I’m buying a car right now. How long do I have to get insurance?

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I’m buying a car right now. How long do I have to get insurance?

I’m buying a car right now. No, really. I’m here at the dealership, writing this as I wait for the the paperwork to be finalized. Lucky for me, getting my new ride insured was super easy. All I had to do was call my insurance agent and have this new vehicle added to my policy.

OK, I’m home now with my new insured vehicle sitting in the driveway. My agent added the car, confirmed with the dealership that I was insured and BAM! I walked out — actually, I drove out — in my new car!

Of course, this whole process would’ve required a little more legwork if I hadn’t already had an agent and a policy in place. If that’s your situation, you may want to keep in mind that, in most cases, you’re going to need insurance on your vehicle right away (not in all states, but we’ll get to that in a minute). You can’t drive it off the lot without a policy in place. Heck, you can’t even finalize the paperwork in most states until the dealership has your proof of insurance. That’s why it’s a good idea to get the insurance ball rolling even before you start looking at vehicles. Let’s take a look at the reasons why.

Insurance is (mostly) mandatory

In all but three states, there are minimum insurance requirements for automobiles that are being driven. So, unless you live in one of the states that don’t require insurance, you’re not going to be able to drive off the lot without a policy in place.

Yes, a lot of dealerships provide some assistance in finding insurance for your new vehicle, but they typically just set you up with a computer, maybe make a few suggestions on carriers and let you take care of the rest yourself. That’s not exactly the optimal setting for getting the best price on the best policy.

Comparison shopping takes time ...

You probably wouldn’t buy a car just by looking at it online and not driving it. Most likely, you’d want to look at a few different makes and models, colors and even trim options and drive a few of them before you finally decide what car is right for you. Just as you comparison shop for a new car, it’s also wise take a look at several different insurance options to make sure you’re getting the best deal on the right coverage for you. (And if you're ready to get started, PolicyGenius can save you time by helping you compare auto insurance policies here.)

... & so does ‘bundling’

To get a really good price, it can help to bundle your auto insurance with other policies, like your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. By placing your coverages with the same company, you can get you a discount on all of your policies, but you’ll need to answer quite a few questions about your needs (and perhaps put in place these other policies). I don’t know about you, but I’d rather do that at home wearing my slippers and sipping some tea than at a car dealership, sipping bad coffee from a styrofoam cup.

Then there’s the credit/record check

Obviously, auto dealerships aren’t my favorite place to just hang out, especially when I could be out driving my new car instead of doing paperwork. If you’re like me, this is just one more reason to sort out your insurance ahead of time.

Most insurance companies are going to need to run your credit to determine your rates (however, California, Massachusetts and Hawaii don’t allow insurers to consider your credit). They’ll also check your driving record for any blemishes. While most companies have sped up this process in recent years (thanks, interwebs!), it still means more minutes spent at your salesperson’s desk, especially if you’re comparison shopping different policies.

Remember, as you go through the process of choosing your policy, it’s important to think about more than just price. Your insurance policy isn’t just a legal requirement, it protects you from financial harm in the case of an accident or act of nature. That’s why finding a car insurance company you can trust and rely on to be there for you if you ever have a claim should be a significant consideration in your decision.

Image: Georgijevic