When shopping for auto insurance, there are several factors to consider. While you may not be able to change potentially negative aspects of your situation such as age, driving history, or teenage drivers in your household, there are many other variables you can control which insurance companies look at to find a good risk for them, and in turn a less expensive premium for you.
Full coverage or liability only? As a general rule newer cars should have full coverage. If you’re still making payments the bank will require you to carry full coverage. If you don’t, you’ll have to buy their (very expensive) insurance instead. You may want to consider a more inexpensive liability only policy on an older, paid-for car that has little resale value.
That said, don’t go for the liability only policy just because a car is old. If your older car is a “classic” which you’ve put a lot of time and effort into, a full coverage policy or a policy in a specialty classic car market may be your best bet.
Too much information is better than not enough. When shopping for auto insurance make sure you have information handy such as your driver’s license numbers on all drivers in your household and exact VINs on the autos you wish to insure. Some sites will ask you for your Social Security number. This is so they can do a mini-credit check called an insurance score. A good insurance score can result in significant discounts.
Also, be honest and forthright about all tickets and claims you and your household may have had in the past five years. Rest assured if the web site or agent doesn’t check your driving record, the underwriters will. Failing to disclose this information may result in some nasty sticker shock for you later, and in some cases may deny your application altogether.
Check your limits and deductibles. The higher your liability limits, the higher your premium. Insurance companies are required to offer no less than the minimum liability limits set by your state, but be mindful of the fact a low-limit policy could result in quite a bit of money out of your pocket in a particularly expensive accident, especially if serious bodily injury is involved.
Conversely, the higher your deductibles, the lower your premium. To maximize your savings choose the highest deductibles you’re comfortable with.
Compare apples to apples. When shopping online (or even offline) for auto insurance, make sure you’re looking at similar policy terms. For example, if you were quoted a price on a web site with 50/100/50 liability limits and $500 deductibles, make sure you look at the same elsewhere.
Search aggressively for discounts. Many insurance carriers offer discounts to groups they feel are better risks. Common discounts include good student discounts, discounts based on credit, and discounts for membership in certain organizations.
Check for extras. Questions to ask include: Does this insurance include roadside assistance and towing, or are those separate charges? Is “non-owned” coverage available (i.e. coverage if someone not on your policy is driving your vehicle with permission)? Are peripheral items such as car stereos or camper shells covered? Do they have to be factory installed?
Keep shopping. Insurance companies often adjust their rates according to loss experience and competition factors. In other words, the premium Company A quoted you six months ago may be significantly different today, and the great deal you have now may not be so appealing in the future.
Don’t be afraid to cancel mid-term. While it’s usually best to switch companies at renewal, you don’t necessarily have to. If you find a particularly good deal but still have time left on your old policy, it’s usually OK to cancel the old policy and go with the new. Insurance companies will refund any “nonearned,” or unused premium to you when you cancel. The only caveat is that there may be certain restrictions in the policy language, so make sure you read the fine print before making the move.