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What Is Car Insurance?

Anyone who’s ever been in a car accident knows exactly how nerve-wracking the experience can be. Even if everyone was physically unharmed, no one gets out of a fender bender scot-free - especially when insurance gets involved. Still, these kinds of minor accidents can be just the push you need to change your car insurance plan.

At this point, you may be wondering why you should change your plan anyway. Well, to be fair - you might not need to. But everyone could benefit from re-examining their insurer’s policies and their own coverage needs.

You may not have known this, but many things can affect your insurance rates. The insurance company takes into account the kind of car you drive, your driving history, even your gender and marital status. With that in mind, let’s talk about some of the steps you can take to make sure your auto insurance package is fair.

Contents show

Part 1: What You Should Know About Different Car Insurance Policies

The most important thing you need to know when looking for a suitable car insurance plan is the different types of coverage that are at your disposal. Most insurance companies have various bundle plans that include policies addressing potential driving difficulties. Each of those policies has its own price tag that goes into the total cost of the package.

As we’re about to discuss, there are six main types of coverage policies, including:

  • Liability coverage
  • Collision insurance
  • Uninsured or underinsured motorist
  • Medical payments
  • Personal injury protection
  • Comprehensive coverage

The first item on that list is a mandatory component of car insurance policies. However, the other policies are all optional. So let’s see which of them are worth getting.

Liability Coverage

As we have established, this policy is the only one that’s required by law in most states. Having it in your auto insurance plan protects you if you ever hurt someone while driving. It covers:

  • The medical cost of treating the victim’s bodily injuries
  • Property damage (that the other person can use to fix their car or other possession that was defaced during the accident)
  • Legal fees that might accumulate in the ensuing judicial proceedings
  • Loss of wages due to injuries sustained in the collision

As you might have noticed, this part of the plan does nothing for any injuries and damages you might sustain in the accident. So let’s look into some of the other policies that might cover personal damages.

Collision Insurance

Collision coverage is the part of a car insurance plan that handles any property damage you might sustain in a crash. That’s why this kind of insurance is a must-have for people who are leasing or renting vehicles.

Even if you’re paying off a new car, money lenders will expect you to get comprehensive coverage. That kind of plan usually goes hand-in-hand with collision insurance.

Notably, collision insurance should have your back even if you were the one who caused the accident. It should kick in whether you collide with another vehicle or an object like a fire hydrant.

Medical Payments

If you or your passengers are ever hurt during a fender bender, you’ll be glad to have medical payments insurance. That should cover any medical costs and hospital stays, but it also encompasses lost wages and funeral expenses. Since these are potentially invaluable services, many states mandate their addition into car insurance plans.

Personal Injury Protection

On paper, personal injury protection, or PIP insurance, can look pretty similar to the previous kind of policy we’ve discussed. So do you need it in your insurance package?

Well, if you live in a “no-fault” state (or you frequently drive through it), you’d have to add it to your bundle! After all, PIP covers your medical expenses even if you were the one who caused the accident. Alternatively, if you aren’t to blame, the payout may allow you to sue the other driver.

Comprehensive Coverage

Comprehensive car insurance protects you from a variety of misfortunes that might befall your vehicle. The policy covers natural disasters like storms, floods, and earthquakes, but it also deals with other random events. For example, it’ll cash out if your car is stolen or you damage it by hitting an animal.

Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist

Uninsured and underinsured motorist insurance policies can sound like random additions to your insurance plans. Unfortunately, you never know when you’ll need them. That’s why almost half of all states require drivers to have uninsured motorist coverage.

Basically, if you’re ever in a traffic accident with a driver who either lacks certain types of insurance coverage or is uninsured altogether, these policies can bail you out. Essentially, they should cover any vehicle repairs and medical expenses you might have. After all, in these scenarios, the driver who is at fault may not be able to pay up.

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Part 2: Check The Extent Of The Coverage

When it comes to minimum liability protection insurance, each state has different requirements. But should you opt for a pricier plan to ensure that you’re fully covered? Before we dive into that topic, let’s go over the basics of liability coverage.

