What to Know When Shopping for Car Insurance

Six things to consider when getting car insurance quotes

Perhaps it's been a while since you've checked auto insurance rates. Or, you've just had a life event—like a wedding, move or the addition of a teen driver—that affects your rates. Whatever the reason, you're in the market to get a car insurance quote. Check out these tips before you buy.

Understand your coverage

  • Liability covers injuries, deaths and property damage.
  • Collision covers damages to your vehicle when you collide with another vehicle or object.
  • Comprehensive covers damage from natural disasters, vehicle theft, vandalism or accidents involving animals.

Additional coverage is available for uninsured and underinsured motorists. Most states and some lenders (if you have a car loan) require certain types of coverage. For example, nearly every state requires that you have a minimum amount of liability coverage.

However, these minimum coverages likely will not be enough in most cases. To help ensure you have the coverage you need to keep your assets safe, consider buying more than the state minimum and purchase an umbrella policy.

Collision and comprehensive coverage is based on the value of your car and how much it will cost to repair it. You will have the option to select the amount of the deductible applicable to each coverage.

When determining a deductible, remember that the higher the deductible, the lower your premium cost. To keep your premium as low as possible while carrying enough coverage, experts recommend choosing the highest deductible you can comfortably afford and pairing it with the highest liability coverage you can financially manage.

Choose an insurance carrier

Policies and their prices will vary from company to company. It's best to get three auto insurance quotes to help ensure you are choosing the right coverage and price for you. You may choose companies based on recommendations from family, friends and co-workers, as well as through an Internet search.

Once you've gathered recommendations, you should consider those companies licensed in your state, and choose companies that are financially stable and reputable. Check out sites like A.M. BestJ.D. Power, the Better Business Bureau or your state insurance commissioner for insurance company ratings.

Know the factors affecting your rate

Prices vary from person to person based on the following factors:

  • Driving record—Those with previous violations or accidents are considered higher risk.
  • Geographic location—People living in urban areas with more traffic are at greater risk.
  • Gender and age—Men, as well as younger and older age groups of both genders, are considered more likely to have a loss.
  • Marital status—Married people generally have lower rates than single people.
  • Prior insurance coverage—Cancelled premiums or non-payment of previous premiums may affect your rate.
  • Miles driven—Those who drive more miles annually have more opportunities to have a loss.
  • Type of vehicle—Luxury and sports cars generally have higher claims.

Ask about discounts and benefits

Many insurance companies offer discounts based on a number of factors. These factors may include coverage on multiple vehicles, installation of safety and anti-theft devices, good student discounts and bundling with a home insurance policy. Ameriprise Auto & Home Insurance offers an array of discounts and benefits, from safe driving to car safety features to accident forgiveness. Learn more!

Price is not the only consideration

When shopping for car insurance, choosing the lowest price isn't always the best option. Companies vary on benefits and service. While checking prices, also review the companies' track records for handling claims and answering questions. The national claims database and state insurance departments gather information on service-related complaints.

Read your policy

Once you've made all these decisions and have a policy in hand, read it. The policy is technically a legal contract, so it's best to understand your rights and responsibilities as an insurance customer. Your policy also provides information should you ever have to file a claim.

Use these six tips the next time you are shopping for auto insurance quotes to feel more secure that you've made the best decision.