces premiums based on safe driving.

Get only the coverage you need

You don't want to pay for protection you don't truly need. For example, if an insurer offers roadside assistance but a driver already has AAA, they shouldn't include that coverage in their policy.

Car insurance coverage types

There are several types of car insurance coverage that can be purchased, depending on your needs.

Car liability insurance

Liability insurance is required in most states. It provides coverage for drivers who cause accidents and injure other people or damage their property. Liability coverage pays for other peoples' losses the policyholder causes. It does not pay for damages the policyholder personally incurred, such as damage to their own vehicle.

When insurance companies provide car insurance quotes, they often default to providing the minimum required amount of liability coverage. Some motorists may want more protection.

Collision and comprehensive insurance

Collision and comprehensive insurance protect the policyholder. Collision coverage pays to repair or replace the insured's car if a crash happens. Comprehensive coverage pays to repair or replace the car after other losses, such as damage resulting from hitting an animal or a tree falling on the vehicle.

Collision and comprehensive insurance aren't usually required. Motorists who want this kind of coverage need to be sure it is included in their car insurance quotes.

Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage

These types of insurance provide coverage for losses caused by another motorist who had too little insurance or none at all. The insurance will pay for damage to the policyholder that the other driver should have covered if they had sufficient insurance.

In some states, uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is required. But that is not the case in all states. Drivers should add this to their car insurance quotes if they want to be protected in case of an accident with a driver lacking sufficient insurance.

Medical expenses insurance

This can cover the policyholder's medical expenses after an accident. The medical bills post-crash will be paid by this type of insurance no matter who is at fault for a crash. Coverage for medical expenses is included in personal injury protection (PIP) coverage in states where PIP is required. It is also an optional type of coverage in many states.

How to get and compare car insurance quotes online

Follow these steps to get car insurance quotes online:

1. Decide what types of coverage you want

The price for coverage depends on how much protection a motorist wants. Research options to see what fits your situation, and carefully consider what you need for a deductible (how much you pay before the insurer covers losses). That way, you can get quotes for the same coverage from each insurer and compare apples to apples.

2. Make a list of insurers

You may ask yourself, "what is the best car insurance company?". You should start by getting quotes from at least three insurers. Start with the companies known for affordable insurance and solid customer service.

3. Visit each insurer's website or use a comparison site

Visit the website for each insurer to get car insurance quotes. Alternatively, use a website that offers quotes from many insurers to get the broadest sampling and find the most affordable coverage.

4. Input your personal information

Whether you visit an individual insurer's website or a site that offers quotes from many insurers, you need to provide a lot of information to get an accurate price estimate. That's because premiums depend on factors such as a driver's age and driving history.

5. Provide details about your vehicle

A motorist's vehicle also affects the cost of car insurance. Most insurers ask for a driver's VIN. Providing it is the easiest and fastest way to get a quote, because the insurer gets the details about the car from that number. If a person doesn't have it or doesn't want to give it, they'll need to provide their vehicle's details.

Look at the big picture

It may be tempting to buy minimum coverage or set your deductible -- what a driver pays before their insurer contributes -- very high to get cheap car insurance quotes. But if coverage doesn't include enough, a motorist may end up with losses the insurer won't pay for.

A person could, for instance, be responsible for paying the difference if they caused $50,000 in damage but their insurance covers only $30,000. And a high deductible can leave a driver paying a lot of money after an incident. In other words, coverage that appears cheaper based on monthly premiums could cost more in the long run. Carefully consider the possible costs.

FAQs

  • Getting a car insurance quote should never cost money. Free auto insurance quotes are available from every insurer online, via phone, or in person from a licensed insurance agent.

  • People have to provide some details to get car insurance quotes, including their name, age, address, gender, driving record, and marital status. Consumers also tell the insurer about their vehicles. This is necessary so the insurer can assess the risk of providing coverage and give an accurate price quote.

    Most insurers ask for a person's Social Security number and vehicle identification number (VIN), but they don't have to provide this information to get a quote. Offering it can streamline the process and ensure that auto insurance quotes are as accurate as possible.

  • A person's driving record and vehicle are the most important factors affecting car insurance quotes.

    Good drivers with no history of accidents or moving violations are less likely to make claims, so they pay lower premiums. Inexperienced drivers or those with a record of accidents, drunk driving incidents, or moving violations are considered higher risk. Insurers charge them more for coverage.

    The vehicle itself is also important. Its safety features affect the likelihood of serious and costly injuries, and the value of the vehicle impacts the amount the insurer pays to repair or replace it if something goes wrong.

  • Most insurers check credit scores, but getting insurance quotes doesn't count as an inquiry or affect someone's credit score (because they aren't applying for credit).

  • There's no downside to getting multiple car insurance quotes. It's important for people to get quotes from several insurers so they can be sure they're paying a fair price for coverage.

  • The cost of car insurance varies depending on many factors, including age, gender, marital status, driving record, who else drives the vehicle, the type of vehicle, and where it's kept. Consider researching average auto insurance premiums based on demographics to see what people similar to you pay.

  • A car insurance quote may be high because the policyholder has a spotty driving record; lives in a state with expensive insurance; or has raised other red flags with the insurer. For example, car insurance quotes are higher for drivers with poor credit or who have received lots of tickets.

  • The national average car insurance premiums are $2,646 throughout the country. However, average car insurance quotes do vary by state and based on demographic status and driver history.

  • There is not any one insurance company that provides the cheapest car insurance. Some companies are less expensive for certain drivers, while others will be cheaper for motorists with a different driving profile. That's why each individual motorist should get their own car insurance quotes to find the cheapest coverage for their needs.

