how to compare car insurance policies

As a car insurance shopper, odds are you've been urged to "compare quotes online!" But what, exactly, should you be comparing (total cost, coverage options, font style)? This point-by-point breakdown will help you compare your way to the right policy.

comparing policies side by side

There's more to comparing car insurance rates than simply checking the bottom line. Here are some tips for a more in-depth inspection of how a premium is determined.

comparing coverages

It's easy to focus on the final premium, but check on your coverage selections, limits, and deductibles before considering that final price.

Esurance offers coverages to protect your vehicle, your passengers, your finances, and (of course) you.

Find out what each coverage is designed to protect.

Make sure the policies match up

You might find that the cheapest policy offers the least amount of coverage, which means it offers the least amount of financial protection after an accident. Go through your various quotes carefully to ensure the coverage selections line up. As a general rule, you want the most coverage that you can comfortably afford.

Decide your coverage options

When it comes to car insurance, you have a number of policy options. You can select higher-than-required liability limits, pad your policy with optional coverages like comprehensive and collision, and add extra services like towing and labor or rental car coverage.

Go into each quote with a good understanding of your budget, your driving habits, and your financial risk tolerance. That way you'll select consistent policy options as you quote, which will help you compare apples to apples before you buy.

comparing premiums and discounts

Some coverages come with deductibles, which you'll pay before that coverage can kick in. Raising your deductible can lower your premium and vice versa. Limits can also influence what you pay. Choosing higher coverage limits offers additional financial protection in case of an incident, while lower coverage limits bring a correspondingly lower premium.

Once you make sure you're comparing matching coverage selections, limits, and deductibles, look into the discounts each provider offers. Discounts are great money-savers, but not all discounts are created equal. One provider's discount may reward you in a way that another's doesn't (like our Claim-Free discount, which is available in certain states and rewards a clean driving record), while another insurer's discounts may have a limited lifespan. Read through the terms of each discount and take these savings into account while you compare.

Determine how you'll be paying your premium

You can often save a few bucks by paying your premium in full at the start of a policy term. When you're comparing quotes, make sure to note whether their prices reflect a paid-in-full method or a monthly payment.

comparing companies

Chances are you don't want to do business with a shady, unreliable, or ineffective company — no matter how good the rates or coverage options seem. Here are some suggestions to help you get comfortable with a potential insurer:

Visit your state's department of insurance site

Want to know what people are really saying about a company? Checking with your state's DOI can get you access to an auto insurer's consumer complaint ratio. This shows you how a company's customers are generally responding to the service they've received.

Check the business vitals

Reference trusted rankings from places like J.D. Power and Associates and A.M. Best to compare the professionalism and financial strength of various companies.

Factor in customer service

An auto insurer, no matter how trustworthy, doesn't do you much good if its services aren't readily available. You should check into simple things like hours of operation (are they open for claims 24/7?), as well as more sophisticated elements like cutting-edge mobile apps. Simply ask yourself: does this company make it easy for me to get exactly what I need?

Visit the community

It's easy to find out how a company's customers interact with the company. Visit the insurer's Facebook Wall and Twitter feed to get a sneak peek of the community you're about to join.

shopping around to find the best insurance policy

Searching through online insurance quotes is key to getting the most from your auto coverage.

Now that you have a good idea of how to compare, get started with Esurance's free and easy comparison quotes feature. You'll see your free Esurance quote alongside real quotes from other top companies. And if you find a better rate from one of the other companies, we'll even help you buy that policy through our site.

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