Car insurance quotes estimate the cost for a policy with your selected coverage. Rates vary based on several factors, including your vehicle type, driving history, coverage and the insurance company.
A key step when shopping for car insurance is requesting a quote from a car insurance company. When you obtain a quote, you will typically receive a document with a premium estimate that is based on the coverage you selected. It will also make it easier for you to compare carriers accurately. But how do you request and analyze car insurance quotes to make sure you’re finding the best car insurance for your needs? Bankrate’s insurance experts have the answer.
What is a car insurance quote?
A car insurance quote is an estimate of your insurance premium with an insurance provider based on your selected coverage and driver profile. Each quote is personalized to reflect the information you submitted about yourself and your vehicle and will allow you to compare rates from more than one company. Because every auto insurance company assesses risk differently, getting quotes from multiple companies for the same coverage could result in significant price differences.
Asking for a car insurance quote isn’t an obligation to buy insurance from that company. Instead, it’s an opportunity to consider the coverage and compare quotes from other companies. Keep in mind that the quoted premium is typically not the actual final policy cost and it could still change when you purchase the policy after the insurer’s underwriting process is complete. It’s best to provide as much information as you can up front when requesting quotes to ensure a more accurate price.
How do I get free car insurance quotes?
All car insurance quotes are free whether you obtain them online or work with an insurance agent. Below is a brief guide on what each method looks like:
- Auto insurance online: Many companies now allow customers to quote a car insurance policy online through their website. After providing some personal information through the portal, you can then select the coverage types and limits that you want. Some companies may let you start the policy immediately with a payment, while others may finish the process by having one of their representatives call you over the phone.
Starting a car insurance quote online might be ideal for drivers with an intermediate knowledge of insurance and who are not in a complex situation. They may be the only driver on the policy, for example, or may be insuring one vehicle and already know what liability limits, deductibles and add-on coverages they want.
- Captive insurance agents: A captive insurance agent, sometimes also called “exclusive” or “dedicated” insurance agent, is an insurance agent that works on behalf of only one insurance company. This type of agent only sells the insurance products their company offers, but will have a strong knowledge of the company’s underwriting guidelines and claims process. They earn a commission based on performance and don’t charge additional fees for their service.
Many major car insurance companies, such as State Farm, Allstate and Farmers, operate through captive insurance agents. This means that there are local agencies nationwide that can help not just with car insurance, but also creating an entire insurance plan. If you want personalized service from a major car insurance company, working with a captive agent could be the best strategy.
- Independent insurance agent: In contrast to a captive agent, who represents a single insurance company, an independent insurance agent represents multiple carriers. An independent agent will shop for your coverage selections with different carriers they represent to provide you with comparable quotes.
If you have difficulty qualifying for car insurance, whether due to a driving infraction or previous car insurance history, or you are curious to see what other carriers might offer, an independent agent can help. They have access to more insurance carriers than a captive agent, and will be able to search on your behalf for a company that suits you. An independent agent may charge a broker’s fee for their services if you purchase a policy with them. They may also not have access to all carriers that you are interested in.
How to shop for car insurance quotes
Whether you are starting a quote online or working with an agent, the process is generally the same. You’ll share some information about yourself and pick the coverage levels and options that you want, which the company will then use to prepare your car insurance quote.
Step 1: Talk with an insurance agent if you have questions.
Speaking with an insurance agent could be helpful in identifying your needs and what insurance coverage is appropriate to protect you. Both a captive and independent insurance agent will be able to advise you based on your personal situation and make recommendations. However, if you prefer not to work with an agent, you can always skip ahead and start quoting a car insurance policy online at a company’s website.
Step 2: Collect your personal and vehicle information.
Car insurance companies typically ask the same questions when preparing a quote, so having the information prepared in advance can help streamline the process. You’ll typically be asked for your name, address, birthday, driver’s license number and address, as well as the name, birthdays and driver’s license numbers of all drivers listed on your policy.
