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The best way to purchase automobile insurance is to comparison shop. If you use a broker, you will have someone with whom to discuss your needs, comparative prices,  claims service and financial stability of the various companies in your state. For independent advice about how to locate and choose a broker, see the website of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners by clicking here offsite link.

Whether you use a broker or search on your own, it is advisable to::

  • First decide on what coverages you need and in what amount.
  • Then look at price, claim service and the financial stability of the company, for at least three different insurance companies.

If you can't obtain auto insurance because of a poor driving record, you may be able to get it through your state's assigned-risk or high-risk pool.

When looking, it may be helpful to understand how insurance premiums are calculated as a general matter because it helps direct you to save money.

Before you buy, read our article about How To Save Money On Car Insurance. If you don't know the insurance basics, read What Automobile Insurance Should I Buy And In What Amount?

If you have additional questions, contact the National Insurance Consumer Help Line at 800.942.5433.

How To Comparison Shop For Automobile Insurance

A broker can comparison shop for you.  If you choose to comparison shop for autombile insurance on your own, you will likely not be surprised to learn that the internet is a great source of information. If you type key words such as "how to comparison shop for automobile insurance" you will find a variety of sites that compare companies and coverages. Look for an independent site or sites rather than one sponsored by a particular insurance company.

Two good websites for getting quotes from a range of insurers are offsite link and offsite link. A few companies don't sell through independent brokers or through general web sites. For instance, Geico ( offsite link or 800.830.4010) and State Farm ( offsite link)


  • Even if you are using a broker, consider getting quotes from at least three different companies. The exact same coverage can be very different between different insurers. Charges can vary tremendously from company to company for the same set of facts. 
  • Make sure that all discounts that you qualify for are included in the quote.
  • Many state insurance departments offer price comparisons.
  • If you or a member of your family has been in the military, check out USAA at 800.365.8722


Consider an insurer's level of claims service.

  • Personal service may be worth paying for if your claim gets settled quickly and without hassles. Check your state insurance department for records of complaints filed against insurance companies.
  • You can also check complaints against automobile insurance companies at the web site run by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners at offsite link. In the search field, type in "complaints against auto insurance companies."
  • Also see Consumer Reports offsite linkratings of Automobile insurance companies. If you are not a member, the fee to join will likely be offset by the savings. 

Financial Standing:

Don't assume that all insurance companies are solid financially. Check the financial ratings of the companies you're considering with A.M. Best ( offsite link) or Standard and Poor's ( offsite link).


Check how broad the coverage is, including potential exclusions. Liability coverages will generally be approximately the same. The differences may be larger in other areas. For instance, with respect to damage to your vehicle, does the company insist on using generic aftermarket parts or are you permitted to use manufacturer parts.

What Factors Are Considered In Setting An Automobile Insurance Premium?

Insurers start with a dollar base rate for each type of coverage which reflects that company's ongoing experience with similar policies. Then the companies change that rate according to the individual applicant as follows::

  • Accidents: While the impact varies by company, generally accidents for which you were at fault during the past three years which result in your insurer paying at least $1,000 will cause your premium to increase. Some companies call this a "surcharge" and will drop it after a period of time during which you have no further accidents. Some companies have a policy of not considering the first accident when setting rates.
  • Your driving record -- particularly moving violations such as speeding tickets. Some people have such poor driving records that they are unable to obtain standard automobile insurance. However, states have "assigned risk" or "high-risk pools" to cover such drivers (see below.) You can check your record with the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE), a database of claims history that many insurers check to decide whether to insure you and how much to charge. ChoicePoint, an offshoot of Equifax, the credit-reporting company, maintains the database. To get a copy of your profile for free, click on C.L.U.E. Auto Report at offsite link,. Or call 866.312.8076.
  • The neighborhood where you live
  • The age of the other drivers -- particularly drivers age 25 or younger. Discounts may be available if a student maintains at least a B average and passes a driver-safety course.
  • Sex
  • Marital status
  • Your credit score. (Yes, your credit score.) Scoring models vary from company to company to determine how a person's credit will affect their likelihood of having an accident. Factors companies consider include payment history, credit balances, credit limits, the age of your earliest account, whether you shopped for loans and the type of loans you have. According to Consumer Reports, there does not appear to be any way of knowing whether your credit score will give you a lower or high premium because each insurer calculates scores differently.
  • Miles driven. If you don't drive many miles per year, some companies offer insurance tied to the amount of miles you drive each year (as verified by a car mounted Global Positioning System). This is particularly useful for a second car.

Assigned-Risk Or High-Risk Pools

An assigned-risk pool is a state-sponsored pool that provides a means of obtaining automobile coverage even if you have a poor driving record due to accidents or moving violations.

Rates for pool members are generally higher than for similar coverage in the private market, and coverage is generally more limited.

If you are told that you have to go into an assigned risk pool, check with other brokers or insurance companies to see if their underwriting standards are more lenient.

Once your driving record improves, start shopping for private insurance companies. The law of your state may even mandate that after a given period without accidents or violations private insurance companies must reconsider covering you.

To locate the assigned-risk or high-risk pool in your state, contact your State Insurance Department. To find the department in your state, click here offsite link