How to Buy Auto Insurance

A Concise Overview

  • Most states require drivers to have a certain level of car insurance
  • You can buy auto insurance online, through an agent, or with an independent broker
  • You may be able to save money when buying car insurance by shopping online and comparing quotes from multiple companies

Most states in the U.S. require car owners to have a minimum level of insurance coverage on their vehicles. Therefore, whether you own a car, truck, or SUV, you must meet the minimum auto insurance required by your state. In addition, if you are leasing or financing a vehicle, you will likely have additional requirements. 

There are several ways to purchase car insurance coverage, but choosing the best way for you could help you save time and money. You must carry proper insurance on your vehicle before you take it out on the road.

What type of auto insurance coverage do I need to buy?

The first step in purchasing car insurance is understanding how much coverage you must have on your vehicle. 

The table below shows the types and amounts of coverage each state requires. While some states only require bodily injury and property damage liability car insurance, others also require personal injury protection (PIP), medical payments (MedPay), and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.

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Minimum Liability Auto Insurance Coverage Requirements by State
StatesInsurance Coverage Required Minimum Liability Limits
AlabamaBodily injury and property damage liability25/50/25
AlaskaBodily injury and property damage liability50/100/25
ArizonaBodily injury and property damage liability15/30/10
ArkansasBodily injury and property damage liability, Personal injury protection (PIP)25/50/25
CaliforniaBodily injury and property damage liability15/30/5
ColoradoBodily injury and property damage liability25/50/15
ConnecticutBodily injury and property damage liability, uninsured motorist, underinsured motorist25/50/20
DelawareBodily injury and property damage liability, Personal injury protection (PIP)25/50/10
Washington, D.C.Bodily injury and property damage liability, uninsured motorist, underinsured motorist25/50/10
FloridaBodily injury and property damage liability, Personal injury protection (PIP)10/20/10
GeorgiaBodily injury and property damage liability25/50/25
HawaiiBodily injury and property damage liability, Personal injury protection (PIP)20/40/10
IdahoBodily injury and property damage liability25/50/15
IllinoisBodily injury and property damage liability, uninsured motorist, underinsured motorist25/50/20
IndianaBodily injury and property damage liability25/50/25
IowaBodily injury and property damage liability20/40/15
KansasBodily injury and property damage liability, Personal injury protection (PIP)25/50/25
KentuckyBodily injury and property damage liability, Personal injury protection (PIP), uninsured motorist, underinsured motorist25/50/25
LouisianaBodily injury and property damage liability15/30/25
MaineBodily injury and property damage liability, uninsured motorist, underinsured motorist, medical payments (MedPay)50/100/25
MarylandBodily injury and property damage liability, Personal injury protection (PIP), uninsured motorist, underinsured motorist30/60/15
MassachusettsBodily injury and property damage liability, Personal injury protection (PIP)20/40/5
MichiganBodily injury and property damage liability, Personal injury protection (PIP)20/40/10
MinnesotaBodily injury and property damage liability, Personal injury protection (PIP), uninsured motorist, underinsured motorist30/60/10
MississippiBodily injury and property damage liability25/50/25
MissouriBodily injury and property damage liability, uninsured motorist25/50/25
MontanaBodily injury and property damage liability25/50/20
NebraskaBodily injury and property damage liability, uninsured motorist, underinsured motorist25/50/25
NevadaBodily injury and property damage liability25/50/20
New HampshireFinancial responsibility only25/50/25
New JerseyBodily injury and property damage liability, Personal injury protection (PIP), uninsured motorist, underinsured motorist15/30/5
New MexicoBodily injury and property damage liability,25/50/10
New YorkBodily injury and property damage liability, Personal injury protection (PIP), uninsured motorist, underinsured motorist25/50/10
North CarolinaBodily injury and property damage liability, uninsured motorist, underinsured motorist30/60/25
North DakotaBodily injury and property damage liability, Personal injury protection (PIP), uninsured motorist, underinsured motorist25/50/25
OhioBodily injury and property damage liability25/50/25
OklahomaBodily injury and property damage liability25/50/25
OregonBodily injury and property damage liability, Personal injury protection (PIP), uninsured motorist, underinsured motorist25/50/20
PennsylvaniaBodily injury and property damage liability, Personal injury protection (PIP)15/30/5
Rhode IslandBodily injury and property damage liability, Personal injury protection (PIP) 25/50/25
South CarolinaBodily injury and property damage liability, uninsured motorist, underinsured motorist25/50/25
South DakotaBodily injury and property damage liability, uninsured motorist, underinsured motorist25/50/25
TennesseeBodily injury and property damage liability25/50/15
TexasBodily injury and property damage liability, Personal injury protection (PIP)30/60/25
UtahBodily injury and property damage liability, Personal injury protection (PIP)25/65/15
VermontBodily injury and property damage liability, uninsured motorist, underinsured motorist25/50/10
VirginiaBodily injury and property damage liability, uninsured motorist, underinsured motorist25/50/20
WashingtonBodily injury and property damage liability25/50/10
West VirginiaBodily injury and property damage liability, uninsured motorist, underinsured motorist25/50/25
WisconsinBodily injury and property damage liability, uninsured motorist, medical payments (MedPay)25/50/10
WyomingBodily injury and property damage liability25/50/20
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As you can see, requirements for mandatory car insurance can be highly different from one state to the next. For this reason, you must know what you’re required to carry on your vehicle before buying car insurance. 

