Typically, when looking for car insurance, you’ll head to car insurance comparison sites to find the best deal on a policy. But the process isn’t always as simple as it seems.
Each car insurance policy contains its own details, and when you’re looking at quotes from several companies, there can be differences in service that aren’t always obvious through pricing alone.
Car insurance comparison websites are an excellent way to compare car insurance quotes, if you know what to look for. Make sure the details between each quote are actually the same, otherwise you may get a lower price quote, but for inferior coverage.
How can you compare car insurance quotes with some level of confidence that you’re getting the expected coverage at a lower rate? Keep reading to find out.
Get quotes from several insurance companies
The best way to approach evaluating car insurance quotes is to get quotes from several carriers—four or five at a time—and match specific details between them.
One company may be offering an especially low rate compared to the others. When that happens, your radar should go up immediately. If you get quotes from five companies and four of them are quoting around $100 per month, but one comes in at $65, you have good reason to be suspicious.
The lowball company may be excluding certain types of coverage, or making assumptions about your driving profile that aren’t true.
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Make sure the insurance companies are reputable
Shopping for car insurance isn’t all about getting the lowest price. If you go with the company that offers the lowest premium, but find out that they have a long history of not paying claims, the money you’ll pay for the policy will be completely wasted.
The best way to investigate a car insurance company is to check them out through objective sources.
You can find overall ratings through A.M. Best, which is widely recognized as the prime rating agency for the insurance industry.
The following grades represent strong insurance companies:
- A++, A+ (Superior)
- A, A− (Excellent)
- B++, B+ (Good)
Grades below B+ can indicate that the company has financial problems. A company that’s struggling financially will be more likely to not pay claims, or to pay them only partially.
You should also contact the Better Business Bureau in your area to see if any complaints have been filed against the insurance company. Most likely, the complaints will relate to payment of claims, and if you see too many it’s a clear red flag.
Finally, word of mouth can be a reliable indicator. Check around and see if anyone you know is covered by the insurance company, and if they have ever filed a claim.
You can also do a web search, entering the name of the insurance company with the word “scam” (or a similar term) and see what comes up. This is not an entirely reliable method, since people often go on the web to vent, but if you see a consistent pattern of complaints about realistic sounding negative situations, the company may be a bad choice.
Make sure the policy details are the same for each quote
Most comparison websites do a reasonable job of making sure that policy quotes from different providers are consistent in their coverage. But sometimes there are details that can make a big difference.
For example, though each company may reflect a $500 deductible for the liability portion of the policy, it may not be consistent with collision and comprehensive coverage. One company may have a $500 deductible for liability, but a $1,000 deductible for collision and comprehensive.
Take a close look at additional services and exclusions
Car insurance policies often come with a variety of extra features. Some features may be completely meaningless to you, but others might be significant.
For example, some car insurance policies offer towing and labor cost coverage. In addition to basic towing services, they can offer tire changes for flats, emergency jump starts, lockout assistance, and even gasoline delivery, should you run out (hey, it happens to everybody sooner or later).
If your car is newer that service may not be important to you, but if your car is more than five years old and has an occasional breakdown, it can save you some money in an emergency situation.
Another feature is rental reimbursement coverage. This is a service that pays for a rental car while your car is being repaired. One company may offer to reimburse up to $30 per day for a car rental, while another may limit it to $15 per day, and some may not reimburse you at all.
None of these add-on services might make or break a policy, but they could be important if you’re weighing out two closely priced policies.
Evaluate your specific personal circumstances
Naturally, car insurance companies give their best quote in order to get the highest number of potential customers, but the best quote may not necessarily work based on your personal circumstances.
It’s very important to understand that each insurance company gives different weight to various negatives in your profile. This can include your credit rating, any traffic citations, accidents, or even drunk driving episodes. If you have any one of these issues running against you, the impact on the premium can vary dramatically from one company to another.
The details also work going in the other direction. For example, some companies may offer advantageous pricing based on bundling your car insurance with other policies. They may also provide discounts for being a good student, being a homeowner, or offer a substantial discount for making an annual payment, compared with monthly payments.
This is where you need to remember that any quote you get, particularly on the web, is a preliminary offer. The actual premium may change as you provide more specific information.
Related: How Much Car Insurance Do You Really Need?
Getting car insurance quotes can be tricky and ultimately depends on your driving record. Look closely at any quote you get. There’s plenty in the fine print that can sway you one way or the other.
Ultimately, if you have questions, ask. Contact the insurance company, use Google, ask around. Get as much information as possible before deciding on a quote.