15 Must-Know Tips Before Buying Car Insurance

15 Must-Know Tips Before Buying Car Insurance

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Whether you’re shopping for car insurance for the first time or seeking a better price on your existing policy, everyone wants to know how to get cheap car insurance.

A good way to get your ideal policy for an affordable price is to equip yourself with insider intel. There are certain steps you can take that the average customer may not be aware of and could result in lower costs.

We’ve gathered helpful auto insurance tips from agents and other resources to give you 15 ways to save money on car insurance.

1. Compare Rates From Different Auto Insurance Companies

Don’t automatically go with the first car insurance company that gives you a quote, even if it seems reasonable. You might end up paying much more than you need to. See what types of insurance offers you can get from national companies — like Geico, State Farm, and Allstate — as well as any local insurers. Collecting and comparing quotes from multiple places will help ensure that you’re getting a competitive auto insurance rate.

2. Work With an Independent Insurance Agent

If this is your first time purchasing auto insurance, then you may benefit from getting an experienced professional to guide you through the process. Licensed insurance agents who work for one specific company, aka captive agents, are incentivized to get you to sign up with that insurer. But an independent insurance agent partners with multiple companies and can help you compare different car insurance quotes, including rates and policy details, to pick the best plan for your situation.

3. Proactively Ask Your Insurer For Discounts

Insurers offer a variety of auto insurance discounts — but you might miss out on them if you don’t ask directly. Oftentimes, you’ll be able to save on car insurance if you remain accident-free for a minimum number of years or if your car has certain safety features. You can even get discount car insurance for being a good student or working in specific professions. When you’re comparing policies, also consider the different types of discounts offered by each insurance company.

4. Take a Defensive Driving Course

Farmers, Geico, Nationwide, State Farm, and Travelers all offer an auto insurance discount if you successfully complete a defensive driving course. These classes walk you through different driving scenarios and teach you how to make the safest decisions on the road. The size of the discount can vary — for example, State Farm offers up to 15% off insurance coverages. Keep in mind that you may also have to meet an age requirement to receive this discount, depending on the insurer and where you live.

5. Maintain a Clean Driving Record

If you have a spotty driving record, then insurers are likely to view you as higher risk and charge more. According to Joseph Sanzo, a property and casualty insurance specialist at Barnum Financial Group in Shelton, Connecticut, any accidents or tickets from the last three to five years can greatly impact quotes from auto insurance companies and agents.

6. Be Honest With Insurers About Your Driving History

Accidents happen and everyone makes mistakes, so there’s no need to hide the truth when you’re providing information to auto insurance companies. In any case, they can access your driving record — aka motor vehicle report — which will reveal any accidents you’ve had or tickets you’ve gotten. There’s no point in airbrushing your driving history if your insurer will find out eventually that you don’t qualify for discount car insurance rates.

7. Etch Your VIN On the Windshield and Windows

If you have your vehicle identification number engraved on your windshield and windows, it could deter thieves from stealing your car because they must replace the glass in order to sell it. Protecting your car with VIN etching can also help you save money, as some insurers will offer a discount off your comprehensive coverage or waive your deductibles. VIN etching is a fairly simple process that you can have done at a car dealership for a few hundred dollars, or you can do it yourself with kits that cost around $25.

8. Team Up With Someone in the Same Household

If there’s more than one vehicle in your household, you can end up saving money by sharing an auto insurance policy. Many companies provide discounts for insuring multiple vehicles at the same address — for instance, Geico offers up to 25% off — which often means the cars can belong to your spouse, another family member, or your roommate.

Also, if you have a partner with a cleaner driving history, it could be beneficial to list them as the primary policyholder. Having a better insurance score can help you get a lower rate and save money over time.

“Most companies use the insurance score of the first insured as the basis for the quotes, and your significant other could have a better score than you,” Sanzo says.

