Top tips for shop a car insurance

The word shopping brings a feeling of immediate excitement to most people. But if you combine the word shopping with car insurance — as in “shopping for car insurance” — it produces the opposite effect. The thought of shopping for auto insurance makes the eyes glaze over and the heart rate drop to the pace of a slumbering couch potato. Couch potato? Indeed. Doug Heller, a consumer advocate at The Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights (a California-based consumer advocacy group) and a recognized insurance issues specialist, told us that too often “people purchase insurance by calling the number on the screen.”

But wait, this is important stuff! You want to be adequately covered if you get in an accident. And you certainly don’t want to pay more for car insurance than you should. Maybe waiting for a solution to be beamed into your living room is not the best idea.

How can you stay awake while navigating through this murky subject? Just remember: There is money to be saved. How much? Hundreds, even thousands, per year. For example, one of the authors typed all of his insurance information into a comparative insurance service. The quotes (for very basic coverage on two old cars) ranged from $1,006 to $1,807 — a difference of $801 a year. If you’re currently dumping thousands into your insurance company’s coffers because of a couple of tickets, an accident or a questionable credit rating, shopping your policy against others may be well worth the effort.

Look at it this way — you can convert the money you save into the purchase of something you’ve lusted after for a long time. Hold that goal in your mind. Now, let’s begin.

Before you can shop for something, you have to decide what you need. The first step in finding the right auto insurance for you is to figure out the amount of coverage you need. This varies from state to state. So take a moment to find out what coverage is required where you live. Make a list of the different types of coverage and then return for the next step. (You will find a list of each state’s requirements and an explanation of the various types of insurance in “How Much Auto Insurance Do You Really Need?”. Also, check out “Little-Known But Important Insurance Issues” as it has a glossary of basic insurance terminology.)

Now that you know what is required, you can decide what — if anything — you need in addition to that. Some people are quite cautious. They base their lives on worst-case scenarios. Insurance companies love these people. That’s because insurance companies know what your chances are of being killed or maimed, and how likely it is for your car to be damaged or stolen. The information the insurance company has collected over previous decades is crunched into “actuarial tables” that give insurance adjustors a quick look at the probability of just about any occurrence.

It is important to keep in mind that the basis of insurance is a difference of opinion between you (the insured) and them (the insurance company). You believe you will, at some point, probably get in an auto accident. The car insurance company believes you probably won’t. And the insurance company is willing to take your money to prove you wrong.

So how much auto insurance should you buy beyond your state’s minimums?

“Look at your personal financial situation,” Dennis Howard, director of the Insurance Consumer Advocate Network (I-CAN) and former insurance adjuster, advised. “If you have assets to protect — and that is all insurance is doing — get enough liability coverage.” For instance, if you purchase $50,000 of bodily injury liability coverage but have $100,000 in assets, attorneys could go after your treasures in the event of an accident in which you’re at-fault and the other party’s medical bills exceed $50,000.