How to Find and Buy Cheap Car Insurance Online

Find the Cheapest Auto Insurance Quotes in Your Area

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Shopping for car insurance online is convenient and can offer you savings when compared with traditional methods. However, captive and independent agents at physical locations can make the experience smoother if you aren’t as comfortable with auto insurance policies. While there’s sometimes a price difference depending on whether you get car insurance online or in-person, the best way to save money is usually by comparing quotes. In addition, there are several methods you can employ to get the cheapest rates whether shopping online or with an agent.

How to Get Car Insurance Quotes Online

When looking to purchase auto insurance online, evaluate your existing policy, if you have one. You will need to know the features of your existing car insurance policy that you’d like to carry over to your new insurer, your coverage limits, and what you’re covered for. A good place to find a summary of your existing auto insurance is the declaration page that comes with your policy, it's also available upon request from your insurer. The declaration page lists key information about your insurance policy including the policy term, limits for each type of coverage, and costs. If you’re happy with your current coverage, you can use your declarations page as a reference when searching for auto insurance quotes online to ensure you're getting the coverage you want.

If you're a first-time driver or simply looking for the cheapest option for car insurance online, then you'll first want to know your state’s minimum requirements. While knowing the required amount of coverage is a good start, you should also consider your car’s value and what you want from your coverage to determine which policy to choose. Take note of what types of coverage and limits you want to get consistent quotes from insurers online.

Once you're familiar with your existing policy or what kind of policy you would like, you can start searching for quotes online. The process is simple as most insurers have online forms that you can fill out to obtain a quote. Whether you're going to be obtaining a quote from one insurer or multiple, here are the most common pieces of information you'll need to have in order to receive a quote:

  • Address
  • Date you want your coverage to begin.
  • Driver’s license
  • Driver’s occupation
  • Expiration date for existing coverage.
  • Information about any previous violations or accidents.
  • Personal information for any driver you want listed other than yourself.
  • Previous insurer
  • Social security number (for some insurers).
  • Vehicle identification number (“VIN”) for the cars you wish to insure.
  • Each vehicle’s anti-theft features
  • Each vehicle’s year, make and model

Pros and Cons of Purchasing Insurance Online vs Through an Agent

You should purchase your insurance policy through whatever medium better aligns with your specific needs, whether that's online or in-person with an agent. When purchasing auto insurance at a physical location, you'll have the choice between a captive agent and an independent agent. The main distinction between the two is that captive agents only represent one insurance company, meaning you’d have to visit more than one in order to compare quotes. Below we list the benefits and drawbacks of different ways to purchase auto insurance:

Purchasing car insurance in-person with a captive agent: Captive agents can offer in-depth product knowledge since they can only offer products from one insurance company. These agents also have the added benefit of providing in-person support. The downside when using a captive agent is that they're only able to offer products from one insurer. If you're unfamiliar with auto insurance and are looking to be covered by a specific insurer then this may be a good option for you. However, you won’t know if you’re getting competitive rates for your auto insurance. To make sure you’re getting the best price, gather multiple quotes from different captive and independent agents.

Purchasing car insurance in-person with an independent agent: Independent agents, also known as insurance brokers, have the benefit of being able to offer rates from multiple companies for auto insurance. Typically, these agents also operate out of physical locations which means you can get personalized support. The drawback is that they could upsell you since they mostly rely on commissions, while captive agents usually receive a salary on top of commission. Another drawback is that the insurance broker won’t have relationships with insurance companies that employ captive agents or work directly with consumers. Therefore, you'd also have to contact captive agents in your area, and potentially go online, in order to compare prices of insurers that the independent agents don’t have access to. Purchasing your insurance through an independent agent is a good option if you want the ability to compare multiple quotes with minimal effort, while still getting in-person guidance.

Purchasing car insurance online: Purchasing insurance online is cheap and convenient, since you can save time and money by comparing quotes from multiple insurers at home. The only downside is that you receive less guidance when choosing a car insurance policy, which could result in fewer discounts and less assistance if you have complex coverage needs. While you're able to connect to agents by phone, you won’t always be speaking with the same person. You should have a solid understanding of what you want covered under your auto insurance policy. As mentioned previously, this is generally attained by getting a copy of your existing coverage. To make sure you're receiving the best price, you should gather multiple quotes from insurance companies online for the same coverage types and limits.

Car insurance companies, particularly those that let you purchase coverage online, have started offering features on their websites. Many insurance companies also offer the ability to file a claim, enroll in automatic billing, receive monthly statements, and update policy information online. Features vary by company, so ask your potential car insurer about any online features that are important to you.

How to Save Money When Buying Car Insurance

There are other ways to save money on your car insurance that go beyond comparing quotes. Reach out to your current insurer and asking for a discount before you switch companies, if the change is based on cost. If your insurance company wants to retain you as a customer, the agents will be willing to work with you. While that doesn't always work, here are some common alternative ways to reduce your car insurance costs:

  • Choose a vehicle with a low cost to insure.
  • Choose to pay a higher deductible to reduce your premium cost.
  • Pay upfront for your car insurance coverage rather than on a monthly basis.
  • Shop around for different insurance companies to make sure you’re getting a fair rate.
  • Shop for car insurance ahead of your policy’s expiration date as some insurers view it as a sign of responsibility.

Can You Cancel An Auto Insurance Policy Online?

Most insurers will not let you cancel your car insurance policy through their website, even if the policy was purchased online. You can cancel your insurance policy by calling, sending a letter or stopping by in-person at a physical location. Insurers will typically let you cancel your coverage at any point, but some companies charge a cancellation fee if you cancel before the term’s expiration date. Different insurers have varying policies on cancellation fees so you should call your insurance company prior to canceling.

If you're canceling the policy and you've already paid the entire cost upfront then you may be entitled to a refund for a portion of the cost. When canceling your insurance policy, you will want a written confirmation from your insurer. This is good practice so that you have written record of the event in case you continue to be charged for insurance fees past the expiration date of your policy. If you still get billed for auto insurance, but don’t make any payments, then the insurance company could report it and damage your credit rating. You'll also want to make sure that your new policy begins on or before the day that your existing coverage ends, so you'll be continuously insured and driving legally.

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Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.