If you want to drive your car on the public road system, then automobile insurance isn’t just recommended, it’s a legal requirement. However, finding the right auto insurance provider isn’t always easy. According to the latest report by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, there are more than 5,000 domestic insurers in the United States, and more than 10,000 based in other countries and serving the United States.

Fortunately, many of those are smaller local companies or branches of larger insurance groups, but the choice can still be tough. If you’re wondering how to find the best auto insurance for you, then there are a few criteria that you should consider, and a few steps you should take to ensure you’re getting the best possible deal.

Types of Coverage

The first thing you should consider, before even looking for a provider, is what kind of coverage you’re after. If you’re simply looking for state minimum, your options are going to be quite different than if you’re after full premium coverage, and your ideal choice will be quite a bit different.

There are quite a few different types of coverage available, with each company offering something a little different beyond the state’s minimum requirements. For example, one insurance company’s coverage plans for flood damage could differ from another’s. Some insurance companies may not offer flood coverage at all.

The coverage you want will also depend heavily on where you are. For example, theft coverage may not be necessary if you’re in the suburbs of Irvine, but if you live somewhere with a high rate of car thefts, then you’ll probably want some coverage for it.

Where to Shop

Too often, people will “shop for car insurance” by simply calling the number on an insurance ad or settling with the first company they find. This can end up costing you hundreds, or sometimes even thousands more than it needs to. So, it’s important to shop around for the best coverage and the best prices.

There are two ways to go about this, and the best course of action is usually to follow both of them. The first is going to a website that will give you quotes from tens or even hundreds of companies instantly. This can give you a rough idea of the prices for different levels of coverage. However, once you’ve found a few companies that you like, it’s a good idea to go to their websites directly and go through the process of getting a proper quote, based on the exact coverage you need. Sites like Edmunds can give you some information on individual insurance companies, and services such as Netquote are good for getting batch quotes.

What to Look For

So, you know how to look for a deal, but you’re not sure exactly what you should keep an eye out for?

As is the answer to most of the questions here, it depends on what you’re after. In all cases, you should make sure the company is reputable and actually ponies up payments when valid claims are made. It’s also important to make sure they at least offer the state minimum insurance. But aside from that, the best judge about what you want is, unsurprisingly, your own judgment.

If you’re trying to get the cheapest possible premiums, then you’ll end up looking at companies with lower coverage and higher deductibles. If you’re after low deductibles, then you’ll be looking at companies with higher premiums. Better coverage or more coverage also means higher premiums. You should be looking for plans that fit both your budget, your personal needs, and the factors affecting the area you live in. You shouldn’t be looking for the lowest price, but rather the best fit for your circumstances. Premiums and deductibles should be major factors in your decision, but not the only ones.

How to Compare Rates

So, you know what you want, you’ve found a few reputable insurance companies you like, and they all offer the coverage you’re after. So, how do you figure out which is best for you? The answer is by comparing their rates.

One way to do that is by simply calling up and asking for a quote, then doing the same for every other company in your list. Try to find a deductible that works for you and look for companies that offer a deductible in that range, comparing premiums in line with that deductible. You can also use an insurance quote website to get a large number of quotes quickly, although they’re generally less accurate for specific cases.

If you do compare rates, and you really like what one company offers, then they may be worth a higher rate. At the end of the day, if you do your homework diligently, and shop around with enough companies, then it’ll be a lot easier to find the best auto insurance for your specific needs, at a rate that works for you.

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This article was worked on by a variety of people from the Autoversed team, including freelancers, editors, and/or other full-time employees.