How to Shop For Auto Insurance

Shop for more than the minimum coverage required by law—and do it often—to find the best rates on car insurance
Written by Jessica Barrett
Edited by Georgina Grant
If you want to maximize your protection while minimizing your
car insurance
costs, you’ll need to do more than go online for a quick quote. Follow Jerry’s guide to car insurance shopping like an expert. 
  • Working with a trusted independent broker like
    is the best way to shop for insurance quotes without overpaying for coverage. 
  • Most drivers with cars less than 10 years old need more than the minimum coverage required by state laws.
  • Customer reviews and industry expert ratings can help you choose between cheap car insurance companies.  
  • Smart shopping could lower your insurance premiums by 30%. 
  • Shopping for auto insurance every six months can help you find and keep the best rate for your vehicle and profile. 

The smart way to shop for car insurance

Don’t just take the first quote that comes your way. Follow these five simple steps to lower your auto insurance premiums while ensuring that you’ve got the best coverage. 

Step 1: Pick a shopping method 

There are basically four ways to shop for car insurance: 
  • Request quotes directly from insurance companies: You can call or go to an insurance company’s website for custom quotes. You’ll get accurate estimates and the chance to adjust your coverage levels—but this method is time consuming and it’s easy to overpay. 
  • Talk to a local agent: A trusted insurance agent can help you find the best deals on car insurance. But all agents work on commission. Captive agents—i.e. agents that work for a specific company—are likely to upsell, and even independent agents might guide you toward pricier coverage in order to maximize their earnings. 
  • Use an online quote comparison service: Most car insurance comparison websites will either redirect you to an insurance carrier’s site, where you’ll have to call an agent or fill out extra paperwork for a single quote, or sell your information to marketers who will bombard you with calls and offers. 
  • Turn to a trusted independent broker like Jerry: Unlike agents, insurance brokers are transparent sources for insurance policy shopping. Jerry, the AllCar™ app, helps drivers compare customized real-time auto insurance quotes from over 55 of the best car insurance companies in under a minute. And with Jerry’s DataLock Guarantee™, all your personal information is protected by bank-level security measures—which means no spam calls! 

Step 2: Figure out your coverage needs 

Your auto insurance policy must meet at least the minimum requirements defined by your state’s auto insurance laws. But the bare minimum isn’t enough protection for most drivers.
Here’s what your insurance policy should include: 
  • Liability coverage: Every state except New Hampshire requires drivers to carry
    liability insurance
    , including bodily injury and property damage liability coverage. This coverage pays for other drivers’ expenses if you’re fully or partially at fault in an accident. Buy at least $10,000/$50,000/$10,000 of liability coverage—though 100/300/100 is better.
  • Collision coverage:
    Collision insurance
    covers physical damage to your vehicle caused by any kind of collision, whether it’s a fender-bender, a multi-car pileup, or a guardrail crash. If your vehicle is financed and/or worth at least $4,000, you need to buy collision insurance. 
  • Comprehensive coverage: Usually paired with collision insurance,
    comprehensive coverage
    deals with physical losses caused by something other than an accident—things like vandalism, theft, or severe weather. Like collision insurance, lenders require it for financed or leased vehicles and it’s worth investing in if your car is worth $4,000 or more. 
  • Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage: Required by law in some states,
    uninsured motorist coverage
    simplifies the process of getting insurance coverage for medical bills after a car accident—especially if the other driver is uninsured. A 2021 study by the
    Insurance Information Institute
    showed that 12.6% of U.S. drivers are uninsured. 
  • Personal injury protection (PIP): If you live in a no-fault state, you must purchase
    personal injury protection
    to cover medical expenses, rehabilitation costs, lost wages, and even funeral expenses for you and your passengers. 
  • Medical payments (MedPay): Like PIP,
    covers health-related expenses stemming from a car accident, with slightly less comprehensive benefits. MedPay is only required in Maine. 
  • Roadside assistance: You can pay for a separate membership with a roadside assistance service like AAA, or you can get
    roadside assistance
    directly through your insurance company for a low rate. Typically, you must carry collision and comprehensive coverage to add roadside assistance to your policy. 
Choose the coverage limits that best suit your household’s needs, your vehicle’s value, and your state’s laws. 
If you have a teenage driver in your family
Choose a high liability limit (100/300/100 or more). Young drivers have the highest rate of violations and accidents, so it’s best to cover yourself against expensive accidents.
If you have an older used car
Dropping full coverage and sticking to state minimum coverage is worth it if your vehicle’s actual cash value is less than about $4,000.
If you have an SR-22 filing requirement
Make sure your policy meets the minimum requirements for SR-22 insurance in your state. If one or more auto insurance companies deny your application, you may need to look into non-standard insurance companies.

