Shopping for Car Insurance: How to Get Coverage in 7 Easy Steps

Comparing quotes is the fastest and easiest way to shop for car insurance.

Elizabeth Rivelli
Elizabeth Rivelli
  • 5+ years writing insurance and personal finance topics

  • Auto, home, health, and life insurance expertise

Elizabeth has extensive insurance industry experience, having written for Insureon, Rate Retriever, and Insurify. She’s also finance and insurance editor for Car and Driver.

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Ashley Cox
Edited byAshley Cox
Headshot of Managing Editor Ashley Cox
Ashley CoxSenior Managing Editor
  • 7+ years in content creation and management

  • 5+ years in insurance and personal finance content

Ashley is a seasoned personal finance editor who’s produced a variety of digital content, including insurance, credit cards, mortgages, and consumer lending products.

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Updated July 11, 2024

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Car insurance is a legal requirement in every state except New Hampshire, but not all car insurance policies are the same. The average cost of car insurance in the U.S. is $105 per month for liability coverage and $214 per month for full coverage, according to Insurify data. But you might pay more or less than the average depending on factors like your location, age, and the type of car you drive.

When shopping for car insurance, it’s a good idea to compare quotes from several insurers so you can find the best coverage and most affordable rates for your situation. Learn how to shop for car insurance in seven steps, as well as what to consider before choosing a policy.

Quick Facts
  • Compare insurance companies based on features like coverage options, discounts, customer service, and claim handling.

  • Online quote-comparison tools make it easy to find the cheapest car insurance for your situation.

  • If you’re switching policies, make sure your new policy has started before canceling your old one to avoid a lapse in coverage.

1. Collect your information

On a standard car insurance application, you’ll find a variety of questions about yourself and your vehicle. Providing this basic information will help you get the most accurate quote. Here’s some of the general information you’ll need to submit:

  • Name

  • Driver’s license number

  • Age

  • Gender

  • Driving record

  • ZIP code

  • Make and model of your vehicle

2. Decide how much coverage you need

Before you purchase a car insurance policy, you’ll need to choose the amount of coverage and types of coverage you want. This will be different for every driver. Here are some of the most common types of car insurance that you should consider.

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Liability-only coverage

Nearly every state requires drivers to carry a minimum amount of liability insurance in order to drive legally.[1] This is called a minimum-coverage policy.

Liability-only insurance covers your financial responsibilities when you cause an accident that results in someone else’s bodily injuries or property damage. It’s the cheapest car insurance you can get, but it doesn’t provide any coverage for your injuries or your vehicle.

Full coverage

A full-coverage policy includes liability insurance, collision insurance, and comprehensive insurance. Collision insurance covers your vehicle repairs after an accident. Comprehensive insurance covers non-collision incidents, such as theft, vandalism, natural disasters, and falling objects.

Full-coverage insurance is optional for most drivers, but your lender will probably require it if you lease or finance your vehicle.

Optional coverages

Many insurance companies offer endorsements, or optional coverages, that fill gaps in your basic policy and provide more customized protection. Here are some of the most common car insurance endorsements available.

  • illustration card https://a.storyblok.com/f/162273/x/2d92436d68/protection-for-your-car.svg

    Gap coverage

    Gap insurance, which stands for “guaranteed asset protection,” is beneficial if you lease or finance your car. If you have negative equity in the vehicle and it gets totaled, gap insurance will pay the difference between the car’s depreciated value and the amount you still owe.[2]

  • illustration card https://a.storyblok.com/f/162273/100x100/9997698e9e/emergency-roadside-service.svg

    Roadside assistance coverage

    Roadside assistance covers basic services you might need if you break down or get stranded on the road. Depending on the policy, it’ll cover things like flat-tire changes, fuel delivery, battery replacements, lockouts, and towing.

  • illustration card https://a.storyblok.com/f/162273/x/e30eeeebc5/personal-injury-protection.svg

    Personal injury protection coverage

    Many no-fault states require personal injury protection (PIP), and it’s optional in some at-fault states. This type of insurance will pay for your medical expenses after an accident, regardless of which driver was responsible.

  • illustration card https://a.storyblok.com/f/162273/x/5285c4cd74/uninsured-or-underinsured-motorist-coverage.svg

    Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage

    Uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance is legally required in some states, but it’s often sold as an endorsement. This policy will provide additional coverage for your losses if you get into an accident with a driver who’s uninsured or doesn’t have enough insurance coverage to pay for your injuries or property damage in full.[3]

  • illustration card https://a.storyblok.com/f/162273/x/4c9753bdbe/medical-payments.svg

    Medical payments coverage

    Medical payments insurance, often called MedPay, covers medical costs for you and your passengers if you get injured in a crash. MedPay is sometimes included with a full-coverage insurance policy.

3. Research car insurance companies

The next step is to start researching car insurance companies. Keep in mind that the best option is different for every driver. For example, the best car insurance company for you might have the cheapest auto insurance rates. For someone else, the best insurer might offer the most endorsements or have the best customer service.

When comparing insurers, you should consider a few factors, including coverage options, discounts, customer service, claim handling, and third-party ratings. You can check AM Best for financial strength scores and review J.D. Power’s Auto Insurance Study to get a better sense of a company’s overall customer satisfaction.

In addition, you can see the number of complaints an insurer has by consulting the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) Complaint Index. Companies that have a complaint index below 1.0 have fewer complaints than expected for their size.

4. Compare car insurance quotes

Comparing car insurance quotes is one of the most important steps in shopping for insurance. Because it can be time-consuming to get quotes from individual insurer websites, using an online quote-comparison tool can simplify the process.

