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How To Get An Auto Insurance Quote

Written by W. Lane Startin. Posted in Research Last Updated: 11/15/2010

How to avoid inaccurate quotes by providing specific information, verifying your driving record, and running your credit check sooner than later.

He didn't get the best quote.

When quoting auto insurance, there's no such thing as TMI.

Have you ever been given a quote for auto insurance only to find that when the policy is written the premium is nowhere close to what you were told?

This happens to a lot of people, and often times it’s because the insurance company found information which wasn’t provided but ultimately had a profound impact on the price. Doing your homework before shopping for insurance quotes can save you money – and a big headache – later on.

Basic Information for an Insurance Quote

Getting the best auto insurance quote relies entirely on the information provided. While it should be obvious to provide basic information on drivers and vehicles, some other bits of information may not be. For example, knowing how many miles you drive to work one-way or what ZIP code your car is parked in can make a difference as well.

While year, make and model of your vehicle is sufficient to run a quote, providing the full VIN during the can uncover some sometimes surprising differences. In addition to identifying your specific vehicle, a VIN also provides detailed information regarding your vehicle’s specifications. While not terribly common, there can be significant differences in insurance ratings between nearly-identical vehicles. If that’s the case with you, a quote using a VIN will identify the issue right away.

Also make sure you’re quoting the same liability and full coverage levels from company to company. Insurance agents call it “comparing apples to apples,” and it’s important.

Check your Driving Record Before Quoting

When looking for the best quote it’s better to have too much information than not enough when it comes to tickets, accidents and claims. List all accidents, tickets and claims you’ve incurred in the last five years, no matter how trivial you think they may be. While some companies will look at the full five-year history, others may only be interested in the last three years. Also, not all companies look at the same things. This can potentially result in a substantial difference in quoted premiums.

Many states provide online driving histories on their DMV web sites for a small fee. If you need to refresh your memory on things that happened several years ago, this can be a good resource.

But you don’t have to do that.

Instead, have an insurance agent run a full driving history profile on you. These histories not only include tickets, but also include claim information that won’t be found in state DMV databases. These are also the reports that insurance companies use when rating their auto insurance policies. Knowing what’s on the source documents definitely helps.

These driving history reports can and do have occasional errors. Don’t be afraid to ask your agent for a copy of this report and point out any problems. A good agent will work with you to ensure any negative, erroneous information is disregarded by underwriting.

Give Yourself Some Credit

Many insurance companies offer discounts based on credit. While bad credit usually just means there’s no discount, people with particularly good credit can get very substantial discounts of up to 40 percent with many companies. Typically the information needed for a credit score is a full Social Security number and current address.

Keep in mind, credit checks made by insurance companies are not the same as a full credit check made by a bank. Insurance agents don’t have access to or use your standard FICO credit score. Instead the credit score they use for quoting and rating purposes is typically determined by proprietary means. In other words, there’s really no way to determine your credit score from an insurance quote. What information the agent can provide you generally has no relevance outside the insurance company.

While the credit check is not actually necessary until the policy is written and goes to underwriting, getting it done at the quote stage gives you the most accurate quoted premium. In terms of knowing exactly what you’ll pay, running the check sooner than later is far superior to simply saying your credit is “good.”

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W. Lane Startin

Lane is a former insurance agent with two well-known and highly rated companies. He left the world of insurance sales to return to his first love, writing. He enjoys helping people unravel the intricacies of insurance without the bias created by working for commission. He’s a graduate of Idaho State University and by extension a long-suffering Bengals fan. Lane blogs at Car Insurance Guidebook.

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