How to Get Car Insurance Quotes Online — the Smart Way

Get several car insurance quotes so you can buy the cheapest, then put your peace of mind on cruise control.

Lacie GloverFebruary 12, 2020
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Comparing car insurance quotes side by side is your best bet for getting a good deal on a policy. Here’s how to get and compare online car insurance quotes and why doing so is essential to help you get the best rate you can.

How to get car insurance quotes online

You can get car insurance quotes online by going directly to insurers’ websites or by using a car insurance comparison tool. Note that some insurers may still require you to finish a quote by working with an agent. And if you would prefer not to compare quotes online yourself, there are other ways to buy auto insurance, such as from agents and brokers.

Now, if you’re ready to start shopping quotes online, these steps will help you quickly and easily compare multiple car insurance quotes to find the best policy for you:

  1. Gather the information you’ll need, including your current auto policy and driver's licenses for others in your household.

  2. Get insurance quotes from multiple companies in different browser windows or tabs, so you can easily see your options side by side.

  3. Check coverage limits to make sure each policy is comparable.

  4. Refine policy details, adjusting to your needs, and note which company has the perks you like.

  5. Choose your policy and apply for coverage. You may find your current insurer is the cheapest.

Step 1: Grab your auto policy and driver’s license

If you want to exclude anyone who lives with you from the policy, find out the insurer’s rules first.

If you’re currently insured, open your existing policy to the declarations page, likely one of the first few pages, which will show your coverage types and limits. Most large insurers have an online portal — you can probably find the same information there, or you can call and ask for a copy.

If you don’t have a current auto policy, grab your car’s registration card or write down your vehicle identification number, or VIN, from the front of the dash.

You’ll also need driver’s licenses for yourself and any other drivers in your home. If you want to exclude anyone from the policy, find out the insurer’s rules before buying. Some require proof of insurance to exclude drivers. Any uninsured household members, including roommates, will likely be added to the policy once you submit an application and the insurer finds out you have the same address.

Also be prepared with the annual mileage and type of use, such as commuting or pleasure, for every vehicle on the policy. Here’s what goes into an insurance quote.

Step 2: Get several car insurance quotes in different windows

Now it’s time to settle in, open up a web browser and get at least three auto insurance quotes. At first, just get to the point where you see a quoted price for each company’s policy, then start over in a new window until you have (at least) three to compare.

As you go along:

  • Use your declarations page to choose liability levels and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage levels that are the same as you have now. You can adjust them later.

  • Some quote tools start with presets for coverage, with labels such as minimum, standard or premium. These may not be the same as your current coverage levels; note this for later.

  • Decide if you need full coverage car insurance with comprehensive and collision coverage. Both are likely required if you have an auto loan, but if your car is older they may cost more than they’re worth.

Step 3: Compare coverage and price quotes side by side

Now that you have at least three quotes, it’s time to check that policies offer comparable coverage. Start by verifying that you’ve entered the correct information for yourself and other drivers.

Next, confirm that coverage levels in the quotes match up, specifically:

  • Liability limits, expressed as a number such as 100/300/50, to indicate $100,000 worth of coverage for bodily injury per person, $300,000 for bodily injury per accident, and $50,000 for property damage should you cause an accident.

  • Uninsured/underinsured motorist limits, which are written similarly to liability limits but pay for your injuries and property if someone else causes a crash and doesn’t have enough (or any) coverage to pay.

  • Collision and comprehensive deductibles. This is the amount subtracted from a payout, typically $500 or $1,000, should you file a collision or comprehensive claim.

Step 4: Refine policies and personalize your quotes

Now it’s time to check the details — coverage and discounts that aren’t the same with every insurance company. Compare:

  • Preset coverage levels. If you had to choose between minimum, standard or premium coverage for one quote, rather than specific liability limits, see how the other quotes change when you adjust them to match the preset.

  • Additional coverage. If you’re trying to protect a loan or lease, you might buy gap coverage from one company but new car replacement insurance from another. Be sure you understand the difference and how such coverage options work.

  • Discounts. Some insurers offer a dozen or more, and some offer barely any. If any of the quotes are missing discounts described elsewhere on the insurer’s website, you might have to request them specifically.

  • Perks and rewards. Does a policy include coverage for pet injuries after a wreck? Does it have a rewards or discount program? Consider the value (or lack thereof) you might find in these freebies.

Step 5: Choose your policy and apply for coverage

You might want to create a new email account to avoid cluttering your main inbox.

Once you’ve compared your three online car insurance quotes thoroughly, chances are you’ve found a winner — the company with the cheapest or best coverage for you. If it’s better than your current policy, you can close your other browser windows and apply for the coverage. Bear in mind you're likely to be contacted for follow-up, so you might want to create a new email account if you want to avoid cluttering your main inbox.

The quoted rate before your eyes isn't a guarantee. When you apply, you’ll authorize your chosen insurer to pull details of your driving and credit histories, as well as your insurance claim history. Any of this can affect your final rate, and in some cases cause your application to be denied. If you’re having a hard time finding coverage, consider getting a car insurance quote from a nonstandard insurance company.

Why it's smart to get at least three car insurance quotes

No insurance company is the cheapest or most expensive for everyone.

Think of the time it takes to get at least three online car insurance quotes (if not more) as an investment. Rates vary widely in most states, and for drivers with different histories, so the first quote you get might be from the most expensive insurer for you.

Say you’re looking for car insurance quotes in Colorado. A NerdWallet analysis of car insurance rates indicates that you might see similar rates from Geico and Progressive — $2,423 and $2,298 per year respectively, on average, for a good driver with good credit.

But if you also got a quote from State Farm it could be significantly lower: The average rate for the same driver is $1,420 per year. If you only got one quote, and it happened to be from Farmers, you might end up paying more than twice that, $3,046 per year, on average.

The story is the same in almost every state, and for drivers with different accident and credit histories — except that no company is always the cheapest or most expensive. You have to get several quotes  to know you’re not getting the highest rate, and you may just get peace of mind that your current insurance company is giving you a really good deal.

Curious about rates where you live?

NerdWallet averaged rates for 40-year-old men and women with no incidents on record for 20 ZIP codes in each state and Washington, D.C., from the largest insurers, up to 12 in each state, with the following coverage limits:

  • $100,000 bodily injury liability coverage per person.

  • $300,000 bodily injury liability coverage per crash.

  • $50,000 property damage liability coverage per crash.

  • $100,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage per person.

  • $300,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage per crash.

  • Collision coverage with $1,000 deductible.

  • Comprehensive coverage with $1,000 deductible.

In states where required, minimum additional coverages were added. We used a 2015 Toyota Camry in all cases. These are sample rates generated through Quadrant Information Services. Your own rates will be different.

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