Buckle your seatbelt – we’re about to shop for car insurance.

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Shopping for car insurance isn’t as easy as going to the mall. While you have almost as many choices, you have to do some work to see the price of an insurance policy. You have to fill out forms and answer questions. It can be a bit confusing, so we put together a guide on how to shop for car insurance and get the best rates.

We’ve reviewed many of the best car insurance companies in the business and ranked them on things like price, customer service, and financial stability. When you’re shopping for car insurance, it’s all about getting as many quotes as you can from the most reputable companies.

 

In this article:

Shop Car Insurance: Getting A Quote

Since car insurance can vary so much between drivers, companies don’t just sell policies for a set price. Each customer has to get a unique price, called a quote. Quotes do not obligate you to buy a policy, but they do allow companies to offer further marketing materials to you if you don’t buy a policy. You can always opt out of marketing lists to stop receiving junk mail.

To get an auto insurance quote, you can either go online and fill out a form yourself, or you can contact an agent. Getting a quote online is quick and easy. It usually only takes a few minutes to receive a personalized quote online.

Working with an agent is a good idea if you have any questions about the process. The agent can also make sure that you’re getting all the discounts possible. An agent can work for one company, or they can be a broker and connect you with a number of insurance companies. If you use an insurance broker, you might have to pay a brokerage fee when you buy a policy.

Here’s what you need to shop for car insurance and get a quote:

  • Information about you: You need to supply your date of birth, address, and driver’s license number. You’ll answer questions about your driving record and your insurance history. You might be asked about your military service, student status, and corporate affiliations for discount purposes.
  • Information about other drivers: You have to declare family members who live with you on your policy. This can include spouses and partners. You’ll have to provide their dates of birth, driving records, and insurance history.
  • Information about your vehicle(s): You’ll need to provide your car’s VIN and the address where it is stored. You’ll also answer questions about safety and anti-theft features on the vehicle for discount purposes.

After you answer all the questions, you’ll be directed to a personalized quote. This quote will have a unique number so you can return to it later or call and talk to an agent about it.

If the quote looks too expensive, don’t panic. You can edit your coverage levels to adjust your total price. However, while you might save money with less coverage, you’ll increase your risk. Your quote will show your car insurance coverage levels in detail, including:

  • Bodily injury liability insurance
  • Property damage liability
  • Uninsured/underinsured motorist
  • Comprehensive
  • Collision
  • Medical payments
  • Personal injury protection

You may also see coverage levels for things like roadside assistance and rental car reimbursement. You can add raise or lower your limits for each type of coverage, though you can’t elect coverages below your state’s minimum requirements.

How Often Should You Shop For Car Insurance?

If you want to, you can shop for car insurance as often as your policy is up for renewal, which could be every six or twelve months. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for insurance companies to raise rates after the first term. If your premium is going up next term and you haven’t filed any claims, you can feel free to shop for car insurance.

It can also be a good idea to shop for car insurance every six months even if you’re happy with your policy. Who knows, maybe a competitor just lowered its prices, or a new company just entered your local market. While you can get a loyalty discount for being with the same insurance company over a long period, you might save more by switching.

How Many Quotes Should You Compare?

There’s really no limit to the number of quotes that you can compare, besides how full you want your inbox to be. Getting more quotes just gives you a better idea of what’s available for your situation. However, we wouldn’t recommend buying a policy without comparing at least three different providers. The goal is to shop for car insurance from multiple sources and compare car insurance rates, not buy the first policy you see.

Comparing three in your area gives you a good idea of what’s out there, though you could compare more. If you’re feeling energized, try to go for five to seven providers. Remember, try to compare apples to apples. Don’t compare auto insurance with $25,000 in property damage coverage to a policy with $100,000 in coverage.

Car Insurance Quotes Comparison: Top 10 Providers

Compare car insurance quotes from our top ten providers by clicking on the links below.

    Our Rating Cost J.D. Power Claims Rating (Out of 1,000) Good For...

USAA

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5.0

Very Affordable

900

Military

Geico

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4.5

Affordable

879

Students and military

Progressive

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4.5

Affordable

856

Military and usage-based discounts

State Farm

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4.5

Affordable

878

Students and teens

AAA

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4.0

Affordable

857 (average of 3 AAA groups)

Students and teens

Liberty Mutual

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4.0

Average

857

Military and teens

Allstate

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4.0

Average

853

Working with a personal agent

The Hartford

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4.0

Affordable

873

Students and teens

Nationwide

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4.0

Average

867

Seniors

Farmers

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4.0

Average

865

Seniors

 
 

*J.D. Power ratings are from the 2019 U.S. Auto Claims Satisfaction Study.