In terms of your vehicle, you may be asked for the year, make and model of all cars that are listed on your policy. For a more accurate quote, you can also provide the vehicle identification number (VIN) and the estimated mileage. While not required during the quoting process, this will be necessary if you decide to purchase the policy.
Step 3: Submit this information to your agent or an online quote generator.
If you’re already speaking with an agent, they can tell you the quoted premium directly or email it to you. From there, if you decide to proceed, you can make a payment to start the policy and sign (or e-sign) any necessary documents.
If you’re using an online quote generator, you’ll likely receive an email with your quote or see an instant quote pop up on the page. Some companies may let you pay and complete the policy online, while others may have a local agent or company representative reach out to you directly as a final step.
What documents do I need to prepare?
In addition to gathering personal and vehicle information, it can help to have a few other documents on hand. During the quoting process, be sure to have your current policy declarations available if you already have car insurance. This will help the agent ensure they can prepare an accurate quote for you. If you’re quoting online, this can also help you make sure you aren’t accidentally choosing less coverage or a higher or lower deductible than what you already have.
After you choose a car insurance company, the company may ask for additional documents to complete the policy. This could include a vehicle registration or purchase agreement, if you are buying a new car, and odometer readings. If you are eligible for any discounts that require verification, such as a professional or organization membership, you may need to share proof to add the discount to your policy. If you have a young driver that qualifies for the good student discount, the company may request a recent transcript to verify their GPA.
What can affect my car insurance quotes/rates?
A wide range of car insurance rating factors is used by insurers to calculate your insurance quote. Some of these include:
- Age and gender: The age and gender of a driver often play an important role in determining car insurance rates. Demographic groups that are shown to engage in riskier driving behaviors, such as young drivers, male drivers and senior drivers, typically face higher rates. However, using age and gender as a component of car insurance rates is not allowed in some states. Massachusetts and Hawaii ban the use of both age and gender, while California, Michigan, Montana, North Carolina and Pennsylvania do not use gender when calculating car insurance premiums.
- Driving history: Perhaps the most influential factor of car insurance rates, your driving history is closely analyzed when calculating car insurance quotes, as it indicates risky driving behavior. If you have a speeding ticket, at-fault accident or DUI on your record, you may find that your rates are more expensive than prior to the incident. Many incidents will only stay on your record for three to five years, but a DUI can stay on your record for life in some states. You may want to check your state’s specific laws regarding driving incidents before getting a car insurance quote.
- Location: Where you live also plays a role in your car insurance premium. For example, cities may be more congested than rural areas and also have higher costs of labor and parts when it comes to repairing a vehicle after an accident. While almost all states permit the use of ZIP code in determining car insurance rates, Michigan does not and California limits the ways insurers can use it.
- Credit score: Credit score, or more accurately, your credit-based insurance score, can be used by insurance companies in many states to predict the risk of claims being filed in the future. People with a lower credit score may be more likely to file claims compared to those with a higher credit score, according to actuarial studies conducted by the Insurance Information Institute. Because of this added risk, insurance companies may charge a higher premium to insure a driver with a lower credit-based insurance score. California, Hawaii, Massachusetts and Michigan ban or restrict the use of credit as a rating factor in car insurance. Washington currently has a temporary ban, effective March 4, 2022.
- Vehicle: The type of car you drive also plays an important role in your car insurance premium. Luxury vehicles tend to have high premiums, due in part to expensive repair costs for labor and parts. Technology-based safety sensors can make your car safer, for instance, but may actually drive your premium up because they are so expensive to repair or replace. Contrary to popular belief, economy cars may not always result in the cheapest premium either. Because so many of them are on the road, it’s more likely that they will be involved in an accident or be targeted for vandalism and theft.
How to get the right car insurance quote for me
By sharing all relevant information during the quoting process, you should receive a quote that accurately estimates the cost of a car insurance policy with that carrier. Try to make sure all chosen coverage and limits, as well as deductibles, are identical in all your quotes. This will ensure that you can compare carriers fairly.