Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health insuran...

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Chris Harrigan has an economic degree from Limestone College and an MBA from Clemson University. He previously managed auto insurance claims for Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Currently, he is using his business and insurance expertise to provide insurance data analysis and visualizations to enhance the user experience.

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Reviewed by Chris Harrigan
Former Auto Insurance Claims Manager Chris Harrigan

UPDATED: Apr 13, 2022

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Here's what you need to know...

  • A car insurance quote is an estimate of how much you’ll pay for insurance coverage through a specific carrier
  • The agent or quoting system will use all of your personal information to provide you with personalized quotes that are accurate
  • You’re required by law to buy a minimum amount of coverage as mandated by the state
  • It’s important that you know how each type of coverage works and what type of coverage you need when quoting auto insurance
  • Be sure to compare quotes with multiple carriers as each company sets its own rates targeting different market segments

When you’re shopping for auto insurance, you can’t stroll down an aisle and pick a policy off of the rack that fits into your budget.

Instead, you’ll need to provide all of your personal information that insurance companies need to give you price estimates that are suited for your household only.

While auto insurance is purchased by consumers on a daily basis, it’s certainly not a one-size-fits-all consumer good.

As a tailored service, it’s not easy to compare rates by simply looking over a friend or family member’s policy.

The price that vehicle owners pay for protection is very personalized and can change after what might seem like a minor policy update.

If you want to learn what you’ll pay for specific limits through a specific insurance carrier, you must request car insurance quotes.

Start comparing car insurance rates now by using our FREE tool! Enter your zip code above to get started!

What is the definition of a car insurance quote?


You can get quotes on a variety of different types of products or services.

In the car insurance industry, a quote is a price estimate that shows how much you’ll pay to buy coverage through a potential insurance carrier.

If you’re price shopping the market, you’ll need to get multiple quotes from several different insurers because each company has its own unique rating system.

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What does a car insurance quote look like?

The estimate will include several different details for your review. It’s important that you look over a quote thoroughly as you’re comparison shopping so that you really are able to find the best deal.

While each quote you receive directly from a company will have its own unique layout, the information found within the document will be the same.

Quotes are always one or two pieces of paper that include the following:

  • The date the quote was given
  • Named insured and address
  • The term being quoted (6 months or 12 months)
  • The covered autos, safety features, and alarm discounts applied
  • Drivers listed on the policy and driver/vehicle assignments
  • Moving violations and accidents disclosed for each driver
  • Vehicle usage, mileage, and territory where it’s garaged
  • Coverage options and limits you’ve selected
  • Policy discounts that have been applied
  • Total premium by vehicle and total policy premium

Are quotes that you receive from an agent guaranteed?


The entire purpose of getting car insurance quotes is to help you sift through all of the competitors so that you’re better able to pinpoint which provider will give you the best coverage for your money.

Unfortunately, in most cases, a personal auto insurance quote isn’t binding.

It’s possible that the company’s rates could change between the time you requested the quote and the time that you decide to bind coverage with a payment.

Until you’ve officially decided to proceed with an application, your rates aren’t guaranteed. There are only exceptions when your quote says that estimate is guaranteed for a specified number of days.

Can your actual premium be higher than your quote after you apply?

Even after you compare rates and then decide on a policy, it’s possible that the updated quote you’ve committed to can change after you’ve submitted your application.

When you complete an application and submit it for underwriting, all of the information that you’ve provided will be verified.

If the company finds new information that changes your risk class for the worse, it could result in higher premiums.

This is referred to as a misquote and is pretty common in the marketplace when consumers don’t double-check information they provide.

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What is a binding period?


Your rates won’t officially be guaranteed until after your policy has been underwritten, issued, and the 60-day binding period has finally passed.

During that binding period, the insurer has the right to cancel your coverage if they find that you present too much risk.

Discovering pretty much anything that wasn’t disclosed can result in a policy rescission, a cancellation, or a premium increase dated back to inception.

This is why it’s so important that you’re upfront and honest when you’re shopping for affordable auto insurance coverage.

Why should you get more than one quote before you commit?

If you’ve quoted coverage through a well-known carrier and you’re happy with the estimate, you might assume it’s best just to proceed with that quote.

While that is an option, it’s not the wisest option for people who want to find the best price on a product they really don’t want to use.

It’s important that you retrieve at least a handful of quotes through carriers licensed in your state so that you can see which carrier is priced to succeed in the market segment that you fall into.