Which Insurance Comparison Site Is Best?

When you shop for insurance, you might want to cut down on some busy work and just look at prices through a comparison site. While this is a good idea, the results really depend on the site you use, and you might need to complete a quote on the provider’s own site to see the final price. Also, some comparison sites won’t include all your options or may only show preferred providers.

Progressive and Esurance are two insurance providers that also have comparison tools on their sites. If you’re interested in Progressive, using Progressive’s comparison tool would be a smart idea.

What You Can Do To Get The Best Auto Insurance Rates

While you can’t control everything that affects your rates, there are a few ways to find the best options when you shop for car insurance.

  • Shop around: The more quotes you get, the better.
  • Be a good driver: Auto insurance companies like to see that you are a responsible driver and have little to no at-fault claims or tickets. Claims will raise your rates.
  • Work on your credit: Many states allow credit scores to influence car insurance rates. A poor score can increase your rate, while a good score can lower it.
  • Increase your deductible: A higher deductible will lower your insurance premiums, but make sure you can still pay it if you have to.
  • Bundle if you can: Depending on your situation, you could save by bundling your auto policy with a renters or homeowners policy.
  • Don’t move to the big city: If you’re looking to move somewhere new, consider a suburb or metro area away from downtown. Drivers in middle-class suburbs usually get better rates.
  • Choose the right car: If you’re looking to buy a car, take the time to find out which cars are cheapest to insure. Right now, insurance companies prefer family-oriented SUVs.

Avoid A Lapse In Insurance Like The Plague

Avoiding breaks in your coverage is one of the simplest ways to make sure you’re getting the best rates. Even going one or two days without insurance is considered a lapse. If your coverage stops, your insurance carrier may notify the DMV, which can lead to fines or a suspended license.

To avoid a lapse in coverage, always pay your car insurance premiums on time. If you’re too late in paying your premium, the company can limit or suspend your coverage. Also, your insurance company can cancel your policy if you file too many claims or get too many tickets. If you need to cancel your policy because you’re selling your car, make sure you transfer the title before you cancel your insurance.

It’s also important to keep your current coverage in mind when you shop for car insurance. If your current coverage ends on the 15th of the month, start your new insurance on the 14th. It’s better to overlap coverage for a day than go without it. Besides the legal consequences of driving without car insurance, a lapse in coverage can increase your next premium by 10 percent or more. That’s because a lapse makes you a high-risk driver in the eyes of insurance companies.

Choose The Right Provider For Your Situation

Another thing to think about when you shop for car insurance is to pick the right company for your unique situation. For example, one insurance company might give cheap rates to good drivers but charge high-risk drivers a lot more. Another company might even out the difference by charging good drivers higher-than-average rates and charging high-risk drivers more affordable rates.

As you embark on your auto insurance comparison shopping adventure, you’ll see that most car insurance companies offer discounts. However, the type of discount varies between companies. For example, some companies offer great military discounts, while others don’t offer military discounts at all. The same goes for being a new driver, a teenager, a student, a senior, and more. Just because State Farm was the best choice for your office’s IT guy doesn’t mean it will be the best choice for you.

Be Proactive About Discounts

Today, shoppers everywhere expect deals, sales, and discounts, and car insurance is not immune to this fact. Actually, it would be rare for you to find a policy without any discounts. Insurance companies know that a $1,000 product with a 30 percent discount looks much more appealing than a $700 one with no discount.

When you shop for car insurance online, you’ll answer a number of questions about your situation. Depending on your answers, you’ll be eligible for certain discounts. However, companies can offer more discounts than the online form accounts for. That’s why it can be a good idea to call in and speak with an agent after you get a quote.

Discounts vary between companies, but here are a few common ones:

Accident-free

Claim-free

Low mileage

Defensive driving

Safe driver

Military

Usage-based

Good student

Corporate

Academic

Senior

Homeowner

Paid in full

Paperless billing

Student away

Company loyalty

Homeowner

Multi-policy

Autopay

New car

Anti-lock brakes

Anti-theft device

Multi-car

Safety features

The next time you look at your insurance documents, see if you can find what your original price was before all the discounts. It might surprise you.

