Buying car insurance online
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In today’s digital world, you can buy nearly anything online, including car insurance (with many carriers). Although it may be convenient, skipping the agent experience and purchasing car insurance online could leave you open to mistakes when selecting your coverage options if you don’t know exactly what you need. Bankrate’s insurance editorial team — which includes licensed agents — created this guide to help you navigate buying car insurance online, so you can be confident in your choices while still getting the best deal available.
What to know before purchasing car insurance online
Before starting a quote online, you may want to make sure you have the right details and information on hand. In most cases, you will be prompted to enter personal information for yourself and the drivers you’d like listed on the policy, such as full names, birthdates, your address and ZIP code, to get a quote. You will also need to provide the year, make and models for the vehicles you need covered. Depending on the carrier, you might have the option of requesting an anonymous car insurance quote. While these may be quick, anonymous quotes tend to be inaccurate.
Once you are ready to finalize your policy, you must provide the driver’s license numbers for everyone included on the quote and the vehicle identification numbers (VIN) for all the vehicles listed. However, you may want to consider providing this information earlier in the process — the more information you provide on your quote, the more accurate your quoted premium will be.
Since you won’t be sitting down with a licensed insurance agent to guide you through the process, you may want to answer the following questions before purchasing insurance online.
- If you have a loan or lease on your car, does your financial institution require you to have certain minimum limits and deductibles? If you need a full coverage policy, you’ll want to know before you have to choose an option.
- If you do not have a loan or lease, do you want full coverage or are you comfortable with liability only coverage? Although most states require at least a minimum amount of liability coverage, you may want to consider purchasing above the minimum limit if possible to avoid leaving yourself financially vulnerable. If you were to get in a car accident without sufficient coverage, you’d likely have to pay damages and medical bills out of pocket.
- Do you want a company that provides a mobile app? If you prefer to manage your auto insurance online, you may want to choose a provider that offers an easy-to-use mobile app. Many major carriers also offer digital claims filing that allows you to submit claims and photos of your accident in the app.
- Do you want a bundling discount for future policies? Many auto insurance providers offer bundling discounts where you can save for holding multiple insurance policies from the same carrier.
- How important is it for your company to have a support phone number in case you have questions? Make sure the company you choose has reliable customer service if that’s important to you. While some companies offer 24/7 customer service hotlines, others have shifted away from the 24/7 model post-pandemic. If you work a non-standard shift, customer service availability might be something to keep in mind.
- What is the claims process and do you feel comfortable with it? Some claims can be processed through a mobile app, while other companies may have you file them on a computer or over the phone. Find out what you prefer and what your potential carriers offer.
What coverage types are right for you?
The policy type that will be right for you depends on your specific circumstances and preferences. Whether online, over the phone, or in person, insurance companies must offer coverage legally required for you to carry in your state. But knowing those requirements and other coverage options can help you build a policy that is best for your needs. Below are several of the most common coverage options.
- Bodily injury liability: Bodily injury liability coverage pays for the injuries you cause (up to the limit you carry) if you’re the driver in an at-fault accident. This coverage is required in almost every state.
- Property damage liability: Like bodily injury liability, property damage liability coverage is almost always required. This coverage type pays for the damage you cause to other people’s property if you are at fault in an accident (up to your policy limit). This property could be the other driver’s vehicle or a stationary object such as a house or light pole.
- Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage: If you’re involved in an accident with someone who doesn’t carry any insurance or doesn’t have enough coverage to cover costs associated with the crash, your policy may kick in to pay for medical bills and property damage. Depending on your state, uninsured and underinsured motorist may or may not be required. Underinsured motorist is also not available in every state.
- Collision coverage: Collision will pay for damages to your vehicle if you are at fault in a covered accident. Collision carries a deductible and unless you are financing or leasing, this coverage is optional.