As we have established, liability coverage covers the cost of the damage you cause to another driver and their vehicle. This aspect of an insurance plan is usually represented by three numbers. For example, let’s say your insurance plan had a 100/300/50 liability coverage. In that case:

  • 100 (thousand dollars) is the amount your plan sets aside for handling bodily injuries of a single person
  • 300 (thousand dollars) is the total amount of money the insurance company is ready to shell out for a single accident
  • 50 (thousand dollars) is the amount of money set aside for repairing and replacing property damage

So let’s say an accident you caused hurt four people and that their individual medical expenses are over $75,000 per person. That would mean that the total would go over the $300,000 cap. So even if their individual requirements were under the per-person limit, the insurance wouldn’t pay more than the agreed-upon total.

Now let’s say you only hurt one person and that they need $200,000 for their medical expenses. While that would be under the per-accident limit, it would exceed the per-person coverage. So the insurance company would pay $100,000, leaving you to come up with the rest of the money on your own.

Should You Get Higher Levels of Liability Coverage Than the State Requires?

While having a liability policy is a mandatory component of most auto insurance packages, different states require different amounts of coverage. Some only need you to have $5,000 of coverage for property damages.

But what if the damage you cause surpasses that number? If an accident you caused results in greater damages, you’d have to pay the rest yourself. That’s why you have to consider getting a plan with higher liability coverage than what’s mandated by state law.

So what are some things you should consider when seeking higher levels of coverage? Well, having substantial collision and comprehensive coverage is always a plus. Besides, as we have mentioned, some money lenders require those to be added to any insurance plan.

Of course, even if you’re not dealing with a leasing company, you should probably get those policies in your insurance plan. You never know what kind of disaster might strike.

On the other hand, there are times when paying for a more expensive insurance plan doesn’t make sense. For example, if you’re driving an incredibly old car, you may not want to bear the financial responsibility of fixing it for much longer. So instead of paying a higher premium for insurance, you could start saving up for a new car.

Part 3: Consider Additional Car Insurance Products

At this point, we ought to mention that various kinds of coverage aren’t the only perks of having a good insurance plan. Most insurance companies tend to include additional services into their bundle plans. So let’s talk about four of the most popular add-ons you could ask your insurer about.

Emergency Roadside Services

First things first, let’s talk about how your insurance can help you patch up small mishaps you may have with your vehicle. Emergency roadside services typically include tire changes, fuel deliveries, jump-sharts, vehicle tows, and more. You could even call them if you ever lock your keys in the car.

So should you ask your insurer about roadside services? Well, if nothing else, they’re a fairly cheap car insurance addition. And if you don’t already pay your car manufacturer, bank, or auto club for AAA or a similar service - this coverage is a worthwhile investment.

Mechanical Breakdown

Mechanical breakdown coverage encompasses major vehicle malfunctions that aren’t included in your basic insurance plan. Since routine maintenance checks and tune-ups are generally included in the basic coverage, you won’t find them in this part of the package.

However, if you discover any transmission or electrical system issues, or even just stiff breaks, this policy should cover it. But ultimately, the services that are included in mechanical breakdown coverage depend on the insurer. That’s also why their prices can vary wildly.

Gap Insurance

Gap insurance is another optional addition you can add to your plan, particularly if you’re worried that your vehicle may lose its value. If you’re leasing your car or you used a loan to buy it, you should expect it to lose value. After all, new cars stand to lose up to 20% of their value within the first year.

So if you total your car, the money you owe to your lender may be greater than the amount your insurance is ready to pay out. Gap insurance is there to supplement your shortfall if you end up having to pay a lease or lender more money than you would receive from your standard insurance plan.

Modified Car Coverage

As you can imagine, most basic auto insurance plans don’t cover vehicle modifications. So what’s a custom car enthusiast to do?

Well, if you want to make sure your modified vehicle is insured, you may have to shell out some extra cash. You’ll also want to keep a ledger with all the enhancements you’ve made, particularly if they’ve made the vehicle more valuable.

Then again, many things can affect your vehicle’s insurance rate. Aside from your driving history and vehicle type, insurers also look at your location and coverage level to give you a final estimate. So make sure to compare car insurance quotes and coverage levels before committing to one company.

Part 4: Think About Whether You Need An Insurance Plan For A Special Vehicle

Since modified vehicles require modified car coverage, it makes sense that different kinds of cars would require special coverage too. So let’s discuss some of the most common kinds of special vehicle coverage, including:

  • Insurance plans for the ever-growing number of ridesharing vehicles
  • Rental car insurance
  • Non-owner liability coverage
  • Classic car insurance for vintage vehicles
  • Self-driving vehicle insurance

Ridesharing Vehicle Insurance

In the world of Uber and Lyft apps, an increasing number of drivers are choosing to try their luck as drivers for hire. However, most basic insurance plans don’t cover commercial use protections. Because of that, many auto insurance companies now offer special plans for ridesharing drivers.

