Buying car insurance online is a great option if you want to shop on your own schedule and save time and money.
The benefit of buying car insurance online is that you can quickly get quotes directly from insurers without calling companies individually and repeatedly providing the same information over the phone. And because you can shop whenever you want, it’s convenient. Best of all, because you can get more quotes more quickly, you’re bound to find the most affordable policy and save more money.
Regularly shopping your policy is the best way to cull savings. As your life unfolds -- you have a birthday, you buy a new car -- insurance companies will often change the rates they charge, so your current insurer may not remain the most affordable over time. Also, rates for the same driver in the same car can vary by hundreds of dollars from one company to the next. That means that if you know how to compare quotes, you can save a lot of cash.
Let us walk you through the steps:
- Be prepared
- Start shopping
- Liability limits
- Coverages and deductibles
- Print cards and cancel old policy
First, find out how much you’re paying now. Make a note of the yearly and monthly cost of your insurance, since many of your quotes will be given both ways.
If you want to get accurate car insurance quotes from insurers, you will need to provide a lot of information about yourself, your car and other drivers in your household. Here is what you should have on hand before you start the process of buying car insurance online:
- Your driver’s license number and that of any driver to be listed on the policy
- Vehicle make, model and year
- How many miles you drive a year and how many you drive to work
- Vehicle Identification Number
- Driving violations, accidents or claims in the last five years (approximate dates and details)
Also be aware that you may have to give permission for insurers to check your credit report and driving record. In most states, both play a key role in determining your rates. Insurance companies definitely review these records, so resist any temptation to be less than truthful. If you’re not honest, the quotes you get will be much different than what you will actually wind up paying.
Now that you have your personal information organized, get a sense of how much car insurance you should buy, and you’re ready to begin researching quotes from carriers.
After sharing information about you and your car, you will be asked to buy liability insurance, which is needed in nearly all states to legally drive a car.
Bodily injury liability coverage covers others' injuries if you cause an accident. Property damage liability insurance pays for damage to another vehicle or to other property caused by your car and is also required by most states.
Here’s how to read car insurance minimum liability numbers:
- First number: Bodily injury liability maximum for one person injured in an accident.
- Second number: Bodily injury liability maximum for all injuries in one accident.
- Third number: Property damage liability maximum for one accident.
For example, if you live in Texas, the minimum liability limits are $30,000 for injury liability for one person, $60,000 for all injuries and $25,000 for property damage in an accident (written as 30/60/25).
While you can legally drive after buying your state minimum liability coverage, it’s not recommended. Here’s why you don’t want to skimp on liability to pinch a few pennies: The cost of a car accident can be much higher than what your insurance will pay out if you have only the minimum coverage mandated by state law. Unless your income and assets are minimal, for instance you do not own a home or have much savings or investments, buy $100,000 per person, $300,000 per accident, as advised by the Insurance Information Institute (III).
Buying extra liability insurance to protect you and your assets is typically very affordable. It’s an example of when the best car insurance may not necessarily be the cheapest.
Consider this example, using a driver profile of an adult male with a clean driving record living in California. The driver could buy 10 times more than the state minimum for just $84 more a year, on average:
Additional cost (avg.)
Minimum with no extra cost
Once you’ve set your liability limits, you will be asked if you want to purchase optional coverages. These typically include:
- Uninsured motorist/under-insured motorist coverage (UM/UIM)
- Personal injury protection (PIP)
If you opt for UM/UIM or PIP, you will be asked to select a coverage limit. If you opt for collision and comprehensive, you will have to choose a deductible. The limit is the maximum amount your insurer will pay for damages and the deductible is the amount you pay out-of-pocket before your policy pays out.
Some states require uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, while in others it is optional. If you're hit by someone who leaves the scene, or by someone who's inadequately insured, uninsured motorist and underinsured motorist coverage kicks in.
It pays for the medical, rehabilitation, funeral, and pain-and-suffering costs for you and for the passengers in your car. This coverage also insures your household members as pedestrians. Typically it is a good idea to buy this coverage at the same limits as your bodily-injury liability coverage.
Collision and comprehensive
You may also want to consider collision and comprehensive coverage, which are optional. However, if you leased or bought a car with a loan, the financing company likely will require you to have both.
Collision coverage pays to repair or replace your car after an accident.
Comprehensive pays if your car is stolen, or if your car is damaged by fire, hail, flooding or vandalism. It also covers the damage if you hit an animal or a flying object hits your car.
Adding collision and comprehensive to your policy and raising your liability limits doesn’t add that much extra cost. For example, it costs $74, on average, a month to boost a 50/100/50 liability policy to the recommended full coverage of 100/300/100 with comprehensive and collision.
You will be asked to choose a deductible amount for the comprehensive and collisions portions of your policy. You typically can select $250, $500 or $1,000. The deductible is the amount you pay before your insurance kicks in. The higher your deductible is, the lower your rate. That means you can save money by hiking deductibles, but if you go that route, be sure you have the cash on hand to cover the deductible or you’re out of luck when filing a claim.
Here are how annual rates vary, on average, by deductible amount, on a 100/300/100 policy with comprehensive and collision. You’d save $388 by increasing a $250 deductible to $1,000:
100/300/100 with $1,000 deductible
100/300/100 with $500 deductible
100/300/100 with $250 deductible
*Methodology: Based on analysis by Quadrant Information Services, commissioned by CarInsurance.com, of quotes from major carriers in 10 ZIP codes in each state.
During your online buying process, you will also be asked some questions that will let insurers know if you qualify for car insurance discounts, which will help you get the cheapest car insurance for your particular situation.
This could include what you do for a living, whether or not your car is equipped with safety or anti-theft devices, among other things.
Once you’ve bought a policy, you can download an insurance card for proof of coverage. Then you are free to cancel your existing – and likely more expensive – policy and begin saving money. Read our guide to switching car insurance companies if you feel stuck.