- Comprehensive coverage: Comprehensive pays to repair the damage to your vehicle caused by acts of nature (such as flooding, wind or hail), fire, theft, vandalism and hitting an animal. Comprehensive also provides financial protection for your glass. Like collision, comprehensive carries a deductible as it is optional if you own the vehicle outright. Depending on your state, you may have a $0 deductible for glass coverage.
- Medical payments coverage: This coverage is optional and pays out to cover your and your passengers’ medical bills in the event of a covered crash, regardless of fault.
- Personal injury protection insurance: PIP pays out regardless of fault and covers losses due to an accident, including costs such as medical expenses, funeral expenses and even lost wages. This coverage may be required in no-fault states, but is sometimes available in other states as well, including at-fault states.
- Gap insurance: This optional coverage pays if your financed or leased car is totaled and you owe more than the car is worth.
- New car replacement: If you own a car that is no more than a few years old, you may qualify for this coverage. If your vehicle is totaled, the insurance company will pay the value of the car plus the difference in value for a brand new car of the same make and model.
- Roadside assistance: This optional coverage will pay for the services related to events that can leave you stranded on the side of the road, such as a flat tire, running out of gas, locking your keys in the car or having a dead battery. Actual coverages and limits vary, so be sure to check what each carrier offers to decide if it’s the best fit.
- Rental car coverage: If you have comprehensive and collision coverage, you may also have the option to add rental car coverage. Rental reimbursement pays up to a certain dollar amount or percentage on a rental car while your car is being repaired after a covered loss. There is typically a time attached to rental reimbursement, as well. For instance, you might carry rental reimbursement that will pay $30 a day for your rental car for up to 30 days, leading to a maximum payout amount of up to $900.
Best online car insurance companies
Now that you may want to shop online for car insurance, you are probably wondering where to start. There are dozens of popular auto insurers out there, but not all of them may be the best car insurance company for you. We reviewed numerous auto insurance companies by examining factors like customer satisfaction, ease of the online application process, available discounts, mobile app availability and claims satisfaction to help you to find a company that might be right for you. Out of the companies we reviewed, these were the standout features we identified for each one:
|Company||A good option for…|
|Geico||Convenient mobile app|
|Allstate||Customer support options|
|Amica||Easy application process|
|State Farm||Online claims management|
Geico is a company that offers quick and easy quotes and generally cheap rates. This major carrier utilizes a user-friendly quoting system and makes it simple to file a claim. Geico’s mobile app is a standout in the industry. Policyholders can do everything from making policy changes to paying a bill and filing a claim within the app. You can even download your proof of insurance ID cards for easy access. Plus, Geico’s website allows you to complete certain tasks without even logging in, which is great for anyone who easily forgets their password.
Learn more: Geico Insurance review
Allstate offers users a multi-functional website. Better yet, Allstate makes it simple to get direct customer support if handling your policy yourself becomes overwhelming. You can even reach Allstate via e-mail or through a digital chat. Allstate offers a variety of discounts and plenty of agents nationwide in the event that you need to talk to someone face-to-face after you have purchased your online policy.
Learn more: Allstate Insurance review
If you want an easy and hassle-free option, you might appreciate Amica’s online application process. You begin by entering in your address and answering just a few simple questions that will help determine if you are eligible for a quote. The application is then broken down into five simple sections — your information, vehicles, drivers, discounts and your quote summary. If you need to step away from your computer, you can save a quote and return to it later.
Learn more: Amica Insurance review
State Farm offers a convenient and well-designed claims management system that is easy to navigate. Choose the type of incident you are dealing with and the website will break the claims process down into five steps. Even third parties involved in an incident with a State Farm driver, but who are not insured with State Farm themselves, can create an account to track a claim. Additionally, there is a digital chat button on every claims page so you can easily chat with a representative if you have a question.
Learn more: State Farm Insurance review
How to compare multiple car insurance quotes at the same time
Online insurance comparison websites can help you purchase auto insurance online. These sites typically use algorithms to match you with multiple companies and give you quotes. However, these initial quotes may not be accurate once you provide all your personal and vehicle information to your chosen insurance company.
