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How to Get Car Insurance in 7 Steps

If you're buying a car, you also need to know how to get car insurance. Don't worry, it's easier than you think. Whether you're a first-timer who's never had car insurance before or someone who's just not sure how much to buy and how to get the best price, you can get the job done in the seven simple steps in this article.

Step 1. Gather Driver and Vehicle Information

Car insurance policies are very specific. Insurance companies want details about the driver, the vehicle, how it will be used and where it will be kept in order to assess the risk of issuing an insurance policy. 

That means you can't get a car insurance quote without providing some information. So, to start shopping for car insurance, make sure you have all the information you'll need close at hand. Here's a list:

  • Name

  • Address

  • Date of birth

  • The above three items for anyone else who'll be listed on the policy

  • Driving history for all drivers who'll be listed (years of experience, accidents, tickets, etc.)

  • Estimate of how many miles per year the car will be driven

  • How the car will be used (commuting, pleasure trips, making deliveries, etc.)

  • Make and model of car

  • Vehicle identification number

  • Safety features (blind-spot detection, collision avoidance system, etc.)

  • Date of purchase

  • Current odometer reading

  • Details on your most recent car insurance policy, if any

Insurance companies want details about the driver, the vehicle, how it will be used and where it will be kept.

Step 2. Buy Insurance Directly or Through a Third Party

You have a few options as to how you buy insurance. Here are some definitions of what those options are:

  • Direct from an insurance issuer. Car insurance companies often distribute their policies through agents, but some also allow customers to buy from them directly either by phone or online.

  • Through a captive agent. A captive agent is one who is affiliated with a specific issuer, and can only sell the policies of that issuer.

  • Through an independent insurance agent. These agents are authorized to represent the policies of multiple issuers, so they can give you a wider choice.

  • Through a specialty insurer. These are companies that specialize in issuing hard-to-get car insurance policies, such as those for people with DUI convictions, too many previous car accidents or lots of tickets.

  • Through SmartFinancial, who will compare rates for you and give you the best match for what you need.

Here's how the pros and cons of each of those approaches break down:

Buying Approach

Pros

Cons

Directly from the insurance company (by phone or online)

You can research policies objectively, with no bias from an agent who may have a financial incentive.

You'll have to gather information yourself.

Through a captive agent

Personal attention when choosing policies and filing claims. A captive insurance agent should be very familiar with the issuer's offerings and capabilities.

An agent's commission adds an extra layer of cost to the price of your policy. Your choice will be limited to the offerings of the company the agent represents.

Through an independent insurance agent

An independent agent can offer you more choices and more objectivity than a captive one.

An agent's commission adds an extra layer of cost to the price of your policy. While an independent agent may offer you a choice of offerings from multiple companies, they may not be completely objective because of differing incentives offered by those companies.

From a specialty insurer

If you've been turned down by mainstream insurance companies due to your driving record or other reasons, this might be your only option.

This will not be the cheapest source of insurance.

From SmartFinancial

SmartFinancial works with 200+ insurers so you're bound to find the cheapest rate this way. They will then put you in touch with insurers. You only fill out 1 form.

You may get some phone calls from agents competing for your business to get the lowest rate of the bunch.

Step 3. Understand Your State's Auto Insurance Laws

Before you start shopping for car insurance, you need to know what you're buying. Auto insurance policies offer a lot of choices in terms of what they cover, the dollar amount of coverage, and how high the deductible is.

At the very least, you'll need enough insurance to meet the legal requirements of your state. 

All but two states require some car insurance. Even the two that don't require some proof that you qualify for an exemption. 

The specific type of auto insurance and the coverage limits required vary by state. Check out your state's insurance requirements. Consider that to be a starting point - that's the minimum amount of insurance you'll need to buy.

Before you start shopping for car insurance, you need to know what you’re buying.

Step 4. Consider Supplemental Coverage Options

Unless you live in a no-fault state, insurance requirements center around liability coverage. If you're at fault in an accident, liability insurance goes towards paying the expenses of people in the other vehicles. But what about your expenses?

To cover your investment and protect yourself from potential medical expenses resulting from an accident, you may need to add other types of insurance to your policy. These are known as supplemental coverage options:

There's a trade-off to having more coverage, however. The more insurance you have, the more your policy is likely to cost. So choose between paying more upfront or taking on more financial risk if something bad happens.

Along with deciding between different coverage options, you have to decide how much coverage you want and what deductibles you want. This is another trade-off. Lower deductibles and higher coverage limits reduce the chance that you'll have to pay money out of pocket if there's an accident. Naturally though, this comes at a price in the form of higher premiums.

Step 5. Compare Prices

In order to make apples-to-apples comparisons, you should decide on the types and amounts over insurance coverage you want before you start gathering quotes. 

It really pays to shop for policies, because prices vary a great deal among car insurance companies. However, it can be time-consuming to provide all your details to multiple companies if you want to shop around directly. 

SmartFinancial has a tool that allows you to enter your information once and search automatically to find quotes from multiple insurance companies that match your needs, giving you the benefit of price comparisons from multiple car insurance companies without having to collect each quote individually. 

Step 6. Find a Discount

Before you commit to an insurance company, check to see if they offer any kinds of discount from their standard pricing. You may qualify for a discount, even if you are a brand-new driver buying insurance for the first time!

Common ways of qualifying for discounts include:

It's useful to know about discounts even if you don't qualify right away. That way you'll know what steps you can take to qualify for one, or when you otherwise might become eligible for a discount in the future. 

Step 7. Pick Your Premium, Deductible, Pay for Your New Policy

Once you see quotes for the insurance coverage you're looking for, you can pick the policy and premium that suits you best. Or, if you're not satisfied with the quotes, try adjusting the coverage limits and/or deductibles to see if that makes the prices more attractive.

Once you've picked a policy, your final decision will be to choose a payment method. Many car insurance companies offer you the option of paying the whole premium upfront or paying it month-by-month over the policy's term. It may be tough to come up with the entire amount upfront, but there's often a discount for paying all at once that makes it worthwhile.

If you've just bought a car, once you get insurance you'll be ready to register it. If you already have a car and you're changing insurance companies, you'll need to cancel your old policy. Just make sure not to cancel it until the start date of the new policy, so there is no gap in coverage. You should receive a refund for the unused portion of the old policy.

Find Affordable Car Insurance

How To Get Car Insurance FAQs

Do I need an Insurance agent to get car insurance?

No. You can buy directly from the companies that issue car insurance without going through an agent. Online tools like SmartFinancial.com can help by finding policies and quotes for you. They can even help connect you with an agent if you find you have questions during the process.

When should I start shopping for car insurance?

The time to shop for car insurance is as soon as you've identified the specific car you're going to buy. You'll need insurance on the vehicle in order to register the car, but you won't be able to get insurance until you can provide details on the car. To save time though, while you're still car shopping you may want to think through what kind of coverage you want.

How long does it take to get car insurance?

There's almost no lead time involved. Once you provide some information, accept a quote and make a payment you can be issued a policy right away. Timing is often tight because of the need to get insurance before you register a car, so the insurance industry is geared towards turning requests around quickly.

It's Easy to Get the Best Rates for Car Insurance

As you can see, buying car insurance is easy and fast Getting the cheapest car insurance rate with all the coverage you need is a little trickier. SmartFinancial makes it easy to buy a customized policy that will protect you, whether you need liability coverage or full coverage car insurance. Enter your zip code below and answer a few questions to get matched with multiple insurance companies offering you free quotes to sign on. Comparing rates has never been easier!

Get a Free Auto Insurance Quote Online Now.