A quick guide to comparing car insurance

  1. Compare car insurance companies. Get at least three quotes, and consider financial ratings and complaint ratios in addition to the rates.
  2. Use up-to-date-information to account for life changes. Events in your life such as moving or marriage will greatly affect what you pay. Make sure you update any changes with your current insurance company and use the correct information when shopping.
  3. Compare coverages and limits. Make sure the types of coverage and their limits fit your needs and do what insurance has to do: Shield you from financial upheaval. Then compare quotes apples to apples.
  4. Experiment with deductibles. If you have savings to cover them, raising deductibles is an easy way to affect your rates. You should be able to easily get quotes at each deductible level.
  5. Consider potential for big discounts. Some big savings potential from bundling home and auto policies or enrolling in pay-per-mile plans may not be apparent at first.
  6. Compare payment plans. Look for discounts when you can pay in full. Expect fees if you make payments. Consider what types of payment an insurer will accept.
  7. Read the fine print. Look for extras or limitations on your policy you need to be aware of.

Compare car insurance companies

The best car insurance companies in the U.S. are a great place to start your search, but it's always worth comparing some smaller, more local options as well.

We have great tips on how to compare car insurance companies, so check it out. 

In your state there are probably several hundred carriers to choose from. Rates from different companies vary significantly, sometimes by thousands of dollars, regardless of your driving record. However, if you do have tickets and accidents, shopping around is even more important as some companies charge much more than others.

We suggest you compare at least three companies, along with looking at a renewal from your current insurer. You can find customer ratings, details on discounts and contact information for most top car insurance companies on our site.

Compare using up-to-date information

If there have been changes in your life since the last time you shopped around, make sure they are reflected in your new quotes.

For example, getting car insurance after marriage or buying a house usually mean cheaper rates, because married people and homeowners tend to file fewer claims. You may have added a teen driver to the household. Or you may have moved to a new ZIP code, which can change what you pay radically.

Comparing car insurance quotes usually requires only some basic information: Your name, address, make and model of car, previous insurance history and a timeline of past claims and violations.

When you find a quote on a policy you like, you’ll need more specific information to actually buy it.

We recommend you have handy your car’s vehicle identification number (VIN), your driver’s license number and those of any other drivers on the policy.

Compare coverage and limits apples-to-apples

Make sure each car insurance quote you compare is for the same type and amount of coverage.

A good way to start is with your current policy’s declarations page, which lists the types of coverage you have, your deductibles and limits and your premiums you pay for each.

  • Ask yourself if the liability insurance limits you chose would still protect your home, savings and other assets if you were at fault in an accident. If you own very little, you don’t need high limits. If you’ve gotten married, bought a house or built a nest egg, you need more.
  • Ask yourself if you still need comprehensive and collision, known as full coverage to repair or replace the car. At a certain point the premiums you pay would be better put toward saving for a replacement.
  • Ask yourself how you would pay for treatment if you were injured in an accident that is your fault. If you do not have health insurance, consider adding some kind of medical coverage. If you have health insurance, consider whether you have the savings to pay for deductibles and co-pays, and whether the passengers you routinely carry have health insurance as well.
  • Ask yourself what would happen if an uninsured motorist totaled your car or put you in the hospital. Uninsured motorist bodily injury and uninsured motorist property damage are two very different coverages, and not all states require them. We recommend getting uninsured motorist coverage so you're protected.

Insurance.com auto insurance coverage calculator>

Compare your deductible options

Car insurance deductibles on your collision and comprehensive coverages are one of the best means you have of influencing the rates you see.

Most car insurance claims are small. When you choose a higher deductible, you are assuming more of the risk of paying those claims.

We recommend you choose an amount that you can pay from savings or are confident you can scrape together. Your car won’t be repaired until you pay your share.

Compare for big discounts

Car insurance discounts are a way to save big on car insurance, upwards of 25%. Make sure you know what's available.

A company that sells both auto insurance and home insurance wants you to buy both. If your family has more than one car, it wants to insure them all. Since the company wants to sell you multiple policy types and multi-car policies, they'll give you a discount.

Auto and home insurance bundle and multi-car insurance discounts can give you a substantial discount on your rate.

A slightly more expensive premium from an insurance company that can bundle your auto and home coverage might be cheaper once the discount on both policies is applied.

If you have a teen in the household, the company with the more generous good student discount might be less expensive after the discount is applied.

Almost all companies that offer “pay-as-you-drive” plans such as Progressive's Snapshot will offer you a 5% discount just for enrolling after you buy a policy. Later, after you have installed a monitoring device, the discounts can range from nothing to as much as 50%. These plans can pay off if you are a very cautious and extremely low-mileage driver.

Compare payment plans

Almost all carriers offer the option of payment plans. Typically you will need a car insurance down payment to start your coverage. After that, you can pay monthly. There may be a fee associated with this form of payment.

Not all carriers accept all forms of payment. Consider whether you will pay by:

  • Check or money order
  • Bank bill pay
  • Electronic funds transfer (EFT) – automatic online payment
  • Credit card
  • Debit card

Conversely, you can expect a discount for payment in full, usually 5 to 10%.

Compare the fine print

Make sure you know what's covered and what's not in your policy. Look for anything that stands out; some companies add extra coverage for free, like coverage for pet injuries or roadside assistance. Make sure you note anything that differs in the standard policies so you know exactly what you're getting for your money.

You should also look for limitations and exclusions, like who can drive your car and if you're covered when driving a rental car.

There's really no limit to how often you can shop around for car insurance, but once a year is a good standard to ensure you're getting the best price.