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Insuring a used car: What you need to know

If you're shopping for a used car, be prepared to take the steps necessary to insure it. You should shop for car insurance as you shop for your vehicle. You don't want to purchase a vehicle only to learn you can't afford the car insurance premium for it. Once you've settled on a few contenders, you should compare car insurance rates to see what the cost of car insurance coverage is so you can account for it in your budget.

To find average rates for over 3,500 used car models from 2006 to 2018, use our handy tool. Choose the year of the car, your state, plus the make and model of the vehicle you are thinking of buying to find out how much, on average, you can expect to pay for auto insurance coverage. On the results page you can add more cars to compare - up to 10 different vehicles at once - to determine which used vehicle you have on your short list costs the least to insure.  

Full coverage is recommended for vehicles 2011 or newer, so only full coverage (comprehensive and collision plus liability) rates are shown for these years. If you choose 2010 or older as the year, you will see rates for both full coverage and liability only on the vehicle. Remember if you carry liability only, your vehicle isn't covered by your car insurance policy in any way if it is damaged.

Once you have made your final choice, or if you're deadlocked between a couple vehicles, it's time to get personalized car insurance quotes by providing the vehicle identification number, or the make and model, to insurance companies. That way, you'll know the exact amount you will need to budget for your car insurance portion of your monthly vehicle expenses.

Tips on how to buy coverage for a used car

If you don't already have car insurance, you should have a policy in place before you pick up your car. Remember that all drivers must meet their state minimum liability requirements. This coverage pays for damage you do to others' cars and property, but does not cover damage to your car. For that, you need comprehensive insurance and collision coverage.

Comprehensive insurance pays for damage to your car due to flooding, fire, vandalism and hail, and pays out the actual cash value of your car if it's stolen. Collision covers damage to your car from accidents when you hit, or are hit, by another vehicle or object. If your car is less than 10 years old, or worth more than $3,000, it's wise to get these optional coverages. If you have a loan on your car, you will be required to purchase comprehensive and collision by the finance company.

Insurance companies will typically transfer coverage from a car you already own -- or traded in -- to the "new" one for a limited amount of time. How long the extended coverage is offered depends on your insurance company's rules and state laws, but usually ranges from a few days to a month. If you never notify the company, or do so after the time period mandated by your insurer, your "new" car won't be covered.

What coverage is placed on your "new" car also needs to be clarified with your insurance company. If you plan to transfer your existing coverage to your "new" vehicle and you presently carry only liability coverage, then only liability coverage will be placed on your "new" vehicle. If you want, or especially if you are required by a finance company, to carry comprehensive and collision then you need to make certain that your newly purchased used vehicle is not only added to your policy, but that full coverage (comp and collision plus liability) is placed on the vehicle. Don't assume the car or extra coverages will be added to your policy; it is your responsibility to notify your insurer about the car and clarify what coverages you want on it.