To get a true comparison, get car insurance quotes with the same coverage limits, types and deductibles from each carrier. Ask about available discounts and which ones you qualify for, which can help you get the cheapest rate. Also, review the coverage options each carrier offers to see if they have standout coverages that another may not.
Pros and cons of buying auto insurance online
Buying car insurance online may or may not be the best option for you. When deciding whether or not to buy insurance online, you may want to consider the following pros and cons.
|Generating quotes and buying all in one place||May not get personalized guidance from a licensed insurance agent|
|Quick and easy||Limiting your options to companies that offer to sell policies online|
If you already know what type of policy you need and how much coverage you want, purchasing auto insurance online can be a great option. You can generate a quote to see how much you’d pay, and the process is typically quick and easy. Even better, you usually won’t have to pay an agent fee.
However, if you aren’t sure what type of policy would be right for you, it may be best to buy a policy in person or over the phone. That way, you can discuss your preferences and needs with a licensed insurance agent who can help tailor a policy to fit your specific needs.
Buying insurance online is usually quicker and easier, but buying it in person from an insurance agent may be a better option for those who don’t know what type of policy they want yet.
Ways to save when shopping for car insurance online
Are you hoping to buy cheap car insurance online? Buying car insurance online is not necessarily a cheaper option than more traditional methods. However, that does not mean that you will not be able to find affordable coverage.
The average cost of full coverage car insurance in the U.S. is $2,014 annually, but it’s possible to score lower rates. Here are some of the easiest ways to save money on your online auto insurance:
- Shop around: The online quoting process is usually simple, so it may be in your best interest to get a quote from more than one company. As long as you are getting quotes for the same coverage, you should be able to compare rates and select the one that is most affordable.
- Bundle your policies: You might qualify for a multi-policy discount if you insure more than one policy with the same insurance company. If you already have a homeowners or renters policy elsewhere, you may want to quote it alongside your car insurance policy to see how significant the discount is.
- Explore every discount: Many car insurance companies have several discounts available. You may be eligible for a reduced premium based on your driving record, your grades, your employer, your vehicle’s safety features and even your driving frequency.
When shopping around, remember that the cheapest price is not always the best option. Be sure that you are getting quotes for the coverage that you need and not just the cheapest available. If you are not sure how much coverage to purchase, it may be best to start your auto insurance search by talking to a licensed agent.
Frequently asked questions
The best online car insurance company depends on your needs and preferences. Do you want to be able to file and track your claim online? Is it important to you that the company has a live chat option? Or, maybe you’re more concerned with getting coverage quickly at a low price. The best way to find the best car insurance company is to shop around.
You might be able to get same-day car insurance, but it depends on the company and the circumstances around your quote. For instance, some companies may only provide same-day car insurance if you are purchasing a new vehicle and need immediate coverage to leave the dealership. Car insurance generally goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. the day after you bind it. Regardless of the effective date, most companies should be able to email you proof of insurance (like an ID card) immediately after you purchase your policy.
Unless the company provides a discount for purchasing a policy online, a quoted premium generated online should be the same as a quote generated over the phone or in person. All information between the two quotes needs to be identical for this to be the case, however.
If you don’t know what kind of coverage you need or how to answer a question on the application, your online quote may be higher than one done by an agent. Purchasing a policy with an agent isn’t inherently cheaper, though. This higher rate could be due to a missing discount opportunity or accidentally adding extra coverage. If you are unsure about what coverage you need to protect yourself financially, you may want to consult with an insurance professional before finalizing your online purchase.
Buying directly through the carrier’s website usually helps ensure your personal information is safe, and it’s worth noting that, even if you don’t buy the policy online, your insurance company will ultimately store your information in its system anyway. Buying insurance online is generally fast and convenient; just make sure you are on an authentic website for the carrier of your choice before entering your personal information.