Getting car insurance is a no-brainer. You’ve got to have it. (Unless you live in Virginia or New Hampshire, that is.) But figuring out how to get car insurance? Yeah, that takes a little more brain power. Between deciding on where you’ll get your car insurance, what type of coverage you need, and then comparing quotes—well, let’s just say it’s not so much hard as it is a headache. Fortunately, we’re going to break down every step for you so you know exactly how to get car insurance. No aspirin required!
How to Get Car Insurance
You’re just five simple steps away from getting car insurance. Here’s what that looks like:
- Gather all your personal and auto-related information.
- Determine what kind of coverage you need.
- Choose how to get car insurance.
- Compare prices.
- Pay for your new policy and cancel your old one.
Before you do anything else, round up the information every car insurance company is going to need before they can quote you a rate. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Name and birthdate
- Driver’s license number and issuing state
- Driver’s license information for any other drivers in your household
- Vehicle Information Number (VIN)
- Name of registered owner
- Address where the vehicle is registered
- Current mileage and estimated annual mileage
- Date of purchase
- Previous and/or current insurance provider and policy expiration date
- What you use the vehicle for
Once you have all this information handy, next up is determining what kind of coverage you need.
2. Determine what kind of coverage you need.
Determining what kind of coverage you need is usually the trickiest part of the process. Most states have a minimum amount of coverage that’s required for all drivers—this keeps you and other drivers protected—and then from there it’s up to you based on what you can afford. Let’s look at the different parts of an auto insurance policy so you can get an idea of what’s available.
Liability coverage is about as standard as it gets, and most every state requires it. This type of coverage protects you if you cause an accident, damage property, or injure someone with your vehicle. Your insurance kicks in to cover the costs.
Comprehensive auto insurance is another standard form of coverage. In fact, if you lease or finance your car, your lender may even require you to have it. Comprehensive coverage is basically for anything that might happen to your car when you’re not driving it: extreme weather, flood, fire, falling objects, vandalism and theft.
If your vehicle is damaged in an accident, regardless of who is at fault, collision coverage covers the cost of repairs.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Unfortunately, just because the law requires car insurance doesn’t mean everyone on the road has it. Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage protects you if you’re in an accident with someone who doesn’t have insurance or doesn’t have enough insurance to cover damages.
The best kind of car is the paid-for kind of car. But maybe you’re stuck in a lease or a loan while you work to pay down debt. If that’s the case, you can be up a creek if your car is totaled and you’re stuck making payments on a car you don’t even have anymore. Gap insurance is designed to cover the gap between the car’s actual cash value (ACV), including depreciation, and what you still owe.
Personal Injury Protection
More than just vehicles can be affected in an accident. There’s you and there are your passengers to consider too. Personal injury protection ensures that you and your passengers will have things like medical and rehabilitation expenses covered, along with expenses like lost wages. Keep in mind, in some states, this one's mandatory.
Don't let car insurance costs get you down! Download our checklist for easy ways to save.
So once you’ve figured out what kind of coverage you need, it’s time to price compare car insurance quotes. Make sure to use the same limits and deductibles (how much you owe first before insurance kicks in) for each type of coverage you’re considering. But how do you know what to get? And can you get great coverage without breaking the bank? That’s where step three comes in: choosing how to get car insurance.
3. Choose how to get car insurance.
Now that you know what you need to get a quote and what the possibilities are for coverage, you need to decide how to go about getting your car insured. You’ve got three options. You can get insurance:
1. Directly from an insurer
This avenue gets you from uninsured to insured quickly but is usually best for folks who feel comfortable with the car insurance buying process. Because you’re going directly through the insurer or through a third-party site that serves up multiple quotes from different companies, you’re basically giving up personalized customer service. And when it comes to car insurance, that’s a pretty big deal.
Think about it: If you’ve just been in a serious car accident, do you want to call Doug, your neighborhood car insurance agent, or text with a chatbot to discuss what you need to do next? Without an agent, you’re potentially putting your money and vehicle in the hands of someone who isn’t deeply invested in helping you. You’ll also want to consider that when you request quotes directly from insurers, they’re going to immediately start calling, emailing and texting you. Multiply that by 10 insurers and you might end up wanting to throw your phone out of a window!
2. From a captive agent
The name is a little scary, but we promise you won’t be held ransom while buying car insurance! Remember Doug from above? Doug is a captive agent. That means he works for an insurance company and sells policies to customers like you. He remains your point of contact whenever you need to file a claim or change your policy. If you have multiple or complicated policies, you have someone dedicated to help you navigate them. And most of all, a captive agent is going to walk you through all the coverage options above and help you understand what’s best for your vehicle and budget.
