Comparing car insurance companies is easy, once you know what to look for.
The cutest mascot shouldn't be the deciding factor.
Car insurance companies evaluate and appeal to drivers differently. Some companies specialize in families, some in older drivers and some with tarnished driving records. So comparing car insurance companies is just as important as comparing car insurance quotes.
Of course searching for cheap car insurance can be time-consuming, but the prospect of saving money can be a great motivation to take a few steps to compare auto insurance companies in addition to rates.
Our quote comparison tool let's you see side-by-side car insurance rates by completing one form, simplifying the hassle of filling out multiple forms from various carriers.
Here are five ways to compare car insurance companies and find your best match.
1. Research the car insurance company’s consumer track record.
To narrow down your search among car insurance companies, Hunter recommends starting with your state insurance commission's website (State car insurance information).
"Most states have a buyer's guide for auto insurance that lists the companies that sell insurance in your state," says J. Robert Hunter, director of insurance for the Consumer Federation of America in Washington, D.C.
For an overall rating of company performance, including complaint ratios and financial ratings (A.M. Best), Insure.com's "Best insurance companies" will give you a great summary of top companies.
Hunter says state complaint ratios are more important than financial ratings for car insurance. Every state has an insurance guaranty fund that will pay some claims if the insurance company goes bust. It's still prudent, though, to check up on the insurer's financial health.
"However, if you're only shopping every few years, then you should look at the A.M. Best ratings just to make sure the insurance company is financially solvent and can pay you if you need to make a claim," he says.
"The two most important things to look at when choosing an auto insurance company are the price and the claims service," says Hunter. "Choose the company that has both a low level of customer complaints and low prices."
2. Compare complaint ratios.
Hunter suggests choosing five to seven companies and checking their complaint records on the National Association of Insurance Commissioner's website or on your state’s insurance department website "You can quickly knock out the companies with the highest number of complaints, because you never want to work with an insurance company that doesn't offer good customer service," says Hunter.
He also recommends checking the most recent Consumer Reports survey of car insurance providers.
3. Compare the exact same coverage when comparing car insurance companies.
The best way to save on your car insurance is to buy only what you need, says Hunter. Use Insurance.com's calculator to get a recommendation of how much car insurance to buy.
"If you have good health insurance you don't need to pay extra for PIP (Personal Injury Protection), and if you have an older car, you don't always need to pay for collision insurance."
He says you should establish your desired coverage limits before shopping and then be sure to use those same limits for every car insurance quote.
4. Check for car insurance discounts.
Before you begin comparing car insurance quotes, make sure you know about your potential car insurance discounts for things like bundling home and auto insurance with the same company, good grades, a good driving record, anti-theft devices and anti-lock brakes. Ask each insurance company for any other possible discounts so that you are comparing the lowest possible rates.
You can also raise your car insurance deductible on collision and comprehensive coverage to reduce your premiums. If you do this, make sure you are using the same deductible with each company so that your rate comparison is accurate.
5. Compare optional auto insurance coverage.
Many insurance companies offer optional coverage for things like rental car coverage while your car is being repaired, towing and labor coverage or even CD/DVD replacement costs if these items are stolen from your car.
"Don't take any optional insurance coverage unless you really think you need it," says Hunter.
However, if one company offers optional coverage that you want at the same price or close to the price of another company's insurance policy without the optional extras, it may be worth choosing the policy with the options, says Hunter.
Related article: How to compare car insurance quotes - gives additional details and tips when you're shopping for car insurance.