Rental Car Insurance

As we have established, most states require you to have liability coverage every time you get into a car. That applies to rentals, too. However, if you don’t have collision and comprehensive insurance coverage, you should get it before driving a rental.

After all, if you don’t get those additions in your auto insurance plan, you’ll have to pay out of pocket if you get into an accident. That’s where rental car insurance comes in - though it usually runs out after a month or so.

Still, even with rental coverage, you might have to cover some expenses yourself. For example, depending on where you are, you may have to spring for a deposit to get repairs. Generally, though, you’d get the money back when your rental company comes through.

But before you get rental insurance, make sure to check your credit card benefits. They may include some kind of coverage for these expenses too. Ideally, though, you’d do that research before going to a location that requires you to rent a vehicle.

Non-Owner Liability Coverage

Like renter’s insurance, non-owner liability coverage covers drivers who don’t own the vehicle they’re driving. However, as the name of the policy indicates, this part of your plan would only cover the cost of other people’s injuries and damages. Still, that kind of insurance is perfect for people who rent their vehicle or use car-sharing services.

Once again though, you’ll want to check whether your credit card benefits offer this kind of coverage already. In fact, no matter what kind of auto insurance you think you need - your bank might have already provided it. Alternatively, you could use your card benefits to supplement any gaps in your car insurance coverage.

Classic Car Insurance

If your car was made over 25 years ago, it qualifies as a vintage car. That makes it eligible for specialized classic car insurance.

Most insurers offer special policies for antique vehicles. As we have previously mentioned, most new cars lose their value quickly. However, old ones tend to appreciate value.

Additionally, the driving habits of vintage car owners tend to differ from new car owners’ habits. That is a consideration you ought to take into account. On top of that, you should consider taking up a special insurance policy if you’re going to display your vehicle at classic car shows.

Self-Driving Vehicle Insurance

While the previous example of special vehicle insurance we presented dealt with historic cars, this one takes us back to the future. Partially self-driving cars are establishing their presence on global highways, and fully driverless vehicles aren’t far behind. With that in mind, it’s time to consider the kind of coverage you’ll need when you have a self-driving car of your own.

For now, even the most advanced vehicles with self-driving features are still in the testing phase. At most, a partially automated system can take the wheel if it senses an imminent collision.

Still, that makes these cars less prone to accidents - which should reduce your premiums, right? Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Since self-driving technology is on the cutting edge of automotive design, vehicles that have it tend to be more expensive than most. Moreover, repairing these cars after collisions can be pretty pricey too. These are some of the things insurance companies take into consideration when they calculate their premiums.

But look at the silver lining! The cost of insurance for driverless cars is bound to decrease as these vehicles become more accessible in the coming years.

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Part 5: How To Find Cheap Auto Insurance Companies And Packages

Now that you know the basic policies you’ll be looking at, it’s time to learn how to find auto insurance companies that fit your requirements.

Don’t Settle for the First Insurer You Come Across

When you’re looking for the auto insurance company of your dreams, the worst thing you can do is settle for the first one you find. Even if its premiums are cheap, you should still look at several companies before making your final decision.

Ideally, you should compare auto insurance quotes from at least three companies before signing anything. If you already have an insurer, ask them for a new quote and look at two of their competitors. Just ask your friends and family which insurance they have and go from there.

Alternatively, you can look at online reviews of different car insurers or check the state department of insurance for price comparisons and registered customer complaints. If a member of your immediate family works for the military, you can get a quote from USAA as well.

Ultimately, most people tend to stay with the same insurance company for decades. Insurers often offer loyalty rewards and discounts, so you can see why sticking with one can be worthwhile. But most of the time, those rewards aren’t substantial enough to make you stay if there are better offers on the horizon.

Make Sure Your Credit Score Is Good

Maintaining a good credit score can make so many things so much easier. Car insurance premiums are only one example of that fact.

Knowing that you’re capable of paying your bills on time and keeping your credit balance low would make any insurer more open to striking a better deal. As it turns out, having a good financial track record reveals something about your driving habits too! According to the Insurance Information Institute, people with a good credit score file fewer insurance claims.

