Driving a car is risky business. Fortunately, insurance companies are in the business of risk. A car insurance policy allows you to feel financially secure on the road with the knowledge that you won’t have to worry about your bank account running dry after you’re in an accident.
In most states, you are required to have car insurance if you plan on driving at all, even if you’re just leasing or renting a car. This means that you should plan on buying car insurance at around the same time that you get your first vehicle. Each state has different requirements about what kind of insurance coverage you are expected to buy, so make sure that you contact your local DMV before you start shopping around. Once you’re ready to begin, here’s everything that you need to know about how to buy car insurance:
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How Car Insurance Quotes Work
When you start shopping for car insurance, you’re going to have a number of quotes thrown at you. A “quote” is just an estimate for how much the insurance company will charge you for the coverage you receive. A quote can be higher or lower depending on how much coverage you’re getting. When you buy car insurance, it’s important to weigh the amount of coverage against what you’re paying — cheap insurance can actually cost you in the long run if it only provides spotty coverage in the event of an accident.
Here are some coverage items that are usually good to have, even if they add a little extra to your quote:
- Bodily Injury Liability: Car accidents can be a messy affair, both for the drivers involved and their legal representatives. If you get into a nasty accident, the other driver may try to take you to court for their injuries. Bodily injury liability coverage means that your insurance company will help cover your legal bills and the other driver’s medical expenses.
- Property Damage Liability: If you get into an accident where you are believed to be at fault, then you will probably be expected to cover at least part of the other driver’s repair or replacement expenses for their car. Property damage liability coverage helps you shoulder this burden.
- Personal Assets Coverage: When you buy a new car, it counts as one of your “personal assets.” If your car is damaged in an accident where you’re not at fault, or the other driver doesn’t have insurance, then personal assets coverage will help you cover the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle.
- Personal Injury Coverage: Cars today are safer than they’ve ever been, but that doesn’t mean that you’re going to be able to walk away from an accident scratch-free. Personal injury coverage can help cover your medical bills if you get hurt in an crash where you’re not at fault.
Don’t let yourself be swayed by cheap insurance quotes that leave out or underinsure for critical coverage. If you take your eyes off the road for a minute and end up hitting someone’s brand new sports car, you’re going to wish that you had the right coverage to handle those expenses.
Information You Need to Get Car Insurance Quotes
Once you know what kind of coverage you’d like to buy, it’s time to assemble the documentation necessary to buy insurance. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Social Security Number: This just helps the car insurance company identify you and access information about you, including your credit report.
- Driver’s License: In most cases it’s necessary to have a license before a company will sell you car insurance.
- Average Daily Commute: Understanding how many miles you drive each day helps the car insurance company determine the kind of risk you present as a driver. This doesn’t have to be precise, just your best estimate of your regular driving habits.
- Driving History for the Past 5 Years: This includes any accidents that you’ve been in or tickets that you’ve received in the past 5 years. This is another factor that determines how risky you are as an insurance customer.
- Cars Covered: Insurance companies just want to know the make and model of cars that you would like covered under your insurance policy.
Where to Get Car Insurance Quotes
Once you know what kind of insurance you’re looking for and you have all of your personal information ready to go, it’s time to start shopping for car insurance. Here’s where you need to go if you want get a car insurance quote:
One way to get a quote is to go straight to the source. Any car insurance company can give you a quote for the policies that they offer based on your personal information. However, working directly with car insurance companies can be time-consuming, especially if you don’t know exactly which companies offer insurance in your area or exactly how you want your policy to look.
An insurance agent can help you navigate the complexities of buying car insurance and tailor a policy that fits your needs. Insurance agents come in two flavors: captive and independent. Captive agents are tied to a particular insurance company while independent agents will work with many companies.
A captive agent can be good if you like to work with just one person on a variety of other insurance policies — such as renters or homeowners insurance. An independent agent can help you navigate a wide number of insurance companies to find the best possible deal on your car insurance policy.
Online Rate Comparison Tools
If you’re less interested in the personal touch of an agent and you just want to find the best possible deal, then you can use third party websites that compare car insurance rates. These websites will collect your personal information and spit out a number of competing plans for you to compare and contrast.
Getting the Cheapest Car Insurance: Policy Discounts and Negotiation
Getting the best deal on car insurance isn’t always about shopping around until you’ve found a policy that’s just right. It’s possible to work with an insurance provider to apply for policy discounts or negotiate a better deal. Here are some policy discounts to ask about:
- Insurance Bundling: A captive agent can help you set up multiple insurance policies with the same company. When you get multiple kinds of insurance — such as car, homeowners, and pet insurance — with the same company, you can get a discount for bundling all of your plans together.
- Good Grades: Some insurance companies will give discounts to students with good grades. This is a good discount to ask about if you’re a student and you’re struggling to save money in college.
- Safe Driver: A safe driver costs the car insurance company less money in the long run, so you can get a discount on your car insurance if you’ve been accident-free and you haven’t gotten any tickets in your recent driving history.
- Accident Forgiveness: Typically when you get into a car accident in which you are at fault, your car insurance quote will go up. However, if you have had a good driving record up until your accident, you can ask for accident forgiveness. This will keep your insurance at the same low rate.
If you’ve exhausted all of the policy discounts available to you, then it’s time to negotiate with your insurance provider. Just like when you negotiate with your credit card company, your ability to negotiate with an insurance provider depends on your ability to get a better deal elsewhere. If you can prove to your insurance company that you could switch to someone else and get a better rate, they may be willing to negotiate with you to find a rate that will make you stay.
Buying car insurance can be a confusing process at times. Make sure that you understand what kind of coverage you would like and have your personal information ready to go when you start to shop for car insurance.
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