The downside of a captive agent? They work for one company, so as far as quotes go, what you see is what you get. They’re not going to show you their competitors’ rates. Plus, most agents work on commission, so someone might try to sell you something you don’t need.
3. From an independent agent or broker
Finally, you’ve got independent agents or brokers. These folks are the ones responsible for doing all the work you’d be doing on your own if you bought directly from an insurer. They’re the go-between that saves you the hassle of shopping around. Plus, they can help you understand how much coverage you need with the budget you have. Independent agents contract with multiple companies to get you the best rates. Independent agents represent the different insurance companies they work with while independent brokers represent you.
A couple of drawbacks to independent agents and brokers is that they don’t represent the full range of possible coverage. You’ll still get access to multiple quotes but may not get quotes from some of the bigger names in insurance with captive agents on staff. Both agents and brokers work on commission, so they’re motivated to sell you something. Just make sure it’s something you actually need.
4. Compare prices.
You’re in the homestretch now! Now it’s time to gather all your quotes. Don’t forget to compare apples to apples—that means the same limits and deductibles for each quote.
Cheaper is not always better, and customer service and satisfaction can’t be overlooked. Remember, we get insurance to cover us if trouble comes up. So, who do you want on your team when there’s trouble?
5. Pay for your policy and cancel your old one.
All that’s left to do is pay for your new policy and cancel your old one. The insurance company you go with will let you know their payment options. This next part is important. Don’t cancel your old or existing policy until the new one is active. Accidents do happen, and you don’t want to be without coverage for even one second.
How to Get Cheaper Car Insurance
Here is the simplest, easiest thing you can do to get cheaper car insurance. You ready? Here it is: Ask for a discount. That’s right, call up your insurance agent or company and say, “What discounts am I eligible for?” Clean driving record? Discount. Bundle a homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy? Discount. Multiple car insurance policies? Discount. An insurance company’s job is to keep your policy with them. They’ll want to help you look for reasons to stay.
Want even cheaper car insurance? Think about the last time you shopped for car insurance rates. If it’s been a year or more, it’s time to take a spin through the steps we just outlined above. Shopping for quotes is a very effective way to get cheaper car insurance. Maybe you’ve got a new car, a paid-off car, an old beat-up car that would be totaled if you bumped into a mailbox—any changes to your car situation mean it’s a good time to shop around. Or, at the very least, it’s a good time to check in with your current provider to see about making some coverage edits.
The goal isn’t to get the cheapest insurance possible. The goal is to get the best coverage for your budget. But there are some ways to save.
How Long Does It Take to Get Car Insurance?
If this all sounds like a ton of work that’s going to take a lifetime to complete, don’t stress. You need one good solid hour (even less if you buy directly from an insurer). With a little prep—getting all your preliminary info ready, having a rough idea of what coverage you need, and determining how you want to go about getting car insurance—you’ll be on your way as soon as you hop online or get on the phone with an agent, broker or insurance company. They do this work all day every day, and most of them really love what they do and want to get you the best rates possible.
How Long Do You Have to Get Insurance After Buying a Used Car?
Each state will have different rules around how long you have to get insurance after buying a car. If you’re buying a used car from a dealership, you’ll have to show proof of insurance before you can drive that puppy off the lot. The dealership would be in major hot water if they let you drive away uninsured in one of their vehicles.
But if you’re doing a private sale, the owner of the vehicle is under no obligation to ensure you have car insurance. In that case, you want to get your policy set up ASAP. If you already have car insurance, that policy will usually cover your new used car for a couple of days or weeks. But don’t wait around to get this taken care of.
If you don’t already have a car insurance policy in place, you’ll want to work through the steps we outlined as soon as you know what you want to buy. Then get a policy set up before a private seller hands over the title to your new used car. Whatever you do, don’t drive around uninsured! It’s not worth the risk.
The Right Car Insurance Policy for You
Getting good car insurance can be enough of a hassle as it is. You don’t also need to worry about whether you can rely on your agent or insurance company too. Whether you need car insurance for the first time or just want to shop around for new rates, you want to work with someone you can trust. Connect with one of Ramsey’s Endorsed Local Providers (ELPs). They would love to help you find the best policy for your needs. We don’t do hassles and headaches, and neither do they. Get the right plan for your vehicle and budget so you can drive stress-free!