Opt for a Higher Deductible

Before we explain this tip, we should take a moment to define the concept of a deductible. Basically, this term is the amount of money you’ll have to put up yourself before the insurer gets involved.

If you’re in a good financial situation and you’re able to include a higher deductible in your insurance plan - do it. That should bring the premium down, but it would require you to have the money ready to go, just in case.

Get a Different Car

As we have established, the value of your car plays a big part in the process of determining the premium of its insurance. Additionally, different vehicles have different safety records, maintenance expenses, and repair costs.

For example, driving a sports or muscle car can make the overall price of your insurance plan higher. According to a 2017 MoneyGeek survey, replacing two 2014 Mustang GTs with two 2008 Town and Country minivans can save you as much as $2,600 per year!

Opt Into a Telematics Program

Another way to get on a cheap auto insurance plan is to let your insurer monitor your driving habits. You’ll just have to download an app on your phone or let them put a device in your car. Then, just go along with your daily life - and try not to break any traffic laws.

Most big insurance companies use the information from their telematics programs to set their premiums. So if you’re a good driver, the cost of your insurance package could dip! Conversely, if the data tracking shows negative habits, that might be reflected in the premium too.

Part 6: Look Into The Available Discounts

Most insurance companies offer a range of discounts and savings programs. So before you sign that final contract, ask your agent if they can hook you up with any of those hidden benefits.

Driving Habit Discounts for Good Drivers and Low-Mileage Customers

As we have established, following traffic laws will get you everywhere you want to go. So if you’ve gone more than three years without so much as a traffic ticket, you may be eligible for a good driver discount.

Alternatively, you may be entitled to a low-mileage discount, though different insurers have different definitions of the term. For some, it’s less than 15,000 miles per year, while others cap it at half of that distance. Either way, your insurer will either rely on self-reporting or monitoring to assess your eligibility for this discount.

While we’re on the subject of vehicle monitoring, we could also mention anti-theft devices. You see, some insurers offer slight discounts for cars with built-in alarms or ignition-kill switches. But ultimately, buying those kinds of protective devices won’t give you a significant discount - so you should have other reasons for installing them.

Loyalty and Bundle Discounts for Rewarding Committed Customers

Loyalty discounts are another potential advantage we’ve already mentioned. If you’ve been with your auto insurance company for years or decades, you may be entitled to some perks. Conversely, if your insurer thinks that your business is a sure thing, they might decide to raise your premium instead!

Still, if you like a particular insurance provider, take advantage of some of their non-automotive packages too. They may even offer a bundle discount for getting a homeowner’s policy along with your car insurance. Some providers may add savings for insuring more than one car per household!

If you need to insure more than one car, you could look into group discounts too. Certain companies and organizations like AAA can use group discounts to insure their drivers or employers.

Driver’s Ed, Student, and Senior Discounts

Lastly, you may be able to find a discount that covers people in your age group or driving ability range.

For example, some insurers may offer a discount upon completion of a driver’s ed program or even a defensive driving course. Generally, teenage drivers have higher premiums. However, many insurers offer good student discounts for people who can maintain a 3.0 GPA.

On the other hand, there are also discounts for people who are pretty much as far from being students as one can get. People who are older than 50 also get the short end of the stick when it comes to insurance rates.

By the time someone is 70, some insurance companies think twice about insuring their vehicle. To qualify for senior discounts, older customers usually have to go through a defensive driving course.

FAQs - Vehicle Insurance

Do I Need A Car Insurance Plan?

Insuring your vehicle is required by the law in most states. In addition to protecting your finances, insurance payouts can also help you bounce back after an accident. So yes, you need auto insurance - and luckily, there are many ways to go about getting it.

How Do I Decide Which Coverages I Need?

The coverage you opt for will ultimately depend on your needs as a driver. However, many states mandate the inclusion of certain policies in all car insurance plans. Ask your insurance provider which policies are mandated by the law and which ones are optional. Then explain your driving habits to them until you reach a personalized plan. They may even offer certain bundle plans and discounts if you ask nicely!

If I Already Have Health Insurance, Should I Get Medical Payment Coverage?

As you know, medical payments insurance takes care of any medical expenses you or your passengers might have as a result of a fender bender. But do you need it if you’re already on a great health insurance plan? Well, health insurance generally takes a bit longer to kick in than medical payments coverage. Moreover, your health insurance won’t help any passengers that are hurt while you’re behind the wheel. So ideally, your car insurance package should include medical payment coverage.