What you might not know is that most carriers aren’t priced for every market. Instead, the companies with the largest market share target a segment and stick with it.

By getting multiple quotes, you can find the low-cost carriers tailored to you.

How long does it take to get an auto insurance quote?


When you hear that you need to get multiple quotes to really find a policy that you can stick with, you might be wondering how much time that’s going to cost you.

How long you spend getting a quote depends on the method that you choose.

If you get a quote online direct through the company, you might spend an average of 15 minutes per quote.

The quickest way to get a handful of quotes would be to use an online quote tool that gives you instant access to multiple rates.

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What factors are used to calculate the cost of your auto insurance?

Insurance companies use quite a few different algorithms to take the information that you provide and turn that information into a rate quote.

As you’re getting quotes, you might be curious to learn what some of the premium determinants are for auto insurance.

Every single determinant, or rating factor, that’s used in the quoting process is considered because it’s believed to affect risk.

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Here are the most common determinants that are used by insurers:

–Driving Record

If you have convictions for moving violations or at-fault accidents, you’ll be considered a greater risk than someone with a blemish-free driving record.

Insurers will only look back 36 months for minor infractions and accidents but may look back up to 7 years for major violations.

–Age, Gender, and Marital Status

While age, gender and marital status can all affect rates individually, they fall into one category because of how closely related they are.

Young drivers have little driving experience and are more likely to have an accident. Young males are the riskiest class because they have the most accidents.

The most expensive class of drive is a young male between 16 and 18 who’s single.

–Vehicle Type, Safety Class, and Number of Cars

The vehicle that you’re covering plays a major role in the rates you’ll pay. It’s not the value of the vehicle that dictates the premiums, but instead the car’s safety rating, its claims data, its safety features and how much it costs to repair.

If you have more than one vehicle in the household, it’s nice to know that you’ll receive a multi-car discount when they are both covered with the same insurer.

–Number of Miles Driven and Driving Activities

The more that you’re on the road, the more likely you are to get into an accident. This is true no matter how defensive you are behind the wheel.

Since exposure does increase the likelihood that a claim will be filed, companies charge based on the annual mileage that’s estimated.

–Vehicle Usage

It’s also a common practice for companies to charge based on your driving activities and the distance of your commute.

You’ll be asked how each vehicle on your policy is used on a regular basis and who frequently drives it. Drivers who select a pleasure use classification will pay less than commuters and business users.

–Credit-based Insurance Score

In most states, companies are free to access a customer’s credit report in an effort to calculate an insurance score. This score is used to determine how financially responsible the driver is.

It will use debt ratios, the total amount of debt, and defaults to help the underwriters classify a policyholder. With a poor insurance score, comes higher premiums.

What will an insurance company ask you when giving you a quote?


No matter how prepared you think you are, it always seems as if you’re asked the most unexpected questions when you’re getting a quote.

Some of the questions might not even feel like they are important, but all of your answers play a role in premium calculations.

Here are some questions you should be prepared to answer:

  • Do you have a valid driver license?
  • Has your driver license been suspended or revoked?
  • Have you ever been licensed in another state or country?
  • Do you have any moving violations within the past 3 to 5 years?
  • Have you filed any claims for comprehensive or collision losses in the past 3 years?
  • What age were you licensed at?
  • What is your Social Security Number?
  • Do you own your own home?
  • What is your occupation?
  • What is your current policy number and who are you insured with?
  • Is the vehicle equipped with safety devices or an alarm?
  • Who lives int the household and do any drivers need to be excluded?
  • Is the car used for business?
  • How many miles do you drive each day or year?
  • Do you own the car outright?
  • Does the car have a salvage title?

What should you consider when choosing a quote?

Price is important, but it’s also very important that you choose an insurance carrier that you can trust.

You’ll want to look into the company’s licensing status, their financial standing, their customer satisfaction ratings, and their complaints to determine which insurance company you should choose.

Now that you know the ins and outs of auto insurance quotes, it’s time that you get started. You should start by gathering all of the vehicle and driver information that you’ll need to complete a quoting form.

Then you can start to use an online rate tool to find low-cost insurance through several companies at once.

Enter your personal information carefully and do your research as you compare carriers to find that one reputable insurance company that’s priced right.

Start comparing car insurance rates now by entering your zip code in our FREE tool below!