Auto insurance may sometimes seem like an unwelcome expense, but its purpose is a good one — it can shield you from financial loss due to injuries or property damage related to a traffic accident, auto theft, natural disaster or some other event.
But you shouldn’t have to break the bank to get dependable coverage. There are many auto insurance companies out there — you just need to take time to look for coverage that’s right for you, compare quotes and take advantage of whatever discounts might be available.
Here are seven ways to help find cheap car insurance that meets your needs.
- Use an auto insurance comparison website to compare quotes
- Understand the factors that affect your insurance premium
- Consider your liability-coverage limits
- Think about raising your deductible
- If you have an older vehicle, consider skipping comprehensive and collision coverage
- Claim your car insurance discounts
- Consider third-party ratings
You’ll need to shop around if you’re looking for competitive insurance rates. Consider getting auto insurance quotes from not just national auto insurance companies, like Geico and Allstate, but also smaller insurers, since you never know where the best deals could be hiding.
One of the simplest ways to shop around for insurance coverage is to compare auto insurers online. If you prefer to review insurance options with someone, working with a car insurance agent is another way to go.
It’s not just your driving record that determines the insurance quotes you get. Insurers base the cost of insurance — their premiums — on the risk they’re taking by insuring you. They use claims data and personal information, among other factors, to assess this risk.
In some states, your credit can have some influence on your premium (though California, Massachusetts and Hawaii have all banned the practice of using credit-based insurance scores to help determine rates). And while it’s somewhat controversial, the use of credit-based insurance scores to influence premium cost is still a reality, with studies and surveys suggesting that those with less-than-ideal credit are more likely to make insurance claims and vice versa.
Whether you agree with the practice or not, you should be aware that in certain states drivers with better credit may get better rates than those with credit that’s not so great. For example, a 2015 Consumer Reports survey shows that single respondents with just “good” credit paid as much as a whopping $526 more a year (depending on their state) than similar drivers with the best credit scores.
In addition to credit, your insurance rates may also be impacted by the following factors:
- Your ZIP code — Certain areas have higher-than-normal rates of accidents and vehicle theft. Car insurance companies may consider this when setting rates.
- The year, make and model of your car — The more expensive your car is, the higher your insurance rates may be. Insurers can also look at whether drivers with the same make and model tend to file more claims or be in more accidents, as well as safety test results, cost of repairs and theft rate.
- The number of miles you drive each month — Putting fewer miles on your car each month can impact the rates you get.
- Your driving history — Drivers with a clean record typically qualify for lower rates — and may be eligible for a good/safe-driver discount.
- Your age and marital status — Data shows that the probability of an accident may be tied to these factors.
Each state that requires liability insurance has its own minimum coverage requirement, but you can choose more coverage — at a cost. In general, the higher your coverage limit, the higher your auto insurance rate.
But before you settle for your state’s minimum coverage requirement, consider any assets, such as your home, savings or investments. They could all be at risk if you cause an accident that results in medical or property damage costs that exceed your coverage limit. You may want to choose coverage limits that, at minimum, reflect the value of your combined assets.
The deductible is the amount you’ll pay out of your own pocket toward the cost of an auto insurance claim. You may be able to lower your monthly premium simply by raising your deductible.
Still, you’ll want to think about your overall financial situation when deciding on a deductible. If it’s too high, it could cause financial hardship down the road if you ever need to make a claim.
Collision coverage can protect you if you’re in a single-car accident or get hit by another car or object. Comprehensive coverage can protect you if your car is stolen or damaged due to noncollision events like theft, natural disaster or contact with an animal. Together, these coverage options are designed to cover repairs or reimburse you for the value of your vehicle.
Comprehensive and collision coverage are optional — unless you lease or finance your car, in which case your auto loan lender may require it.
If you have an older car with low value that’s paid off, you might be able to get less expensive coverage for comprehensive and collision, or you may be able to opt out of comprehensive and collision coverage altogether — what’s best for you depends on your specific situation.
To decide if this makes sense for you, take a look at what’s called the “book” value of your car and weigh this against both the comprehensive and collision deductible and the annual cost of this coverage noted in your insurance quote. Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds.com offer tools you can use to help estimate your car’s value.
Clean driving record? Straight-A student? Some insurers offer a range of car insurance discounts based on group membership, car features such as anti-theft devices, driving history, policy ownership and more. Here are some groups that may be eligible for a discount, depending on the insurance provider.
- Military personnel
- Full-time students with a good academic record
- Good drivers (accident-free for a certain number of years)
- Drivers who’ve taken a defensive driving or driver’s education course
- Drivers whose insured vehicles have air bags, antilock brakes, antitheft systems or daytime running lights
- Active or retired federal employees
- Drivers who have more than one vehicle insured with the same carrier
- Drivers who also have homeowners or renters insurance with their car insurance carrier
- Drivers who pay their annual premium in one payment and/or choose automatic payments
It might be tempting to simply choose the cheapest car insurance you’re offered. But before you do, research the insurance company. An affordable premium is certainly important when choosing an insurance provider, but it shouldn’t be the only consideration. An insurance carrier that provides quick and efficient service can make your life a lot simpler if you ever need to make a claim.
To get a sense of the kind of service a carrier provides, take a look at third-party ratings. One company that provides these ratings is J.D. Power. This company conducts an annual study that rates insurance carriers based on several factors related to customer service. You can also check a carrier’s rating with the Better Business Bureau.
Price is certainly important when considering car insurance, but you also need to make sure you’ve chosen a reputable carrier and that the coverage you’re getting meets your needs. Shopping around is key to finding the best car insurance for your needs.
Credit Karma provides an easy way to shop around with various carriers. Take the time to review the details and compare them before you decide which auto insurance policy is right for you.