When do I need to buy car insurance?

Car insurance is required before driving a car on public roads in most regions. Typically, car insurance needs to be purchased before registering the vehicle with the local authorities. In some areas, temporary insurance may be available for test drives or transportation to a repair shop.

It's important to note that driving without insurance can result in severe legal and financial consequences, such as fines, license suspension, and even imprisonment. Furthermore, accidents can happen at any time, so it's crucial to have adequate coverage before taking the wheel.

When is the best time to shop for car insurance?

You can shop for car insurance anytime, but there are a few times when it especially makes sense to get car insurance quotes and compare rates.

When your car insurance policy renews

Renewal time is the perfect reminder to look around for different plans. For most drivers, renewal occurs every six months, although some policies have a 12-month term.

If shopping around every six months is too much for you, you may choose one of the twice-yearly renewals as your time to compare auto insurance quotes. If your car insurance renews in, say, February and August, you can choose which of those two months is a better time for you. If you’re always on vacation in August, make February your month to compare rates.

When you move

Insurance companies determine rates based on a variety of factors, and one of those is location. When you move, your rates will change. If you’re moving from a bustling city center to a quiet suburb, your rates may go down because there’s less chance of damage to your car. Things like how you store your vehicle (think parking in a garage vs. on the street) and the crime rate will also play a role in your new rate when you move.

Moving is a busy time, but once you’re settled, take the time to compare car insurance rates. You might find that one company offers particularly good rates in your new ZIP code.

When something changes in your life

Life changes bring rate changes. Got a new car? Expect a change in insurance rates. Whether it’s a used car or brand new from a dealer, your rates will almost certainly change.

Have a teenager that just got their license? Expect a change in insurance rates. Teenagers are much more likely to have an accident, so they cost a lot more to insure.

If you got married recently, bundling your cars together on one policy can save you a lot of money (as can bundling your home insurance), so it’s a good time to shop around.

Other life changes, such as a new job that changes your commute or retirement, can also affect rates, so it pays to shop around.

When you have an accident or get a ticket

A ticket or an accident on your record will affect your rates. The good news is not every insurance company charges the same rates to a driver with a blemish on their driving record.

Since your rates will go up on renewal after the incident, you have some time to compare rates. Shop around ahead of time so that when you get the renewal notice, you can tell immediately whether you need to switch insurance companies to get a better rate.

How to shop for car insurance

It’s never been easier to shop for car insurance. Thanks to online quoting tools, you can easily compare rates in no time from the comfort of your home.

Searching online also allows you to look up smaller, local companies that may be able to better tailor service to you than the big national companies with commercials on TV.

However, before searching, ensure you have the necessary information. You’ll need:

  • Year, make and model of every car in the household
  • Driver details for every driver in the household
  • Your current insurance policy with your coverage listed
  • Information on any claims, usually for the past three years

Request quotes from at least three to five companies, and make sure all of the coverage is the same so that you compare apples to apples.

Finally, take a moment to research the reputation of the car insurance companies you’re considering to get the cheapest and best auto insurance policy for your needs.

Auto insurance FAQs

Why do auto insurance rates change?

Car insurance rates change for a variety of reasons. The most common is a change to your driving record. When you have an accident, especially if it’s your fault, your rates will increase for a certain time. The type of car you drive also plays a big role in your rates.

However, not all car insurance companies weigh things the same way, however. So, if one has seen a rate increase, another might be dropping rates. The only way to be sure is to be shopping around for car insurance.

How often do you pay for car insurance?

Car insurance is typically paid for on a regular basis, such as monthly or annually. The frequency of paying auto insurance premiums depends on the policyholder's preference and the insurance provider's payment options. Monthly payments provide more flexibility for budgeting but can result in higher overall costs due to administrative fees. Annual payments can offer discounts but require payment upfront.