If you own a car or hold a valid driver’s license, you’ll probably need to buy auto insurance before you can hit the road. The easiest way to find coverage you can afford is to get a free auto insurance quote – or better still, multiple quotes – either online or by contacting an insurance company or independent agent. These rate quotes are based on a number of factors, including your age, where you live, the type of vehicle you own, your driving record, and more. Getting several auto insurance quotes can help you compare rates and find a policy that fits your needs without blowing your budget.
If you’re shopping for car insurance but unsure of where to start, our Best Auto Insurance Companies rating can help. In it, you’ll find valuable information about top-performing companies across the country, their average rates, and additional tips and information that can guide your search.
Most companies make it easy to get a free auto insurance quote either online, over the phone, or by working directly with an insurance broker. Regardless of which method you choose, the Insurance Information Institute (III) recommends that you get quotes from no less than three separate insurers in order to get a clear idea of coverage options and costs.
In order to get a free auto insurance quote, you will likely need to provide the following:
- Driver’s license number
- Social security number(s) for each driver on the policy
- The vehicle identification number (VIN)
- The car’s make, model, year
- Current mileage, also referred to as the odometer reading
- Vehicle safety and security features, such as anti-lock brakes or a GPS device that can track your car if it’s stolen
- Where you park your car, such as in a garage or on the street
- Estimate of how many miles you drive annually
- Desired coverage levels and deductible amounts
- Whether you own the car outright, are financing it, or are leasing it
- Any other drivers in your family that you plan to insure
After you submit your quote request, you may receive rate information immediately and have the opportunity to purchase coverage then and there. In other cases, you may receive an email or a phone call from your insurer providing you with rate information and purchasing options.
If you’d like to compare multiple rates at one time, consider using a comparison website, such as QuoteWizard.com. Submitting a form on these sites will make it easier to review quotes and coverage information from multiple insurers at one time.
Getting Quotes Online vs Over the Phone
Free online car insurance quotes are fast and easy, but they don’t always reflect your final rate. Not every insurer collects the same information during the online quote process. If the insurer doesn’t request your Social Security number, VIN, or driver license number, the estimate you receive may not be very accurate. Similarly, online quotes don’t always reflect discounts for which you may be eligible.
Getting free auto insurance quotes online is a great way to collect information and review your options, especially if you want to compare multiple insurers. Once you narrow down your search, following up with an agent can help you get a more personalized quote, address questions you have, and discuss any additional savings or discounts available.
For more information, see our How to Compare Car Insurance Rates guide.
Car insurance rates are highly personalized and based on several key pieces of information. Though each insurer’s formula for determining rates is different, the following factors are often used when determining your rate:
- Credit score
- Driving record (e.g., speeding tickets, accidents, DUIs.)
- Vehicle make and model
- Type of coverage (e.g., liability, uninsured motorist, collision)
- Educational level
- Marital status
Your rate also depends on the amount of coverage you choose. Policies with higher limits, or the amount of money your insurer will pay toward a claim, are more expensive than policies with lower limits. Higher deductibles, or the amount you must pay out of pocket before your insurance kicks in, typically lead to lower rates as well.
For more information, see our guide to The Cheapest Car Insurance Companies.
There are several types of car insurance coverage and policy add-ons available. Some are required by state law; others are optional. Check with your state’s department of motor vehicles for the most up-to-date insurance requirements. As you shop for insurance, you’ll likely see the following coverage options:
- Liability insurance covers bodily injuries, property damage and other associated costs if you’re at fault for an accident. In most states, drivers are required to carry a minimum amount of liability insurance, making this type of coverage a mainstay in the auto insurance industry. There are a few exceptions. New Hampshire is the only state that does not require drivers to carry any car insurance whatsoever. Virginia requires drivers either to carry insurance or to pay an uninsured motorist fee, while Florida mandates only liability coverage for property damage.
- Uninsured/Underinsured (UM/UIM) motorist coverage can help you pay for damages if you are in an accident with a driver who is uninsured or doesn’t carry enough insurance to cover accident-related costs. Uninsured and underinsured motorist insurance is mandatory in some states.