Do Older Vehicles Require Collision And Comprehensive Coverage?

Most people consider opting out of collision and comprehensive coverage when they have older vehicles. They may decide that the cost of the additional policies isn’t worth the value of their car. Because of that, this decision is another one you’ll have to make on your own. Consider the risk factors and the potential payoff. Will the insurance money cover the cost of your vehicle in the event of a natural disaster? Can you afford a new vehicle without it?

Should I Get Uninsured Motorist Insurance?

Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is one of those things you don’t think you’ll ever need. But the streets are full of uninsured drivers! Most people who can’t afford insurance aren’t aware of the state-sponsored plans that are at their disposal. So if you or your loved ones are hurt in an accident with an uninsured driver, they won’t be able to cover your medical expenses. In that case, you’ll be glad you got uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage in your insurance plan!

How Do Insurance Companies Calculate My Premium?

As you may be aware, most insurance companies take into account a long list of factors when calculating your premium rates. In addition to your age and gender, they consider: the kind of car your drive (different models require different coverage), your driving record (moving violations and accidents), your credit score. We’ve already established what they take away from some of this information. Obviously, knowing that you’re a good driver makes the insurance company confident that they won’t lose money on you. But random information, like knowing your credit score, factors in for a different reason. Namely, some studies have shown a correlation between people’s financial situation and their chances of getting into a fender bender.

How Can I Reduce The Cost Of My Car Insurance Policy?

As we have established, there are many ways to lower your premium. For example, you can ask about good driver benefits or low-mileage discounts. Some insurers also offer discounts to students with a 3.0 GPA. If your premium rates have increased because of your age or some traffic tickets, there are ways to get them back down. Namely, you can take a defensive driving course. If that doesn’t work, you could accept a higher deductible - but only if you have money to spare.

Should I Let My Insurance Company Track My Driving Habits?

An insurance company may offer to adjust your premium rate after tracking your driving habits for a while. You’d have to let them install a device in your car - or they may use the location tracking feature you already have in your vehicle. The idea is that the information the insurer collects is only used to set your premium. It’s in their best interest to keep your movements to themselves, so you don’t have to worry about your privacy.

Where Do I Find Reliable Insurance Rates Comparison Tables?

Finally, we’re at the big question. How do you find a reliable source you can use to compare car insurance quotes? As luck would have it, some online services compile and compare those rates for you! Insureist can do so in a matter of minutes. You can even search for cheap auto insurance companies in your state, and the site will show you the average cost of minimum and full coverage packages. Remember - you’ll want to get quotes from at least three places. And if you’ve been using the same company for years, make sure they know you’re shopping around. If nothing else, that might compel them to hit you with some discount offers!

Additional Insights

Bonus Tip

Vehicle Insurance

Insuring Your Vehicle When You Can’t Afford The Traditional Route

Even with all these discounts and rewards programs, some people simply can’t afford to get an insurance package from a commercial provider. So what do they do to protect themselves in the event of a car accident?

Well, some states, like Hawaii, California, and New Jersey, offer widely accessible, state-funded insurance programs. These policies aim to reduce the number of uninsured drivers.

To qualify for one of these programs, drivers just have to meet certain income requirements. While they may not offer all the benefits we’ve been discussing, they can still serve as a buffer.

On the other hand, some drivers are not able to get car insurance because of their driving habits. Most insurers simply won’t offer packages to high-risk drivers. Unfortunately, that only increases the risk, since those drivers keep driving without the safety net of an insurance plan.

That’s where government-sponsored insurance programs for high-risk drivers come in. Similar to the previous option we’ve mentioned, these programs are accessible through the local state insurance department.

Vehicle insurance (also known as car insurance, motor insurance, or auto insurance) is insurance for cars, trucks, motorcycles, and other road vehicles. Its primary use is to provide financial protection against physical damage or bodily injury resulting from traffic collisions and against liability that could also arise from incidents in a vehicle. Vehicle insurance may additionally offer financial protection against theft of the vehicle, and against damage to the vehicle sustained from events other than traffic collisions, such as keying, weather or natural disasters, and damage sustained by colliding with stationary objects. The specific terms of vehicle insurance vary with legal regulations in each region.

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