What is a car insurance quote?

A car insurance quote is an estimate of the cost of a policy, and it shows you how much you’ll pay for coverage from different companies.

Policygenius content follows strict guidelines for editorial accuracy and integrity. Learn about our editorial standards and how we make money.

When you apply for car insurance, you choose coverage levels and enter personal details like your location, age, marital status, credit score, and driving history. Insurance companies consider all of these elements and then give you an estimate of what you’ll pay for a policy. This estimate is called a quote.

Ready to shop car insurance?

Start calculator

When you get a car insurance quote you can adjust your coverage levels, available add-ons, and the deductible amounts in order to see how your final rate will be affected before officially purchasing coverage.

Key Takeaways

  • When you shop for car insurance, each company you compare will give you a quote — the estimated cost of an auto insurance policy.

  • Quotes are determined by the amount of coverage you're buying, as well as your deductible, discounts you qualify for, and the term length of your policy. 

  • Your quoted car insurance rate will also be influenced by personal information, including your location, driving history, credit score, make and model of your car, and more.

  • Since auto insurance quotes are free and you can get multiple quotes online, you should shop around to find your best rates.

What is a car insurance quote?

A car insurance quote is an estimate of what you could pay for coverage. Auto insurance quotes are estimates of your premium, but the actual cost of your policy could change if you decide to buy a policy. The cost you pay for car insurance is determined by:

  • Coverage limits: Before you can get a car insurance quote, you'll have to select the amount of coverage you want. Your selections influence the cost of your policy and will be displayed along with your estimated price when you're finished. While you can lower your coverage limits to get a more affordable rate, companies will not allow you to purchase less than the minimum amount required in your state.

  • Potential add-ons: Car insurance quotes also account for the cost of available add-ons or auto endorsements. Endorsements — like rental reimbursement and roadside assistance — offer more protection than a standard policy and may help provide the most complete coverage.

  • Your policy's deductible: A deductible is the amount of money that you're responsible for paying before you receive a settlement after a non-liability claim. Auto insurance deductibles are usually at least between $500 and $2,500 — though it depends on the company. Opting for higher deductibles results in cheaper car insurance, but raises the minimum amount of damage your provider will cover.

  • How long your policy lasts: Your car insurance quote will also show you whether you’ll receive coverage for six months or one year. Depending on the length of your policy, your quote may also tell you how often you have to make a payment — if you decide not to pay all at once.

  • Discounts you qualify for: Usually companies list the discounts you qualify for when you get an auto insurance quote. Insurers often consider details about your driving record and other personal information to determine whether you can get cheaper rates.

Auto insurance quotes are not receipts or terms of coverage. They're meant to provide an idea of what you can expect your policy to cost and what it will cover. When you decide to purchase coverage, you will confirm your coverage and other details, provide payment, and begin your coverage at your desired date.

How do companies determine car insurance quotes?

The rates you see in your quotes will depend on how high you set your coverage limits. When you add more coverage, your rates will get more expensive. Getting less coverage makes car insurance more affordable, but means that a policy offers less protection.

Besides the amount of coverage you want, there are several other factors that go into determining your individual insurance rates. Some of these you can control, but some are more difficult to change.

  • Your age: Young drivers and new drivers pay more for coverage than average, as they're perceived as inexperienced, impulsive, and more risky to insure than someone with more time behind the wheel. 

  • Your driving record: If you have been involved in a crash or have received a ticket, you will pay more than average with most insurance providers. When you get a car insurance quote and are asked about your driving history, you shouldn't lie to your insurer about past accidents or violations to get cheaper coverage — you may be committing fraud if you do, and could face legal consequences.

  • Where you live: Even the ZIP code you enter on a car insurance quote can affect your rates. Premiums are more likely to be higher in population-dense areas and cities, places where there are more uninsured drivers, and areas with high rates of theft or vandalism.

  • Your credit score: In many states, auto insurance companies will factor in your credit score as a part of what’s called an insurance score. Drivers with poor credit may pay more or be denied coverage from certain companies, though this practice is illegal in some states.