  • It is possible to get a car insurance quote before buying a car. Motorists wishing to do so will need the vehicle make and model information. Getting car insurance quotes before purchasing a car can be smart as different vehicles cost different amounts to insure.

Ask the experts

Somnath Banerjee

Somnath Banerjee

Assistant Professor of Marketing, North Dakota State University

What information should drivers use when comparing the best car insurance quotes?

Rationally speaking, buyers generally need to consider the benefits and costs of the car insurance that they plan on purchasing and compare them with the alternatives. In general, this entails considering (i.) the tangible features like comprehensive coverage, types of coverages, roadside assistance, claim processing process, etc.; (ii.) overall brand name and online ratings and reviews regarding the car insurance company and insurance product to ascertain if the company is trustworthy and; (iii.) the price/quote of the car insurance. Further, one can also seek information from the local branch office of the chosen insurance company to get additional relevant information like history of claim settlement in the area, etc.

How can drivers save time and get the best quote when shopping for car insurance?

In general, companies are more likely to offer better prices for a product under the following conditions:

(i.) when faced with price competition. In some cases, car insurance companies are likely to face more competition than others. For example, if they sell insurance through a third-party insurance website that carries multiple insurance policies, the insurance company as a result needs to provide competitive quotes, as otherwise it is less likely to stand out for the customers. This may not be the case with customers who directly purchase insurance from a company's website, since those customers are less likely to be actively considering competition insurance products.

(ii.) when offering loyalty-based rewards. Car insurance companies, like companies in other industries, reward loyal behavior, as that reduces their expenses from customer churn and increases long-term profitability and steady cash flow. In such cases, customers can benefit from such loyalty-based discounts and therefore, it is suggested that customers seek discounts from car insurance companies with whom they have a longer history as compared to new ones.

(iii.) based on size of purchase. Companies in most industries offer discounts based on quantity or volume of purchase. In car insurance, this takes the form of lower rates for annual policies as compared to monthly policies. Further, if the customer has other insurances, like life insurance or property insurance, then there could be further additional scope for discount from the car insurance company owing to the larger size of the insurance payments.

(iv.) based on the risk profile of the customer. Car insurance companies are likely to benefit from lower costs from customers with a better risk profile, and incentivize better behavior based on driving habits. Therefore, nowadays many car insurance companies offer car insurance trackers that track driving habits of a driver; if such habits are good in terms of safety, then car insurance companies are likely to offer part of the cost savings and incentives in form of discounts to the end customer. Further, sometimes they may also offer better rates based on customer profiles, e.g., better rates for college graduates and/or middle-aged customers.

(v.) when dealing with a better-informed customer. A better-informed customer is likely to negotiate a better quote from an insurance company as compared to an ill-informed one. Therefore, it may be helpful to look up the average insurance rates for different states for car insurance and insurance rates offered by different companies before negotiating a price from them.

How often should drivers compare car insurance quotes and consider switching insurers?

Car insurance companies are likely to change or offer better rates at the time of renewal of policies. Therefore, if a car insurance policy is bought annually, then at the time of renewal every year one can seek better rates and look for alternative rates offered by competition. If one switches at this time, one can also possibly avoid any additional fee from changing the insurance provider midway through a policy. Further, many car insurance companies have specific policies regarding the extent of discounts based on driving history. For example, a car insurance policy may offer a certain level of discount if a driver has no accidents for the first three years of the policy. One can seek information about such policies and then ask for the relevant discounts. If the discounts are not enough then at such times too one can search for alternatives in the market. Finally, one's need related to a car insurance may change based on major car- or life-related events. For example, when one buys a new car, one may consider looking for better rates from competition, or when there is an accident in the recent past, one may look for alternatives, etc.

David C. Marlett, PhD, CPCU

David C. Marlett, PhD, CPCU

Managing Director at the Brantley Risk and Insurance Center, Appalachian State University

What information should drivers use when comparing the best car insurance quotes?

The most important thing is to compare the coverages in addition to the quote. Make sure they offer the same limits of liability and uninsured motorist coverage. Do they both offer coverage for your auto (comp and collision) with similar deductibles? Drivers want to make sure they are comparing on more than just price.

How can drivers save time and get the best quote when shopping for car insurance?

Obtaining a quote for car insurance is quick and user-friendly. You could easily obtain quotes from several different insurance company websites in under an hour. Consumers can also contact an independent agent who will collect their information once and do the shopping for them. The agent will find the appropriate coverage at the best price after submitting the coverage to multiple insurers.

How often should drivers compare car insurance quotes and consider switching insurers?

This isn't necessarily something you want to do every year, but every other year makes sense. If your risk profile changes significantly (adding a young driver, for example), that is also a good time to compare quotes when renewing the policy.

Dave Vang

Dave Vang

Finance professor at University of St. Thomas

What information should drivers use when comparing the best car insurance quotes?

Consider the premiums of course, but also bear in mind the deductible, the ability to do monthly payments for budgeting purposes, dollar amount of coverage, and doubly make sure that you are comparing policies for hypothetical customers with your driving record. If you have a bad history, beware of an offer that seems too good to be true.

How can drivers save time and get the best quote when shopping for car insurance?

There are a number of comparison sites -- look at multiple sites, not just one, to make sure you are getting a balanced view. It is also important that the sites ask you your location, as insurance is an industry that is regulated at the state level. A rate for one state resident is totally irrelevant to rates for residents in another state.

How often should drivers compare car insurance quotes and consider switching insurers?

It is a tendency for companies to sometimes raise rates after one has switched, so annual comparisons may be necessary.

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