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How many car insurance quotes do you need to get?

Chris Kissell

How many quotes will you get the next time you shop for car insurance?   

If you’re like the majority of customers, you’ll get two or three. In fact, 57 percent of shoppers fell into this category in 2012, according to comScore Inc.’s 2012 Online Auto Insurance Shopping Report.

Although experts say there’s no magic number of car insurance quotes you should obtain, Carole Walker’s suggestion echoes standard advice. “You should get at least three different price quotes,” says Walker, executive director of the nonprofit Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association.

By getting at least three quotes, you’ll get a better sense of what the insurance marketplace has to offer you. Extra achievers go the extra mile – 19 percent of shoppers obtained at least four car insurance quotes in 2012.

But what about the 24 percent who got just one quote? Walker says they’re making a costly mistake. “If you stop with one quote, you may be paying more than you need to,” she says.

Missing out on price breaks

Drivers who obtain just one quote likely pay a higher premium and miss out on more discounts than people who compare insurers, Walker says.

“Prices for the same coverage can vary by hundreds of dollars from company to company, so it does pay to shop around,” she says.

Lori Conarton, spokeswoman for the Insurance Institute of Michigan, says: “Different insurance companies specialize in different types of risk.”

What may be classified as extremely risky by one insurer – from DUI convictions to numerous speeding tickets – may be less worrisome to another. As a result, your driving and insurance history may get you a better price from one insurer than from another.

“The insurance marketplace is highly competitive, which means many options for consumers,” Conarton says.

How to shop

Pete Moraga, a spokesman for the nonprofit Insurance Information Network of California, says obtaining several car insurance quotes allows you “to see how prices will vary from company to company.”

The best way to shop is to get a sampling of insurance companies and compare them for the same types of coverage, Moraga says. Today, that’s easier than ever. “Websites can give you multiple quotes with the stroke of a key,” he says.

If you prefer the old-fashioned approach, thumb through the phone book to find insurers and call at least three of them. The Insurance Information Institute offers a “Find an insurance company” tool on its website.

Another method is to contact an independent insurance agent who can look for the best deal from several companies.

Before you begin to get quotes, make sure you’ve gathered all the information you’ll need. This includes: 

  • Your driver’s license number.
  • Home address.
  • Number of miles you drive to and from work.
  • Accident and traffic violation information.
  • Car vehicle identification number (VIN).
  • Make, model and year of the car.

When gathering quotes, it’s important for drivers to look beyond price, Walker says. “Be wary of buying a bare-bones car insurance policy,” she says.

Also, Walker suggests steering clear of any agent or company that tries to talk you into buying just the minimum of coverage required in your state. Buying the state minimum is unlikely to protect you if you get into a significant crash where you cause significant damage to another person or vehicle. Saving money doesn’t make sense if it leaves you inadequately covered.

“The only reason you have insurance is so that it will provide what you need when you need it the most – when you file a claim,” Walker says.

Conarton agrees, saying shoppers need to “make sure the company has a good reputation for service and claims handling.”

Two ratings agencies, A.M. Best and Standard & Poor’s, offer overviews of an insurer’s financial health.

Conarton suggests using one other tried-and-true method of finding good service: “Ask friends, neighbors and co-workers for recommendations.”


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