Getting the best insurance for your car is about having the right kind of coverage with appropriate limits. If you’re looking for the cheapest rates and minimum liability coverage, the best car insurance company for you will be different than the best option for a driver that wants full coverage and top-rated customer service. We'll walk you through deciding which ones or what level of protection make the most sense for you.
"Teens are very likely to pick up the habits of their parents,” says J.C. Fawcett of the Defensive Driving School. “A parent should think about. Do I cuss at other drivers while driving? Do I speed? Do I tailgate? The training that comes from students observing their parents is very powerful. If a parent attempts to change their habits only when their teen is learning to drive, it's probably 10 years too late."
If you have a significant amount of financial assets, or regularly engage in activities that could lead to a liability claim being made against you, then umbrella protection is the best benefit to add to your coverage. It steps in when claims and payouts under all your other coverages are used up, such as your car insurance policy's liability coverage, but you still have more damages to pay. While infrequent, car pile-ups or severe accidents resulting in death are the types of incidents that could get covered by your umbrella policy. It's just a few dollars more, but can get you up to millions more in necessary protection when there's a lot to lose.
Progressive impressed us with a solid array of discounts, including deductions for simple things like signing a new policy early and opting for paperless billing. The company has historically been known for insuring "riskier" drivers than many of its competitors, and it shows: Progressive is our only contender that offers a near unheard-of discount for drivers under 18 (who have a crash rate that’s almost nine times higher than that of middle-aged drivers).
Liability insurance covers you if you’re in an accident deemed to be your fault. It will cover repairs to damaged property, as well as medical bills resulting from injury to the other driver and his or her passengers. Most states require at least a minimum amount of liability insurance, but it’s a good idea to purchase extra protection if you can afford it.
While the above is the lowest amount of insurance coverage you can have, you should consider adding more if you have more to lose. For example, we typically advise drivers to match their liability coverage to what they have in total assets. If you own a house in one of the most expensive zip codes in California, Atherton, and have sizable savings and investment accounts, we'd recommend you increase your liability limits and consider adding umbrella coverage on top. On the other hand, if you're a first-year student at UCLA, you may be fine with liability limits that are closer to the minimum.
Any car insurance comparison tool you look at should have your state’s minimum car insurance requirements pre-loaded into its options. States requiring PIP or medpay are generally referred to as “no-fault” states, meaning that when injuries occur, each driver in a crash makes a claim with their own insurance company to pay for them. Beyond the PIP or medpay limit, the at-fault driver’s liability insurance kicks in to cover the rest.
Results: Insurify produced nine quotes, starting at $78/month, each with the option to contact the insurance company immediately or schedule a phone call for a later time. Some of the quotes included helpful information about the policy or the insurance company offering it. The site allowed me to change the coverage from the left-hand sidebar, and it was easy to click on the different coverages and see the prices change in real time.
Ameriprise was the winner of the J.D. Power study, scoring a 5/5 stars overall. They got top marks in their billing practices and in the flexibility of policies they offer to customers. They had slightly lower marks in their claims handling process (4/5) as well as their agents' interaction with customers. We could not get pricing for Ameriprise but the company is generally known for offering affordable and competitive rates.
The next step is to look for a list of reputable and dependable insurers licensed in your state. States often produce annual reports that rank companies by their complaints. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners publishes complaint data at the Customer Information Source. Another source we recommend are industry surveys and consumer organizations. J.D. Power, for example, measures satisfaction on pricing, policy offerings, and claims handling. AM Best's Financial Strength Rating measures a company's financial ability to pay out insurance claims. Pick a handful of companies from these sources, about three to five, that are generally well rated.
How it works: Once I launched the quoting tool for auto insurance, I was greeted by a large-print brag that “Drivers Pay As Low As $29.32/Month for Car Insurance.” When I began filling in my vehicle information, the site offered to save me time by looking up the information for me—a frightening reminder of how much of our personal information is available online. The contact information fields were accompanied by text stating that “we respect your privacy” and “NO SPAM, privacy guaranteed.”
Results: Once I typed in the requested zip code I was immediately taken to a page with links to four actual insurance quote comparison websites. Rather than create a quoting tool of its own, ValuePenguin has apparently chosen to guide visitors to other comparison websites. All in all, you’d be better off just skipping ValuePenguin and going straight to a site that will produce quotes for you.
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