- Personal Injury Protection (PIP), also known as no-fault auto insurance, covers accident-related medical expenses, including doctor bills, ambulance fees, and lost wages. Policies usually cover the policyholder as well as their passengers and any individual driving their vehicle (with permission), regardless of who is at fault. PIP coverage may also cover the policyholder if they are injured as a passenger in another vehicle or are struck by another vehicle while walking or cycling. Like uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance, PIP is mandatory in some states.
- Medical Payments Coverage (MedPay) covers accident-related medical bills for the policyholder and their passengers. Though similar to PIP, MedPay coverage is limited to medical bills only, while PIP coverage extends to associated costs, like lost wages.
- Collision insurance covers damage to your vehicle that results from a collision with another object, whether it’s another vehicle or a stationary item, like a tree, fence, or home. You may need to purchase collision coverage if you finance your vehicle.
- Comprehensive coverage will pay for damages caused by other incidents, such as fire, natural disasters, theft, or vandalism. Like collision insurance, lenders typically require comprehensive coverage when a driver is financing a vehicle.
In addition to the primary types of coverage listed above, most insurers also offer optional coverage, including:
- Roadside assistance, which provides help in the event of a mechanical breakdown, flat tire, empty gas tank, or similar mishap while on the road or at home
- Gap insurance, which is designed to cover any balance still owed on an outstanding car loan and what the car is actually worth should the vehicle be severely damaged or totaled.
- Pay-per-mile insurance, which charges a flat fee for coverage in addition to a per-use charge in exchange for (potentially) lower rates.
Most insurance companies offer discounts to customers who purchase more than one insurance policy, such as auto insurance and homeowners or renters insurance. Insurers call this bundling or a multi-policy discount and tout savings of 20% or more. In some instances, however, combining policies may not save you money. The Insurance Information Institute (III) recommends getting quotes for both multi-policy coverage from an insurer and separate policies from multiple insurers, then comparing the cost savings.
For more information, see our How to Bundle Home and Auto Insurance guide.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to buying auto insurance, but there are a few factors that can help you determine how much coverage you need.
- State laws: Every state sets mandatory minimum liability insurance coverage amounts for bodily injury (BI) and property damage (PD). These are expressed as a series of three numbers, such as 25/50/25. The first two figures pertain to bodily injury coverage, while the third represents property damage limits. For example, the state of Alabama requires drivers to carry $25,000 in individual BI coverage, $50,000 in total BI coverage, and $25,000 in PD coverage.
You can opt for more liability insurance than what your state requires, but doing so will increase your premiums. Contact your state’s department of motor vehicles or insurance regulation agency to get the most current requirements for minimum liability insurance levels.
- Lender requirements: If you finance your vehicle, your lending agreement likely includes insurance requirements. The type and amount of coverage you need can vary by lender but typically includes collision and comprehensive insurance. Once your loan is paid-in-full and you own your vehicle outright, you can reevaluate your coverage needs.
- Personal assets: Auto insurance is designed to protect you and your family from the financial fallout that can follow an accident. If you don’t have insurance, you may need to pay out of pocket for vehicle repairs, medical bills, property damage, and other costs associated with an accident. After you meet any state or lender requirements, consider how much insurance you need to cover your personal assets, including your home, vehicle, and savings.
For more information, see our How Much Car Insurance Do I Need? guide.
Do I need auto insurance?
Most states have laws that require drivers to carry minimum liability coverage, though some states require personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, uninsured motorist/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM), or medical payment coverage. Contact your state department of motor vehicles or department of insurance to determine the precise type and amount of coverage you need.
You also may be required to purchase insurance if you finance or lease your vehicle. Always discuss insurance requirements with your lender before signing your financing or lease agreement.
How do I buy auto insurance?
You can purchase auto insurance directly through any insurer that’s authorized to sell coverage in your state. Most insurers allow you to purchase policies online, over the phone, or directly through an agent. You can also purchase coverage through an insurance broker.
How can I pay my car insurance premium?
Every insurer is different, but most allow policyholders to pay their premium via debit card, credit card, online bill pay, or electronic fund transfers (EFT). Some insurers offer discounts to customers who choose autopay, which allows policyholders to set up an automatic payment using the payment method of their choice. Your insurer also may offer a discount for paying your auto insurance policy premium in full instead of making a monthly payment. Contact your insurance agent to discuss your payment options.