When you use a quote-comparison site, you provide information about yourself and your vehicle and get matched with quotes from multiple different companies. Each company has different rating criteria, so the quotes will vary. But comparison shopping makes it easy to see which insurer is the cheapest for your unique driver profile.

Important Information

Be aware that some quote-comparison tools are actually lead-generation websites. When you submit your contact information to get a quote, the website may sell your information to other companies that use your details to spam you with calls or emails. Choose a tool that doesn’t share your data and has good reviews.

Cheapest recent rates

Insurify’s drivers have found rates ranging from $35/mo. to $120/mo. in the last few days

*Quotes generated for Insurify users within the last 10 days. Last updated on July 11, 2024

Rates shown are real-time Insurify user quotes from 100+ insurance companies and Quadrant Information Services data. Insurify’s algorithm excludes anomalous quotes and anonymizes personal details, then displays refined quotes by price, date, and insurer popularity up to 10 days ago from July 11, 2024. Actual quotes may vary based on the policy buyer’s unique driver profile.

*Quotes generated for Insurify users within the last 10 days. Last updated on July 11, 2024

Rates shown are real-time Insurify user quotes from 100+ insurance companies and Quadrant Information Services data. Insurify’s algorithm excludes anomalous quotes and anonymizes personal details, then displays refined quotes by price, date, and insurer popularity up to 10 days ago from July 11, 2024. Actual quotes may vary based on the policy buyer’s unique driver profile.

5. Check for discounts that you’re eligible for

Car insurance discounts are a great way to save money and lower your insurance premium.[4] Insurance companies offer different discounts, so you should find out what discounts are available when comparing insurers. Some of the most common discounts include savings for safe drivers, getting good grades in school, and bundling multiple insurance products.

Below, you can see how much certain car insurance discounts can help you save:

DiscountPotential Savings
Defensive driving course5%
Bundling7%–25%
Multi-vehicle7%–25%
Good student10%–15%
Telematics10%–30%
Military15%–25%
Safe driver22%
Passive restraint40%

6. Take out a new policy

Once you’ve chosen the right insurance company for you, it’s time to purchase the policy. You’ll probably need to submit some additional personal information to take out a policy, including your car’s vehicle identification number (VIN) and your Social Security number. You can also choose the policy’s start date.

Most car insurance policies are in effect for six or 12 months, and there are pros and cons to each. A six-month policy will have a lower premium, but your insurer has more opportunities to evaluate your rate and potentially increase the premium. With a 12-month policy, the premium will be higher, but your rate will remain the same for at least one year.

Good to Know

You can also choose how often you pay the premium. Many car insurance companies provide a small discount if you pay the entire premium up front and in full. You can also pay in monthly installments.

7. Cancel your existing policy

If you already have car insurance coverage, now is the time to cancel your old policy. Make sure your new policy has already started before you cancel the old one. If you cancel the old policy before the new one starts, you’ll have a lapse in coverage.

If your insurance lapses, this will appear on your insurance history, and you aren’t protected in case of an accident. Having a lapse in coverage contributes to your risk profile, so it can cause your premiums to increase in the future.

Read More: What Happens When Car Insurance Lapses?

Read More: What Happens When Car Insurance Lapses?

Shopping for car insurance FAQs

Here’s some more information about shopping for car insurance that can be helpful when comparing quotes and reviewing your options.

  • What’s the best way to shop for car insurance?

    The best way to shop for car insurance is to use an online quote-comparison tool. This makes it easy to compare quotes from multiple insurance companies using a single application. It’ll also help you find the best price. Before you purchase a policy, you should review your top options based on important factors, like coverage options, discounts, customer service, and financial strength.

  • How much does car insurance cost?

    The average cost of car insurance in the U.S. is $105 per month for liability coverage and $214 per month for full coverage, according to Insurify data.

    But car insurance rates are personalized to every driver. Some things that affect your car insurance premium are your ZIP code, age, driving record, vehicle type, coverage limits, and deductible amount.

  • When should you shop for car insurance?

    You should shop for car insurance before you purchase a new vehicle. It’s also a good idea to shop for car insurance after a major event, such as getting married, adding a teen driver to your policy, or getting into an accident.

    Getting new auto insurance quotes will ensure you’re always paying the best rates for your situation. If you find a lower rate, you can change insurers at any time, often without paying a cancellation fee.

  • Does shopping for car insurance hurt your credit?

    No. Shopping for an auto policy doesn’t affect your credit. But in most states, insurance companies can use credit-based insurance scores when determining your premium. If you have excellent credit, you may qualify for the most favorable rates. On the other hand, people with poor credit often pay much higher rates.

Sources

  1. Insurance Information Institute. "Auto insurance basics—understanding your coverage."
  2. Insurance Information Institute. "What is gap insurance?."
  3. Insurance Information Institute. "Facts + Statistics: Uninsured motorists."
  4. Insurance Information Institute. "How to save money on car insurance."
Elizabeth Rivelli
Elizabeth Rivelli

Elizabeth Rivelli is a freelance writer covering insurance and personal finance. She has extensive knowledge of various insurance lines, including property and casualty, health, and life insurance. Her byline has been featured in dozens of publications, including Investopedia, Forbes, Bankrate, NextAdvisor, and Insurance.com

Ashley Cox
Edited byAshley CoxSenior Managing Editor
Headshot of Managing Editor Ashley Cox
Ashley CoxSenior Managing Editor
  • 7+ years in content creation and management

  • 5+ years in insurance and personal finance content

Ashley is a seasoned personal finance editor who’s produced a variety of digital content, including insurance, credit cards, mortgages, and consumer lending products.

Featured in

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