When does my auto insurance begin?

As soon as you pay your first premium, your auto insurance goes into affect. Normally, you will receive a temporary binder letter as proof of auto insurance during underwriting.

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Mathew B. Sims is Editor-in-Chief and has authored, edited, and contributed to several books. He has been working in the insurance industry ensuring content is accurate for consumers who are searching for the best policies and rates...

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years (BBB A+). He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance...

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Reviewed byDaniel Walker
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UPDATED: Apr 21, 2020

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Things to Remember...
  • Switching car insurance policies can result in gaps in coverage
  • You may want to start a new policy and make sure it is in effect before canceling your old policy
  • Most car insurance starts from the moment you pay your premium
  • Managing your auto insurance across multiple companies can be a hassle at first
  • A comparison tool can help you find affordable car insurance


All states require a certain amount of car insurance before you can drive legally. This is because you must maintain financial responsibility for any car accidents you cause.

In the state of California, for example, you must have a policy that covers up to $15,000 in personal injury for one person, $30,000 for multiple people and $5,000 in property damage.

In most instances, your car insurance coverage starts the moment you pay for your policy and print your temporary insurance cards. If you don’t already have coverage or are dissatisfied with your current insurer, it is easy to switch.

Start comparing car insurance rates now by using our FREE quote tool above!

Finding an Auto Insurance Policy

Before you can purchase car insurance, you need to find a policy that meets your financial needs and driving habits. Different insurance companies charge different rates for their policies.

For this reason, it is important to research multiple carriers and multiple policies to ensure you are getting the most coverage for the best rate.

To start the process, you may want to use an online comparison tool. These tools are designed to allow you to quickly find auto insurance policies that match your needs from several different insurance companies.

When you go to use the tool, you will notice that it asks you numerous questions, including where you are located, the type of car you drive, the number of drivers to be insured on the policy and your specific driving habits.

It is important to answer these questions as honestly as possible in order to get the most accurate quote. Once you find a policy, purchase the car insurance and print your temporary insurance cards. Your new insurance agent should mail your permanent cards to you.

  • Fill out an online insurance comparison quote form
  • Research the various policies
  • Choose a policy
  • Purchase the policy
  • Print your temporary insurance cards

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What determines my car insurance rates?

Car insurance rates vary by state, the insurance company, your driving record and the type of policy you purchase along with many other factors. The number one factor in determining your personal car insurance rates is your driving record.

If you have had several accidents over the last few years, usually three, your insurance rates will be higher than someone who has not been in an accident in the last three years. The same can be said for traffic violations.

If you’ve received several speeding tickets or traffic violations, you could be considered a high-risk driver and be forced to pay high amounts for your car insurance.

The number of miles you drive your car and where you park your vehicle at night can also result in lower or higher premium rates. For instance, if you drive your car a lot and park it in a high-crime area, your rates will be higher than someone who drives less and parks in a low-crime area.

Some insurance companies look at your credit score in order to determine your rates. Insurance companies also take a close look at your credit score. This is because if you a good credit score, you will be less likely to file a claim and more likely to pay for the repairs on your own.

The age, make and model of your car can also affect your rates. New cars typically cost more to insure than older cars, and cars that are deemed likely to be stolen are also charged a higher rate.

Therefore, when you go to purchase a new or used car, you should check out the features of the car, it’s reliability and it’s likelihood to be stolen.

You can also get quotes for a potential new car using a comparison tool, which would give you a good idea of what you’d pay each month for car insurance if you purchased the car.

  • Credit score
  • Driving record
  • Location of vehicle
  • Miles drove
  • Type of car

Starting Your New Car Insurance Policy

If you already have a car insurance policy and are switching companies, it is important to ensure your new policy is active before you cancel your old policy. Failure to do this can leave you with gaps in your coverage, which can result in your becoming a high-risk driver.

If you choose to drive between policies, you could be putting yourself at risk by driving illegally.

If you get into a car accident without insurance, you could find yourself responsible for not only the damage you incur but also the damage caused to the other driver and his or her medical bills. The driver could even opt to sue you to recoup damages.

To ensure you are covered, it is important to purchase a car insurance policy, print your temporary insurance cards and double-check your policy start date.

In many instances, you are covered from the moment you make your first premium payment, but you should always check with the insurance company and your agent before driving your car.

If you want to switch companies for lower rates and better coverage, you can accomplish the task quickly by using a comparison tool.

Use our free insurance comparison tool below! Enter your ZIP code to compare rates now.

 

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