auto insurance has
companies encourage you to use local agents, while others prefer to do business
online or over the phone. In either case, you should be able to report an
accident and file a claim 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
plans. You should
be able to customize coverage to fit your needs instead of being forced into a
policy that offers options you don't need or want.
wide range of discounts. Most insurers will knock a bit off your rate for a variety of
factors: having a good driving record or owning a newer car with a security
system are just a couple of examples.
much coverage do you need? Each state has certain minimum requirements for bodily injury
and property damage coverage. It's always worth double-checking the numbers on
your state insurance commissioner's website. Most experts recommend purchasing
more than the minimum, however; you need at least enough coverage to cover your
assets, and purchasing the state minimum is generally only enough to keep you
driving legally. Check out CarInsurance.com's guide to three common levels of coverage
for a good baseline.
type of coverage do you need? Insure.com provides a handy overview of insurance basics.
Liability coverage is required of car owners, but it covers only expenses
related to bodily injury or property damage you do to others. If you want your
own vehicle covered in the event of a crash, you'll need collision coverage,
and if you want it covered for anything other than a crash -- a nasty hailstorm
or vandalism, for instance -- you'll need comprehensive coverage. Another major
consideration is uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, which will cover you
if the person who hits you didn't pony up for his or her own policy.
the company reputable? Insurance companies can be tricky to evaluate
using individual consumer reviews -- horror stories are common no matter the
company. For a more balanced picture, check out the results of large consumer
surveys, including national
rankings by J.D. Power and Associates. Regional rankings are also
worth a look -- some insurers fare much better in certain areas than others,
and some highly ranked smaller companies don't provide coverage in every state.
Of course, it's also worth asking for recommendations from friends --
especially those with similar assets and driving habits -- or a trusted
- Know roughly what you should pay. Figure out whether you're
in a high- or low-cost state for car insurance, and check your state's
insurance department website for hypothetical rates for customers with similar
circumstances. Remember that your credit score may affect your quotes -- if you
have poor credit, you could be penalized with higher rates.
- Compare, compare, compare. Rate-comparison sites such as those at Insure.com, Insurance.com and Netquote.com
can help you get several car insurance quotes. Remember to contact other
insurers who might not use such tools to see whether they can beat the quotes
- Take advantage of discounts. Nearly
all major auto insurers provide a variety of ways to save, but be sure to ask
for a full list -- they may give you a break for everything from demographics
to driving habits to what car you drive. Note that available discounts may also
vary by state.
- Think about a higher deductible. If you
can afford to pay more in the event of a crash or other catastrophe, you may be
able to lower your premiums. But it's a risk worth taking only if you actually
have substantial savings, experts say.
- Reassess your situation every year. Your
insurer may lower your rate for several reasons: if your credit score rises or
if you're driving less, for example. On the flip side, you may pay more because
of driving infractions or the purchase of a pricey new car.