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How to Get Car Insurance

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Determining how to get car insurance can seem like a daunting task. But while it's difficult to know how to shop for car insurance, it's an important skill. Every state requires some insurance coverage, so check out this guide to find out how to go through the process of buying an affordable policy.

How to shop for car insurance

Here's an overview of the various places you can go to get car insurance.

Buy car insurance online

The internet has made it easier for people who need to figure out how to get car insurance. Motorists can now research insurance companies online and buy car insurance any time with the click of a button.

There are many websites where motorists can compare car insurance coverage types. It's also possible to get quotes from multiple insurers at once. That makes it faster to get a good price from the best car insurance companies. It's also possible to visit the website of individual insurers and purchase coverage directly. In fact, some insurers even offer discounts for doing the process online.

Buy car insurance from an independent agent

For motorists working on how to get car insurance for the first time, using an independent agent may be a good approach. Independent agents don't work for just one insurer; instead, they have relationships with multiple insurance companies.

Independent agents look around to determine the best price and coverage terms for each client. With an independent agent, motorists don't have to decide how to shop for car insurance all on their own. They put their purchase in the hands of trusted professionals.

Buy car insurance from an insurance company's agent

Many insurers -- especially larger ones -- employ a nationwide network of agents. The downside is insurance company agents only sell coverage offered by the insurance provider they're employed by. They won't help motorists explore all coverage options from different companies.

Drivers unsure of how to get car insurance may not find this the best option since they may not yet know which company they want to buy an insurance policy from.

What do I need to get car insurance?

Getting documents in order is one of the key parts to buying an auto insurance policy. So, what do you need to get car insurance?

Information you'll need

Motorists working on how to get car insurance will need to provide:

  • The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) for all vehicles covered by the policy
  • The vehicle's make, model number, and safety features, such as anti-lock brakes
  • The full name, date of birth, and driver's license numbers for all motorists covered by the policy
  • Information on annual miles driven
  • Information about current auto insurance and proof of coverage
  • Proof of eligibility for discounts, such as membership in an organization like AAA or the AARP
  • Credit card or bank information to set up payments

Can you get car insurance without a license?

For some, it might be necessary to decide how to get car insurance without a license. This could be an issue for drivers with a learner's permit. Or it could be necessary for people who own a car driven by someone else.

In most states, people without a license are still allowed to buy car insurance. The unlicensed buyer would be listed as a registered owner, but not a driver. Someone would need to be listed as a driver -- and many companies require that person to live in the policyholder's household.

Unfortunately, not all insurance companies allow this. Finding one that does can take time, and it may be necessary to work with an agent. That's because most companies require a license when shopping for car insurance online. Also, the policy may be more expensive since the insured person has no driving record.

Can you get car insurance without a car?

If you're wondering how to get car insurance without a car, it's possible. Drivers may be able to purchase a non-owner's policy, which may be necessary for people who drive borrowed vehicles often or who drive an employer's vehicle. Motorists who rent cars often may also find it makes sense to buy car insurance without a car.

How much car insurance coverage do I need?

Motorists working on how to get car insurance will need to know the different types of car insurance to buy. Here are the following car insurance coverage types to look out for:

Liability coverage

In most states, at-fault drivers must compensate injured victims after causing an accident. At-fault drivers who cause a crash must typically pay for property damage as well. Liability coverage pays for legal bills incurred after an accident, plus any monetary damages victims are entitled to.

Most states set minimums for liability coverage, such as requiring a $15,000/$30,000/$5,000 liability policy. This would mean the insurer pays up to:

  • $15,000 per person in injury damages
  • $30,000 in total injury damages per accident
  • $5,000 in total property damage per accident

It's often best to buy more than the minimum coverage to avoid putting assets at risk. If damages exceed policy limits, motorists could be responsible for paying out of pocket.

Personal injury protection

Some states require personal injury protection (PIP coverage). This pays for medical expenses and partial lost wages after an accident. It covers these costs regardless of who was at fault.

Collision coverage

Collision coverage pays for damages to the policyholder's car in the event of an accident. A driver who is at fault for a crash or involved in a single-vehicle accident might not otherwise have coverage for their own vehicle.

