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Insurance

What do you need to get car insurance? Have this information ready before you call auto insurers

Have this information ready when you're calling for an auto insurance quote.

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Driving with car insurance protects you financially and legally, but let's face it — it's not fun to shop for. But don't let your boredom cause you to rush the process and leave you with higher premiums than necessary. Take an hour to gather all the info you need to quickly and competently gather multiple quotes from different auto insurance companies, and you'll turn a rainy Saturday afternoon into time well spent.

Below, CNBC Select lists the information you'll likely need to shop for car insurance and explains how to navigate the process.

What you need to buy car insurance

Personal information

When you call an insurer, they'll probably ask you for some personal information first. For example, State Farm can start with your name, address and date of birth. This will allow them to search your public records for your prior insurance history, as well as your household's vehicles and drivers. After that, you'll need to provide more specific information to determine your coverage needs — and its cost.

State Farm Auto Insurance

  • Cost

    The best way to estimate your costs is to request a quote

  • App available

    Yes

  • Policy highlights

    State farm is one of the largest auto insurers based on market share and has an excellent reputation for customer satisfaction. It offers 13 discounts, including ones for safe driving and young drivers.

  • Terms apply.

Be prepared to provide your Social Security and driver's license numbers and talk about your driving history, including any tickets, accidents or license suspensions. The insurer will also probably ask about your marital status and household. For instance, Nationwide wants to know about everyone in your household, including their names, birthdates and relationship to you: your spouse or partner, children, parents and grandparents and even roommates. This also includes people in your household who don't drive.

Nationwide Auto Insurance

  • Cost

    The best way to estimate your costs is to request a quote

  • App available

    Yes

  • Policy highlights

    Nationwide offers near-nationwide availability and personalized services, such as On Your Side® Review, a free annual insurance evaluation to ensure you are adequately protected and are taking advantage of any discounts available to you.

Terms apply.

Further, depending on the company, you may have to provide documentation to receive certain discounts. If a good student discount is available, you might need to send your most recent report card to qualify. Or if you want a military discount, expect to produce a copy of your military ID.

Information about your vehicle

Second, you'll need to have information about your vehicle handy. This typically includes:

  • Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
  • Make, model and year
  • Body style
  • Mileage
  • Registered owners
  • Address where the car is garaged (usually your address)
  • How much you usually drive

Besides that, information about certain vehicle equipment and features can also result in discounts. Geico, our top pick for the cheapest car insurance, advertises discounts of up to 23% for if your car has an anti-theft system. Additionally, having daytime running lights can save you 3% and anti-lock brakes can get you 5% off.

Geico Auto Insurance

  • Cost

    The best way to estimate your costs is to request a quote

  • App available

    Yes

  • Policy highlights

    Geico coverage and services are available in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and there are 16 different types of discounts available. In addition to the standard coverage options, Geico offers various optional add-ons, such as emergency roadside assistance, rental car reimbursement and mechanical breakdown insurance.

  • Terms apply.

Current insurance information

Finally, if you're switching insurance providers, the new company will want to know about your existing (or most recent) policy. This can include the insurance carrier, policy expiration date and coverage information, such as deductibles and limits.

For that reason, it can be helpful to have your previous policy ready when you're calling your potential new insurer.

Payment information

When you're ready to purchase an auto insurance policy, the insurance company will likely require the first payment up front — meaning they'll need your payment information.

This is yet another opportunity to lower your insurance premiums. Many companies offer discounts if you pay for your policy in full or set up automatic payments from your credit card, debit card or bank account.

How to get car insurance

Once you have all the information and paperwork you might need in front of you, it's time to start calling insurance companies and get your new auto insurance policy. Here's how it generally goes:

  • Research auto insurance companies. Remember that while getting a good deal might be a priority, it's also important to find an insurer you can rely on. Make sure to read up on reviews to find affordable and reliable companies.
  • Evaluate your coverage needs. Everyone's insurance needs are different — coverage that's great for young people might not be the best choice for seniors. Determine how much insurance you need and tailor your coverage to your specific situation.
  • Compare quotes. Pick at least three insurance companies based on your research and get in touch with them to get quotes. This is where having all the information handy will become helpful.
  • Pay for your new policy. Once you're done shopping, choose the insurance carrier that offers the coverage you need at the best price. At this step, you'll need to pay for your policy to secure your coverage. Usually, you have the option to either pay in full or in installments.
  • Get your insurance identification card. You need to have proof of insurance at all times when you're driving. You can go old school and print your insurance ID card to keep in your glove box, or you can use your insurer's mobile app to access an electronic copy. Or have both forms of insurance ID to make sure your bases are covered.
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Bottom line

You'll probably need to provide a significant amount of information about yourself and your vehicle to get accurate quotes from auto insurance companies. It helps to have it all ready before you begin insurance shopping. Remember that some of this information can qualify you for savings — so make sure to ask the insurance agent about discounts.

Why trust CNBC Select?

At CNBC Select, our mission is to provide our readers with high-quality service journalism and comprehensive consumer advice so they can make informed decisions with their money. Every insurance guide is based on rigorous reporting by our team of expert writers and editors with extensive knowledge of insurance products. While CNBC Select earns a commission from affiliate partners on many offers and links, we create all our content without input from our commercial team or any outside third parties, and we pride ourselves on our journalistic standards and ethics. See our methodology for more information on how we choose the best insurance companies.

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Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.
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