Do I need to buy more than liability auto insurance?

Once you’ve learned the coverage you must carry, you should consider purchasing additional coverage on your vehicle for protection.

Liability only covers other individuals and their vehicles in the event of an accident. Therefore, you must purchase collision car insurance coverage if you want coverage for yourself and your car. Collision coverage will help if you’ve been in an accident and your vehicle has incurred damage. 

Similarly, comprehensive auto insurance will help you if your vehicle is damaged in a non-accident-related incident, such as inclement weather or theft.

You may think a liability policy sounds ideal for your vehicle, but you will have to pay for any damages to your car out of pocket. If you lease or finance a vehicle, you will likely be required to carry a full coverage auto insurance policy on your car that includes both comprehensive and collision coverage.

Should I get an insurance agent to help me buy auto insurance?

You can purchase a car insurance policy in a few different ways: online, with a captive insurance agent, or with an independent insurance broker.

More and more people are choosing to buy car insurance online. When you buy car insurance online, you may be able to receive insurance quotes, purchase your coverage, and print ID cards all at once. In this scenario, you do not need an insurance agent to buy a policy.

However, buying online may make it challenging to ask specific questions about discounts, coverage options, and more.

Buying car insurance with a captive agent allows you to have assistance from start to finish, allowing you to get answers to your questions more easily. But captive agents only work for one company, so you may not be getting the best deal on coverage for your vehicle.

If you choose to purchase insurance with the help of an independent broker, you should be able to find and compare quotes from multiple companies. But brokers often charge fees that could make this a less ideal option.

How can I buy car insurance online?

If you’re interested in buying car insurance online, you should use an online quote tool to find and compare multiple car insurance quotes from many companies at once. While there aren’t any specific search engines for car insurance, online quote tools are a great way to find the best deal on coverage.

Once you’ve narrowed your search and decided on a few companies, you can see if any of them can offer you an even lower monthly or annual rate with discounts on coverage. Many insurance companies use a variety of discounts to help policyholders save money, and you could save as much as 20% on your coverage if you qualify for a discount.

After you’ve decided on an insurance company, you will need to get some information ready, like: 

  • Your driver’s license number
  • Your social security number
  • Your car’s make and model
  • Your home address
  • An estimate of how many miles you drive per week
  • Information on your lease or loan, if applicable
  • Names and social security numbers of anyone else who will be on the policy

The company you’ve chosen as your insurance provider may not ask for all the information listed above, but it’s a good idea to have it ready just in case.

Once you purchase your insurance policy, you should print your insurance ID cards and put them with your vehicle’s registration or in another safe location in your car. 

Which companies offer the cheapest auto insurance policies?

Whether you purchase car insurance through an agent or online, you want to know you’ve gotten the best deal. 

The companies listed below often offer affordable insurance coverage:

  • USAA
  • GEICO
  • State Farm
  • Nationwide
  • Travelers
  • American Family
  • Progressive
  • Farmers
  • Allstate

Before choosing an insurance provider, shop online and compare quotes from multiple companies to ensure you get the best coverage deal.

The Bottom Line for Buying Auto Insurance

If you own a car, you need insurance. At the very least, you must meet your state’s requirements in terms of liability coverage, but it’s good to purchase additional coverage if you can. 

You can buy car insurance online or with an agent, but be sure to compare quotes from multiple companies so you know you’re not paying too much for coverage.

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