Comprehensive coverage

Comprehensive coverage pays for other losses besides those caused by a crash. If a car is stolen, comprehensive coverage pays to replace it. It also pays for damages caused by fire, hail damage, and other non-collision losses.

Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage

Uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage pays for damages caused by another driver who had insufficient insurance. Some states require this, but not all do. It's often smart for motorists to purchase it in case they are harmed by a driver who can't afford to pay damages.

Understanding car insurance premiums and deductibles

When determining how to shop for car insurance, motorists don't just need to know what types of coverage to buy. It's also important to decide on a deductible.

A deductible is the amount to pay out of pocket before insurance covers losses. A motorist with a $500 deductible who suffers a $1,000 covered loss would receive $500 from the insurer and pay $500 out of pocket.

A deductible directly affects premiums, and premiums are the cost of buying a policy. The higher the deductible, the lower the premiums. The reverse is also true: A low deductible policy comes with higher premiums. Buying more coverage raises premiums as well.

Motorists who want to take on less risk of losses if something goes wrong would be better off buying a policy with higher premiums but a lower deductible and more comprehensive coverage.

Still have more questions: See The Ascent's guide on the minimum car insurance you should have.

Compare car insurance quotes

Drivers working on how to shop for car insurance will quickly discover the importance of getting more than one insurance quote.

A driver's insurance rate can vary substantially from one insurance provider to another. And the options for the best cheap car insurance can vary based on driving profile. So to find the best deal, motorists should get more than one car insurance quote. Quotes can also be compared to the average cost of car insurance.

To compare car insurance quotes accurately, always compare apples to apples. That means you should make sure each insurer is offering the same types of coverage, same deductible, and same policy limits.

How to get discounts on car insurance

Discounts on car insurance are generally available for:

  • Safe drivers
  • Motorists who complete defensive driving courses
  • Vehicles with advanced safety features
  • Newer vehicles
  • Homeowners
  • People who belong to certain organizations, such as the AARP
  • Bundled policies
  • Multiple policies
  • Drivers who use apps that assess their driving behavior
  • Motorists who don't drive often

The best way to score discounts is to drive safely, let insurers know of memberships, and report miles accurately. Consider trying to bundle home and auto insurance. And research the cheapest cars to insure.

Considerations for car insurance for first-time drivers

First-time drivers face special challenges that will have to be taken into consideration when looking at how to get car insurance. That's because insurance may be more expensive due to the lack of a driving record. Motorists buying coverage for the first time should:

  • Shop around with multiple insurers
  • Explore good student discounts
  • Consider taking a driver's education or defensive driving course

RELATED: Check out The Ascent's guide to instant car insurance.

FAQs

  • Most insurers offer instant coverage. Insurers can fax over an insurance card or upload it to a mobile app immediately after the policy is purchased.

    Determining how to get car insurance instantly may be necessary for motorists purchasing new vehicles. However, it may cost more. Coverage also won't be effective until it's paid for.

  • It is not possible to buy insurance retroactively. Motorists who purchase insurance after an accident will not be covered for any damages resulting from the collision. While it's possible to buy a policy to provide future coverage, doing so may be more expensive because of the recent accident or if there was a prior lapse in coverage.

  • There are multiple ways to shop for car insurance. They include obtaining a policy online, working with an independent agent, or working with an agent employed by an insurer.

    Many drivers find purchasing coverage online is best. It's easy to compare quotes, and discounts may be available for online purchases. However, those who need extra help determining how to get car insurance may prefer to work with an agent.

    An independent agent can help compare multiple policies from different companies. That's helpful for drivers who don't know what coverage they want. Agents who work for insurers help motorists get the right coverage with a particular insurance provider.

  • There are many different comparison sites that make it easier to determine how to shop for car insurance. Look for one that's easy to use and provides insurance quotes for the local area where the vehicle is garaged.

  • It's a good thing to shop for car insurance. Prices vary considerably from one insurer to another, so shopping around for coverage makes it possible to get the most affordable rates from the best car insurance companies. Coverage options can also differ, so comparing quotes from several insurers can help motorists find the best deal. And consider checking rates at least once a year to ensure continued affordable coverage.

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