  • Your insurance company: Different companies may be more lenient about violations or poor credit than others. You could get rates that are hundreds of dollars apart for the same vehicle, depending on who you get a quote from.

Learn more about how car insurance premiums are calculated

How to get free car insurance quotes

It's not difficult to get car insurance quotes. Most companies allow you to get auto insurance quotes online. You can also work with an independent broker to compare multiple quotes with one application. Both of these options are free and allow you to get quotes quickly.

When getting a quote, you should be prepared to share some information about yourself and your vehicle. Insurers will want to verify your address, whether you've already got coverage and your insurance history, your name and date of birth, and the length of time you've owned your vehicle. You should also know:

  • When you want your new policy to start

  • The year your vehicle was manufactured

  • The make and model of your car

  • The vehicle identification number (VIN) of the car you want to insure

  • Whether your own your car or lease it

  • How many miles you drive per year

Finally, you will have to give some details about your household when getting an auto insurance quote. Insurance companies will want to know the number of drivers in your household and their driver's license numbers, the primary driver of the vehicle you want to insure, and their driving histories. 

After you provide the insurance company with personal details about yourself, household, and car, the insurer will then use all these details to calculate a quote. The company will either generate an instant quote, email you the quote, call you over the phone, or direct you to a broker to complete the purchase.

Ready to shop car insurance?

Start calculator

How to compare car insurance quotes

Policygenius recommends four steps that you can take to make comparing car insurance rates easier. While it's not difficult to get online car insurance quotes, you can feel more comfortable about encountering unfamiliar terms and concepts if you:

  1. Know the amount of insurance you need: Decide whether you want minimum coverage or full-coverage auto insurance. Policygenius recommends you get as much liability coverage as you afford, but the value of your vehicle, and your daily driving habits will help you decide how much other coverage you want to buy.

  2. Know what you can afford to pay: If you decide to purchase more coverage — either in the form of raising the limits on your auto insurance quote or by buying endorsements — you should be prepared to pay more to be insured. But you should also avoid agreeing to make higher payments than you can afford. You wouldn't want to put yourself in danger of missing a payment and suffering a lapse in coverage if your policy was canceled.

  3. Recognize when you're paying too much: It's a good idea to research the cost of coverage in your area to avoid paying higher premiums than other drivers like you. If you compare multiple quotes and find that all of your rates are higher than average, you may be a more risky driver to insure, and might have to prioritize finding discounts or settle on a higher deductible.

  4. Read reviews of companies in your area: It's a good idea to use reviews of companies to get a sense of an insurer's customer service reputation. Some insurance providers may have low rates, but also poor or frustrating claims settlement processes that leave policyholders more likely to have to pay out of pocket a loss. Others may charge higher premiums, but are renowned for consistently excellent, attentive service. Understanding a company's reputation can provide you with valuable context when getting auto insurance quotes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are online car insurance quotes safe?

It's safe to request free car insurance quotes online. Most insurance providers and independent brokers encrypt their sites' online quote forms to protect your information from potential thieves. Most online car insurance sites also allow you to call and receive a quote if you're still uncomfortable with inputting your information online.

How long is an insurance quote good for?

It depends on the insurer. Many sites allow you to interact with your quote by adding or subtracting coverage for more than 10 minutes before the session is ended for inactivity. You can also usually search for your old quote as long as you write down your quote's ID number. If you lose track of your identification number and the session ends, you can request another quote. Your rates should remain the same, as long as it's not very long after your first request

Can you get insurance quotes without signing up?

You don't need to sign up with a company to get a car insurance quote. If you're unsure about a policy, you can request as many quotes from the same insurance provider as you want without paying for it. You will only have to make a payment after you finalize your quote, including your coverage, discounts, and final cost.

Does getting a car insurance quote hurt my credit score?

While insurance companies do check your credit score before they give you a quote, your credit won't be affected. Since you're not trying to apply for credit when requesting a quote, lenders aren't able to view these types of inquiries.