9. Bundle Different Types of Insurance

Many insurance companies offer discounts if you purchase more than one type of insurance with them. So, if you need homeowners insurance, renters insurance, or life insurance, it can be cost-effective to purchase those policies from the same insurer. For example, bundling policies can save you up to up to 13% with Travelers and up to 17% with State Farm. You’ll also be able to keep track of your insurance bills in one place instead of dealing with different companies.

10. Consider the Age of Your Car Before Buying Coverage

Most states require you to purchase liability insurance to cover the other party’s bodily injuries or property damage when you’re at fault for an accident; however, collision and comprehensive coverage remain optional. Collision coverage helps pay for your vehicle repairs after an accident, while comprehensive coverage helps you fix or replace the car after other incidents, like theft, vandalism, or damage from animals. If your car is older and its value has significantly decreased, it may not be worth paying for comprehensive and collision coverage.

11. Weigh the Risks as You Select Coverage Limits

When you buy liability insurance, you’ll need to set the maximum amount that your insurer will pay for bodily injury and damage to the other party’s car — aka coverage limits. Additional coverage can mean you’ll pay more for insurance, while lower limits will likely help reduce your premium.

It may be tempting to choose the minimum amount of coverage required in your state to keep insurance costs as low as possible, but imagine paying outrageous amounts out of pocket for someone else’s medical or repair bills after an accident because the costs exceed your policy’s coverage limits. Even if you have a great driving record, you can’t predict the future, so selecting higher coverage limits could help save you from a potential financial headache.

12. Understand the Pros and Cons of a Higher Deductible

You can try to lower your auto insurance rate by choosing a higher deductible, which is the amount you pay out of pocket when you file a claim. A higher deductible means you’ll cover more of the costs following an accident, so in exchange, your insurer charges you a lower premium. However, similar to choosing coverage limits, you’re betting against the odds of getting into a situation where you’ll need to fork over significant amounts out of pocket.

With a lower deductible, you’ll pay a higher premium but face cheaper out-of-pocket costs if you get into an accident. Because anything can happen, it might be wise to go with a deductible that’s somewhere in the middle. According to Progressive, the most common deductible is $500. Of course, be sure to consider the age of your car, how much you drive, and other factors before choosing your own deductible.

13. Remember There’s No Such Thing as ‘Full Coverage’

If you’re looking for an auto insurance policy that will cover you under any circumstance no matter what, you won’t find one — at least not without overpaying. There’s the minimum amount of liability insurance required by your state, but beyond that, you must choose a combination of coverages that best protects you and your wallet. Auto insurance isn’t one-size-fits-all, but that means you can customize your policy based on your personal situation.

14. Avoid Paying For Unnecessary Extras

As you review the details of your policy, make sure you aren’t opted into additional types of coverage that you didn’t ask for. Auto insurance companies offer extras like rental reimbursement coverage, which helps pay for a rental car or alternative modes of transportation if your vehicle needs to be repaired for a covered claim. There’s also medical payments coverage, which helps pay for your medical expenses after a car accident. If your credit card perks or health insurance already provide similar benefits, you can remove these extras from your policy to get a lower car insurance rate.

15. Don’t Overlook Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage

According to the most recent data from the Insurance Information Institute, an estimated 13% of drivers in the U.S. are uninsured. While some coverages might not be necessary for your personal situation, uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage helps protect you financially after an accident if the at-fault driver doesn’t have sufficient liability insurance or if you’re the victim of a hit-and-run.

Depending on where you live, uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is optional. However, having it can save you from paying excessive amounts out of pocket for accidents that aren’t your fault.

The Bottom Line on Tips for Getting Car Insurance

Take it from the experts: The key to getting a good auto insurance policy is paying attention to the details. Don’t miss out on discounts that can help you save money on car insurance, consider the appropriate amount of coverage for your vehicle, and take the time you need to compare car insurance policies so that you can find the right fit. Finally, if you’re trying to lower the cost of your insurance premiums, make sure to weigh the financial risk of paying out of pocket if you don’t buy enough coverage.