How to Shop for Car Insurance

Understand the best way to shop for auto insurance. Author Icon Written by Trusted Choice Author Icon
Written by Trusted Choice

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Reviewer: Jeffrey Green Reviewed by Jeffrey Green
Reviewer: Jeffrey Green
Reviewed by Jeffrey Green

Jeff Green has held a variety of sales and management roles at life insurance companies, Wall street firms, and distribution organizations over his 40-year career.  He was previously Finra 7,24,66 registered and held life insurance licenses in multiple states. He is a graduate of Stony Brook University.

A senior couple researching car insurance using a laptop at home. How to shop for car insurance.

Shopping for car insurance doesn’t have to be complicated. Whether you’re buying a new car, changing your level of coverage, or just looking for the best deal, the process can be broken down into five easy steps:

How to Shop for Car Insurance

Step 1 Gather car and driver information
Step 2 Determine your coverage needs
Step 3 Choose how to shop for car insurance
Step 4 Compare quotes and discounts
Step 5 Buy your new policy (and cancel your old one)

Step 1. Gather Car and Driver Information

Before you start shopping for car insurance, you can make the process easier by collecting some essential info beforehand. Relevant information and documentation to have handy should include: 

  • The name, address, birth date, and driver’s license number of every driver whom your policy will cover.
  • Your vehicle’s make, model, year, mileage, and VIN (vehicle identification number)
  • Your current auto insurance policy (if you have one)

Step 2. Determine Your Coverage Needs

The next step in shopping for car insurance is determining the level of coverage you need. Your best option may depend on a variety of factors, including the age of your car, your state’s minimum car insurance requirements, and how you’ve financed your vehicle. When you’re shopping around, you’ll want to make sure you’re comparing quotes for the same coverage amount. Here are some of the most common types of car insurance:

  • Collision coverage pays for repair expenses resulting from a traffic accident, regardless of whose fault it was.
  • Comprehensive coverage can help you repair or replace your vehicle if it’s stolen or damaged in a non-collision event (like vandalism or extreme weather).
  • Gap insurance can help you pay off your auto loan if your vehicle is stolen or deemed a total loss and you owe more than the car is worth.
  • Liability coverage pays for the cost of bodily injuries or property damage resulting from an accident that you cause.
  • Medical payment coverage pays for your (and your passengers’) medical expenses due to an accident, regardless of fault.
  • Personal injury protection insurance can cover post-accident medical bills as well as other costs, like lost wages and childcare.
  • Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage pays for medical bills or repairs after an accident with a driver who isn’t properly insured.

Step 3. Choose How to Shop for Car Insurance

There are a few different ways to shop for car insurance. The best option for you really comes down to what you prefer. Working with either an independent insurance agent or choosing your coverage from an independent insurance agency directory like Trusted Choice can give you more flexibility and options to choose from.

To get an idea of how much you might pay for coverage, the Trusted Choice car insurance calculator is a great tool to use as a starting point.

Work with an Independent Insurance Agent to Purchase Auto Coverage

Independent insurance agents aren’t tied to a specific insurance company. Instead, they work with multiple insurers to provide their clients with a variety of options.

There are several advantages to working with an independent agent, chief of which is working with an agent who has knowledge of a wide variety of policies and offerings from different insurance providers. They can help you compare premiums from multiple insurance companies and make the best decision for your needs.

Additionally, independent agents are knowledgeable about many state regulations and contract details with various insurance companies, which can also help you better understand your options. Independent agents can typically offer more price and coverage flexibility than working with a single-insurance provider captive agent.

Use an Online Comparison Platform to Purchase Car Insurance

Online comparison tools can help you get the best deal by comparing premiums from different providers. If you’re more confident about the type of coverage you want and don’t require much hand-holding while shopping, an online comparison platform can be a great way to shop for coverage at your leisure.

Online tools mean you don’t have to speak to an agent directly. But insurance can get complicated. That’s why Trusted Choice’s licensed professionals are here to help guide you through the insurance-buying process and provide you with auto insurance quotes to help you make your decision.

Step 4. Compare Quotes and Discounts

As you’re evaluating auto insurance quotes, it’s important to look beyond the stated price. Here are a few tips for a successful shopping experience:

  • Compare apples to apples. Make sure that the options you’re looking at have the same coverage features and deductibles.
  • Read reviews. When it comes to choosing an insurer, customer service is key. Check out online ratings and see what other drivers have to say.
  • Ask about discounts. Many providers offer car insurance discounts for everything from safe driving to good grades. Find out what you may qualify for.

Aside from applying discounts, there are a few other ways you may be able to save when you shop for a new car insurance policy:

  • Increase your deductible: Generally, when you agree to pay a larger out-of-pocket amount in the event of a loss, your premium will go down.
  • Install an anti-theft device: This can lower the chance of your vehicle being stolen, which reduces your insurance provider’s overall risk.
  • Take a defensive driving course: If you can show that you’re proactive about road safety, you can be rewarded with savings.
  • Pay your premium upfront: Monthly payments may be convenient, but paying in one lump sum can often earn you a discount.
  • Bundle your policies: You could save by combining your car insurance policy with homeowners, renters, or life insurance policies from the same company.

Step 5. Buy Your New Policy

Once you’ve done your shopping and chosen your new insurance provider and policy, you’re ready to buy. Depending on the company, you may have the option to pay in monthly installments or your full premium upfront (for six months or a year).

If you’re buying a new car, make sure your coverage is active before you start driving. If you’re just changing policies, contact your original insurance company to cancel. Make sure that your new start date is on or before the cancellation date to avoid a lapse in coverage. If you paid upfront for your old policy, you should receive a prorated refund for any unused premium.

FAQs about Shopping for Car Insurance

To make sure you’re getting the best rates and coverage, many experts recommend that you shop around for car insurance quotes at least once a year.

If you need car insurance quickly, you may be able to get same-day car insurance. Your first step should be to get a free car insurance quote online.

It’s smart to shop around for car insurance to make sure you’re getting the right amount of coverage at the best possible price.

Insurance providers may conduct a soft inquiry (or “soft pull”) on your credit, and your credit score may be one of several factors that go into calculating your premium.

Yes, and in most states, you need to have coverage in place before you can drive off the lot. You can get a quote with just the car’s year, make, and model.

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