You don’t have to wait for renewal time to shop for better car insurance coverage or to get a better price on it.
At worst, you’ll have an extra phone call or letter to write.
At best, you can begin saving money months earlier than if you had waited for the renewal notice to arrive.
Car insurance rates are the result of an equation that has dozens of variables, including driving history, past claims, age, location, homeownership, coverage amounts, even your credit. Change one of those variables and the price you pay for the same coverage changes.
Even if nothing changes, you may find that one insurance company simply offers a better price for drivers like you.
You'll find your current coverages, limits and deductibles on your current policy’s declarations page. Use these as a guide to make sure you compare insurance quotes on an equal footing with your current policy. (If you’re considering changes, take a look at Insurance.com's auto insurance coverage calculator to see what similar folks are shopping for.)
When you should shop
Big changes in your life are perhaps the best reason to begin comparing car insurance rates now. Marriage or moving to a different ZIP code can cut your rates dramatically.
Adding or removing a driver or changing cars is another instance in which you’ll find a big difference in prices between insurance companies.
Tickets, accidents and DUIs can drop off your driving record in the middle of a coverage cycle, but your rates won’t change until the next renewal.
And there’s nothing wrong with shopping just because you’re curious. The worst that can happen when you compare car insurance quotes is that you find you’ve got the best price you can find already.
What you’ll need to do to switch mid-policy
Don’t do anything with your old insurance policy until you have a new one in force. Even a one-day gap between policies can hurt you – not just because you might have an accident, but because you might be flagged as an uninsured driver. Understand how to switch insurance companies before switching so you can make smart decisions when you switch.
Once you have a new insurance policy, notify your current carrier that you are canceling the policy and the effective date of the cancellation. Tell the company you have switched insurance companies. They may ask for proof, such as a policy number. If you don’t provide it, they may be required to report the cancellation to your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles, which would consider you uninsured.
Look for a confirmation of the cancellation soon afterward, with the effective date. If you don’t get one, check with the company. If you don’t see proof of cancellation, you may get billed at renewal time.
You should get a prorated refund of any premiums for coverage past the cancellation date.
Is there a downside?
There can be.
For example, a driver with a long history with one insurance company may lose accrued loyalty discounts or credits toward a vanishing deductible or accident forgiveness.
If you have home and auto policies with your current insurance company and move only your car, you may lose a substantial bundling (or multi-policy) discount.
Most major car insurance companies don’t charge a fee for cancellation; some do, and the amount can vary by state. Some charge 10 percent of the remaining premium; others a flat rate of $50.
On the other hand, some auto insurance companies offer a discount just for switching – and many also offer an "early bird" discount for purchasing your policy at least seven to 14 days before your current car insurance policy expires.