How to get car insurance for the first time

Man standing by his car holding coffee and looking at his phoneImage: Man standing by his car holding coffee and looking at his phone

In a Nutshell

When you buy your first car, you’ll likely need to insure it based on the laws of your state or the requirements of your auto loan. Start by getting quotes from several companies. Then compare those quotes to find the best deal for your situation.
Editorial Note: Intuit Credit Karma receives compensation from third-party advertisers, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions. Our third-party advertisers don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. Information about financial products not offered on Credit Karma is collected independently. Our content is accurate to the best of our knowledge when posted.

Getting your first car is a rite of passage, but it’s one that likely requires you to also get car insurance.

Most states require insurance when owning a car, so getting a policy isn’t something you can put off.  But it’s a relatively straightforward process, once you understand how it works.

Here’s what you need to know about getting your first auto insurance policy.

Types of car insurance

When purchasing car insurance, insurers sometimes give you the option to buy every type of auto insurance they offer, often referred to as “full coverage” — even though there’s no such thing as a standard full coverage auto policy. 

Some of the coverage offered by insurance companies may be required by local laws, while others are optional. Here are the significant types of auto insurance most insurers offer:

  • Liability insurance — Liability coverage can pay others to cover the cost of damages you cause to others. This is often broken down into bodily injury and property liability.
  • Collision insurance — Collision pays to repair your vehicle if you get in an accident with another car or object.
  • Comprehensive insurance — Comprehensive policies pays to repair your car due to causes outside of your control, such as hitting an animal, a hailstorm, fire or theft.
  • Personal injury protection insurance — In some states, this coverage pays for your injury costs no matter who is at fault in an accident. This is usually found in no-fault insurance states.
  • Uninsured motorist coverage insurance — If another driver is at fault in an accident but does not carry enough insurance to pay your costs, uninsured motorist coverage will cover your costs.

While these are the major types of coverage, you may see others. Insurers often offer roadside assistance, rental coverage, gap insurance and other additional coverages.

Information you’ll need to get an auto insurance quote

To help make getting an insurance quote as painless as possible, it helps to come prepared. Auto insurers may look at many factors that can affect car insurance rates. These may include:

  • Location
  • Car type
  • Credit
  • Marital status
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Occupation
  • Education
  • Driving habits and history
  • Coverage types, amounts, and deductibles
  • Discounts you qualify for

Insurance companies need information to give you an accurate quote. When getting car insurance quotes, be prepared with the following details to speed up the process.

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Social Security Number
  • Driver’s license number
  • Contact information
  • Occupation
  • Marital status
  • Education history, including grades if still in school
  • Driving history, including any information about recent accidents or driving violations
  • Auto insurance history
  • Make, model, year and vehicle identification number (VIN) of the car you’re insuring
  • Date of purchase and registered owner of the vehicle
  • Driver education courses completed
  • A rough idea of the coverage limits and deductibles you want

How to get the best auto insurance quotes

Once you’ve gathered the necessary information, you’ll likely want to know how to get the best car insurance quotes. Each company may calculate premiums differently. Some specialize in insuring certain types of cars, too.

You may be able to get quotes directly from insurers through an agent in-person, over the phone or online. Or you can work with third parties, such as comparison sites or brokers, which may give you several quotes at once. 

Some insurance companies give discounts if you get quotes directly from the company’s website instead of with a local agent or by calling a phone center. This makes sense because a website quote doesn’t involve human work that companies need to pay for. 

Here are some tips to help you find the best quote for your situation.

Don’t settle for just one quote

Plenty of car insurance companies exist, so getting a handful of quotes shouldn’t be an issue. When you get multiple quotes, you’ll get an idea of different insurance options and the range of costs that might be available to you.

Don’t automatically assume you should stick with your parents’ auto insurer. You likely have a very different risk profile than your parents, which may mean another insurer could offer better rates. If you want help speeding up this process, using an auto insurance comparison tool could help.

Find out how much coverage is right for you

Making sure the insurance you purchase meets the minimum requirements for your state is a must. And people with a car loan may be required to purchase full coverage.

Car insurers should verify what’s required for your situation, but double-checking on your own is a good idea, too.

Most states require liability insurance to cover damage to others’ bodies or property. In some states, personal injury protection coverage may take the place of bodily injury liability coverage. These minimum requirements may allow you to legally drive in your state.

Still, a severe accident could leave you liable for much more than what a minimum policy would cover.

If you want your insurance company to pay to repair your car if you get in an accident, for example, collision coverage is essential. Similarly, you want comprehensive coverage if you want your insurer to reimburse you if your vehicle is stolen.  

Take advantage of discounts

When shopping for insurance, always ask what discounts are available and what you may qualify for. Discounts lower the price of your policy, sometimes significantly, and may include:

  • Safe driver discount
  • Student discount
  • New car discount
  • Bundling discount for combining several policies with one insurer
  • Driver education discount
  • Affiliated organization discounts

Maintain good credit

Insurers may use information from your credit history to develop a credit-based insurance score. 

In general, insurers interpret positive credit activity as a sign of lower risk. Your insurer may offer lower rates to people who have better credit-based insurance scores — If you’re in a state that allows this practice.

Buying auto insurance for the first time

Let’s recap some tips that can help make the first-time auto insurance purchasing process go smoothly.

  • Compare quotes: Look at quotes from different companies that offer the same types of coverage, comparing coverage amounts, deductibles and other details.
  • Get a legal policy: Verify that the insurance meets your state’s minimum insurance requirements.
  • Fits your situation: For example, you might want an insurer that discounts student drivers with good grades.
  • Identify wants and needs: To help you stick to your budget, define what insurance you must have and what you’d like on top of that before shopping.
  • Look at the entire policy: An insurer may excel in one area and not another. Make sure you’re not sacrificing anything important. 

Next steps

If you’re moving forward with getting car insurance for the first time, you can start by getting quotes from multiple insurers, a broker or a comparison website based on the car you plan to purchase. 
Comparing policies will help you choose the policy that makes the most sense for your situation. Check out these cheap car insurance tips if you need help finding an affordable option.

About the author: Lance Cothern is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance. His work has appeared on Business Insider, USA and his website, Lance holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in … Read more.