The first rule of car insurance is to compare, compare, compare. You’ll see this over and over again; whether it’s a review site like ours or a resource like the Insurance Information Institute, you’ll be advised to get multiple quotes before choosing a provider. The reason? Every insurer weighs your personal details differently, meaning they’ll all quote you different prices. Comparing quotes is the only way to find the cheapest car insurance company for you.
It’s easy enough to check car insurance quotes online, but there are a few things you should know before getting started. Here we’ll answer the most frequently asked questions about car insurance quotes and share a few tips for getting the most accurate estimates.
What Are Car Insurance Quotes, Anyway?
A car insurance quote is simply an estimate of how much it would cost you to insure your vehicle through any given company. Quotes are an important part of the shopping-around process because they show you which insurer can offer you the best price before you buy. Experts recommend comparing quotes from at least three different car insurance companies to make sure you’re paying a fair price for the coverage you need.
How Do Car Insurance Quotes Work?
When a car insurance company gives you a quote, what it’s doing is determining how risky you’d be to insure. The more risk you present, the more likely it is the company would have to pay out on a claim — and thus, the more it’ll charge you. (In insurance-speak, this risk evaluation process is called “underwriting.”)
Car insurance companies determine risk (and therefore rates) by considering a wide variety of factors about you and your car. That’s why you’ll have to answer so many questions during the quote process. Details that count toward your car insurance rate include, but are not limited to:
- Your age
- Your driving record
- Your claims history
- The make, model, and year of your vehicle
- Your address (urban versus rural, high crime rate versus low, etc.)
- Your credit score
- The levels and types of coverage you choose
- How much you use your car, and for what purpose
- Whether or not you own a home
- Your marital status
- Your gender*
*Gender has traditionally played a role in underwriting, though as of 2019, some states are beginning to ban insurers from setting auto insurance rates based on gender.
Are Car Insurance Quotes Accurate?
Online car insurance quotes are as accurate as the information you provide. For a company to assess your risk level — and therefore give you a correct quote — it needs detailed information about you, your car, your driving record, and so on. If you rush through the quote form or give false information (like ignoring that pesky speeding ticket on your record), your online quote will be different from your final price.
So, what can you do to make sure you’re getting an accurate car insurance quote? Come to the table prepared. Whether you’re speaking with an agent or using an online quote tool, you’ll want to have the following information on hand:
- Personal information: birthdate, address, age first licensed, home ownership status, etc.
- Driver’s license and Social Security number (insurers might ask for one or the other)
- Make, model, year, and mileage of the vehicle you’re insuring
- Your driving record, including all past accidents, infractions, and tickets
- The driving record of anyone else who will be insured under your policy
- Information about your current insurance: the provider, your coverage levels, how long you’ve been insured with it
- Information about your insurance history: previous insurers, claims filed, total losses incurred from any given accident, etc.
- Vehicle safety specs: anti-lock brakes, air bags, anti-theft device, etc.
- Information about any driver safety courses you’ve completed
- Information about employment or special organizations you belong to (this could be considered for discounts)
Take note: Every quote form will require different information. Some might only ask a few questions — like your age, vehicle specs, and accident history — while some might hit all the topics listed above and then some. Though the more in-depth quote forms can be tedious to fill out, these are the ones that will return the most accurate quotes. It’s worth taking the time to fill out every question in detail so you end up with an accurate estimate.
Where Can I Get Car Insurance Quotes?
You can get car insurance quotes the traditional way — by walking into an office or calling an agent over the phone — or you can take things into your own hands and do your shopping online. If you go the online route, it’s important to be mindful of the sources of your quotes.
Some websites offer comparison tools that show prices from multiple providers at once. These make rate shopping a cinch, but the quotes are likely to be less accurate because they’re all based on the same few questions. It’s best to request quotes from insurers’ own websites, since each one will ask for information that’s relevant to its underwriting process. That way, providers can tailor the quote to you, and you’ll get a more accurate picture of who can offer you the cheapest car insurance rates.
Does Credit Score Affect Car Insurance Quotes?
Car insurance companies do consider your credit score when determining rates. This practice has been commonplace since 2003, when a study from the University of Texas found that people with higher credit scores are statistically less likely to file a car insurance claim and require insurance payouts. Put simply: Better credit means you’re considered lower-risk, and lower risk always means lower rates.
Do Car Insurance Quotes Hurt My Credit Score?
When car insurance companies pull your credit score for a quote, it’s what’s known as a “soft inquiry.” Soft inquiries will show up on your personal credit report, but they won’t ding your score or show up to lenders. “Hard inquiries,” the types of pulls that do knock points off your credit score, usually happen when you’re applying for new credit cards or loans (which is why you should avoid trying out too many credit cards). But when it comes to auto insurance, you’re safe to get as many quotes as you want without worrying about a credit backlash.
- Ready to check out rates for yourself? Start with our auto insurance quote comparison tool, which will point you toward some of the most popular providers in your area.
- If you’re still trying to figure out what companies are worth considering, start by checking our ratings for the top 20 car insurance providers in the nation, or dig a little deeper with our full-length review of the best auto insurance companies.