After You Buy, Check Your Snail Mail

You may not know this, but there’s an underwriting period that allows companies to adjust your rate after you buy car insurance. Each state has different insurance underwriting laws that give companies the time to investigate your background further. This means you might not know exactly what your policy will cost when you shop for car insurance. If your rate is adjusted, your insurance company will communicate that to you by mail.

Some companies might send an email or give you a phone call, but snail mail is the default communication for policy changes. Don’t just assume the letter is a policy summary or a statement. It could contain information about a rate increase, and if you don’t read it, you might be sorry later on. When your bank account gets debited for the higher rate, you might not be able to get a refund on that amount if you had missed the communication from the company.

USAA: Best For Military

USAA is our top pick overall for car insurance, although you’ll need to meet certain criteria for eligibility. People with these qualifications can get USAA:

  • United States military members that are active, enlisted, honorably separated, or retired
  • Commissioning program members
  • Spouses and children of people who have had a USAA auto or home policy

USAA tends to be one of the cheapest options overall. It’s a great idea to include it when you shop for car insurance if you’re eligible. The company gives you a 15 percent discount if you garage your vehicle on base and a 60 percent discount during deployment. That’s important because you still need car insurance during deployment if you own a car.

The company has an A++ financial rating from AM Best. USAA also performed very well on J.D. Power’s 2019 Auto Claims Satisfaction Study and its 2019 Insurance Shopping Study. The company makes it easy to apply for a quote, buy a policy, and use your coverage.

Best for Military Families

★★★★★

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Our best overall pick: Offers great customer service to military members and their families.

 

Geico: The Cheapest Rates

Many people find that Geico offers them the cheapest rates when they shop for car insurance. Geico has a number of discounts based on your driving history, your car, and your situation. The company’s full name is Government Employees Insurance Company, and it still gives a discount to federal government employees.

Geico is the second-largest car insurance company in the U.S. and also has a rating of A++ from AM Best. The company has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB), and it has above-average customer service ratings online. Geico finished in fourth place on J.D. Power’s Claims Satisfaction Study but finished in the middle of the pack in the Insurance Shopping Study.

With Geico, you can also get mechanical coverage for your car, which is rare among insurance companies. The program is called Mechanical Breakdown Insurance, and it’s similar to an extended warranty.

Best Company Overall

★★★★★

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Our 2nd favorite and best for those ineligible for USAA: Offers competitive pricing and great coverage.

 

State Farm: Best For Students

State Farm is the largest auto insurance provider in the U.S., with 17 percent of the market according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. State Farm can be a great option for many different people, especially students. If you’re a good student, you could get up to 25 percent off your premium with State Farm. You won’t come across a student discount that big when shopping for car insurance elsewhere. Also, you get to keep that discount until you’re 25 years old, even after you graduate college.

State Farm has four different apps that make claims easier and help people save money. One app, Steer Clear, is for drivers under 25 to hone their skills. Drivers complete in-app courses and log driving hours. Drivers who complete the program get another discount off their premium.

This company also has a rating of A++ from AM Best and an A+ rating from the BBB. However, it performed similarly to Geico in the two studies by J.D. Power. It came in fifth place for its claims service and finished in the middle of the pack for its shopping experience.

Most Popular Car Insurer in the U.S.

★★★★★

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Most popular auto insurance company that services over 83 million policies.

 

Don’t Write Off The Little Guys

We use sources like J.D. Power in our research, but there are many other car insurance companies that are too small to be rated by sources like that. In fact, you might find a local insurance company that offers great coverage and prices. The main thing to do when shopping for car insurance is to get multiple quotes from different companies.

Also, if you shop for car insurance locally, you might not be able to find online reviews through websites like the BBB or Trustpilot. You might have to take the agent at their word when they describe the company’s track record for customer service.

If you’re looking to purchase a policy from a smaller provider, make sure you are clear on a couple of things:

Cancellations: Some providers offer a grace period. If you cancel during this time, you’ll get all your money back. However, others don’t. Some companies can charge cancellation fees, and some might even charge a non-refundable fee to purchase a policy. In certain cases, you may not get all your money back even if you cancel a policy on the same day you bought it.

Coverage specifics: You’d be surprised at how little “full coverage” actually covers sometimes. Does the company let you choose your repair shop? Does it cover whatever hourly rate your repair shop charges or just an average rate for your area? Will rental reimbursement cover a rental while your vehicle sits in the shop waiting for a repair authorization? It’s always important to read all your policy documents when you shop auto insurance, since an initial quote won’t have all the details.