Step 3: Gather all the necessary documents

You’ll need the following information handy before you can get car insurance quotes or buy a policy: 
  • Identifying information: In addition to the main policyholder’s name and birthdate, you’ll need to provide the full name, birthdate, driver’s license number, Social Security number, and driving history of any driver listed on the policy. 
  • Vehicle information: Be ready to list the make, model, year, trim, and vehicle identification number (VIN) for each vehicle on your policy. 
  • Prior policy information: If you’re currently insured, have all your policy information on hand, along with any information about claims you filed in the past five years. 
  • Driving information: Insurance companies will ask about your annual mileage, vehicle usage (pleasure vs. commute), and driving record, including any violations from the previous five years. 
  • Special information: If you need to file an SR-22, have your case number handy when requesting quotes. 
Why it matters: The more information you give your insurance company or broker, the more accurate your quotes will be. 

Step 4: Compare insurance providers—and don’t just look at costs 

Use a trusted comparison tool or broker to compare free quotes from at least three different companies, using the coverage options you decided on. 
You’ll quickly see which insurance company has the cheapest car insurance rates for your profile—but don’t just buy the cheapest policy you find. You should also take into account: 
  • Customer satisfaction: Look up the insurer’s National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) number to find their NAIC complaint index—i.e., how many customer complaints they receive relative to the industry average. Numbers higher than 1 are worse; anything under 1 is a great sign. 
  • Insurance discounts:
    Farmers Insurance
    has more available discounts than any other insurance company, followed by American Family, GEICO, and Travelers. 
  • Coverage options: You’ll be able to get all your coverage basics (liability, collision, and comprehensive) from any decent insurance company—but some companies have unique coverage for high-risk drivers, classic cars, or brand-new cars. 
  • Usage-based car insurance programs:
    have two of the leading usage-based insurance programs, with options for safe driving discounts or mileage-based discounts for drivers who agree to let their insurer track their driving. 
  • Company reputation: Check out Better Business Bureau (BBB) ratings and reviews for your chosen insurer before purchasing coverage. 
  • Bundling opportunities: If you need a
    renters insurance
    policy in addition to car insurance coverage, take any possible multi-policy insurance discounts into account. 
Expert Tip Never pay for car insurance quotes—ever. Anyone asking you to pay for quotes is a scammer. 

Step 5: Buy a policy

Once you’ve reviewed all the factors above, you’re ready to buy your new car insurance policy. Be sure to: 
  • Check your agreement before signing: As with any legal contract, read your insurance agreement before you finalize the policy. Make sure you’re happy with your coverage and final rate—which will sometimes be higher or lower than your initial quote. 
  • Schedule your new policy to activate before your old coverage ends: An
    insurance lapse
    of even one day can cause your auto insurance rates to increase. 
  • Keep your insurance ID card with you: When you purchase a policy, you’ll receive an insurance ID card, which acts as
    proof of insurance
    for traffic stops, DMV transactions, and more. Keep it in your vehicle—or, if you live outside of New Mexico, know how to locate a digital version on your phone. 
  • Be ready to shop again: Car insurance isn’t one-and-done. Comparing quotes every six months or after major changes (e.g. moving to a new ZIP code or purchasing a new vehicle) can help you find lower rates. 
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