Marissa Hayes

Insurance Writer & Expert

Marissa Hayes is a technical editor and contributing writer. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in history, and she was the editor of the literary magazine, The Bluestone Review.

Insurance Writer & Expert

Daniel Walker

Licensed Insurance Agent

Daniel Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has run his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for over 15 years (BBB A+). He is licensed as an insurance agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, life, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like and Safeco. To ensure our content is accura...

Licensed Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Mar 22, 2024

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The Short of It

  • Drivers can shop for liability-only or comprehensive coverage online
  • Online insurance quotes are usually free
  • Drivers can lower their rates by utilizing discounts and improving their credit score

Auto insurance is designed to protect you and your car whenever you are cruising down the road. Some insurance companies offer a wide array of optional insurance coverages, but you will not have any trouble finding an affordable policy if you want basic, traditional coverage.

Most insurance companies sell basic auto insurance plans, so keep reading this auto insurance guide to discover what coverages are included in a basic plan and how you can get free quotes online.

What are basic auto insurance coverages?

Drivers looking to be street-legal and protected whenever they are out on the road will be happy to hear that nearly every insurance company offers basic insurance coverages. Typically, you can choose between a liability-only or a full-coverage plan without having to add on any optional coverages.

Now, the differences between these two types of plans are quite stark, so let’s review each one to discover which types of coverage you may need.


Purchasing liability auto insurance is essentially buying bare-bones coverage. With this type of plan in place, you’ll have financial protection from your insurance company if you damage someone’s car or another driver, and that’s about all the protection you will have.

A liability-only policy could be a great fit for you if you drive an older vehicle that is not worth much and would cost more to fix than replace.

If you own a new car, you will be much better off purchasing full coverage.

Full Coverage

You will be fully protected from whatever comes your way with a full-coverage policy, unlike liability-only insurance plans. Along with the liability protection that your policy will provide, you will also be able to be reimbursed for damages your car sustains from:

  • Hail damage
  • Collision with an animal
  • Falling tree limbs
  • Vandalism

However, you will need to pay a deductible to access the funds needed to repair your vehicle. There are only two deductibles: your collision deductible and your comprehensive deductible. (For more information, read our “Access Auto Insurance Review: What to Know“).

Remember that filing claims can increase your rates, so always check to see if a repair to your vehicle is more than your deductible. If the repair cost is lower than your deductible, it’s best to pay for the repair out of pocket.

Read more: When does auto insurance coverage begin

Full coverage policies can also protect you from drivers who have little to no insurance. For example, if you are hurt in an accident caused by an uninsured driver, your insurance policy will be able to help you pay for your car’s repairs and any medical bills you accrue.

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What optional coverages are available to drivers?

Optional coverage options, unlike traditional coverages, will vary drastically from one company to another. There are even companies that do not offer any coverage options outside of basic coverages at all.

Below you can review some common optional coverages that major insurance companies typically offer:

  • Rental reimbursement
  • Roadside assistance
  • Original equipment manufacturer coverage
  • GAP coverage
  • New car replacement

Read more: GAP Insurance Coverage

Car insurance is customizable, as you can see. So if you have bought a basic auto insurance policy but think you need more protection, you can check to see what optional coverages your insurance company provides.

If your insurance company does not have any optional coverages that you’re interested in, you can also shop around to find a better company.

How much does auto insurance cost?

U.S. drivers pay about $1,700 per year for insurance coverage, but auto insurance rates are never uniform. Insurance companies require every application to be run through an underwriting process. This process employs a myriad of statistics and complex equations to determine how much risk you pose to the company.

The level of risk you pose and the amount of coverage you need will determine how much you will pay for insurance. Thankfully, most insurance companies offer discounts to help drivers afford coverage.

Common Discounts

If you own a basic insurance policy and still need to lower your car insurance rates, you will be happy to hear that most insurance companies offer discounts that can help you obtain lower rates.

As you search online for a new policy, feel free to refer back to this list of common insurance discounts so you can be sure you aren’t missing out on any opportunities to save money:

  • Multi-car
  • Multi-policy
  • Safe driver
  • Student away from home
  • Good student
  • Defensive driving
  • Anti-theft
  • Forward collision warning
  • Daytime running lights
  • Telematics program
  • Electronic billing
  • Paid-in-full
  • Military
  • Teacher
  • Law enforcement
  • Auto withdrawal

In addition to these discounts, you can also try to lower your insurance rates by improving your credit score and driving habits. Drivers with clean driving records tend to have much lower rates than individuals who have a checkered driving history.

One of the easiest ways to save money on car insurance is to shop online. Shopping online allows you to review multiple quotes at once so you can compare prices and determine which policy is the best fit for you.

How much do auto insurance quotes cost?

Insurance quotes do not cost drivers a penny. You can get a free quote from reputable companies anytime during the day or night as long as you have access to the internet. You can use your smartphone or tablet to shop for quotes from the comfort of your own home.

Now, unlike when you apply for a home loan, requesting insurance quotes will not hurt your credit score. During the loan application process, a “hard check” is run on your credit, which can lower your score a little bit. On the other hand, car insurance companies can run a “soft check.” This type of check does not change your credit score.

You will need to be prepared to share a lot of information about yourself, though, when filling out a quote online.

Filling Out an Online Insurance Quote

Shopping online, while incredibly easy, does require you to fill out every form accurately. You should expect to see questions inquiring about your:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Marital status
  • Address
  • Occupation
  • Education level
  • Driving history
  • Driver’s license number
  • Car’s age
  • Car’s make and model
  • Claim’s history

Once you have filled out your quote form, the insurance company will send it through its underwriting process. This process determines if you are a low or high-risk driver. While different insurance companies each have a unique underwriting process, most will ask questions regarding the information listed above.

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Which auto insurance companies are the best for drivers?

Since different drivers have different coverage needs, you will need to consider which insurance company is best for you. Shopping online empowers you to research insurance companies from across the market so you can discover which best suits your needs.

As you begin the search for the best insurance company, you should consider each company’s:

  • A.M. Best rating
  • Better Business Bureau rating
  • Coverage area
  • Available discounts
  • Coverage options
  • Rates

When looking for an insurance policy, you will also have to keep your budget constraints and coverage requirements in mind. Bearing that in mind, you’ll be much better prepared to shop for insurance.

What You Need to Know About Basic Auto Insurance

Most insurance companies offer basic forms of auto insurance, but you will need to consider the value of your car before you decide to buy liability-only or full coverage insurance. To find the best insurance policy for your needs, shop online. Shopping online allows you to compare many policies at once so you can be sure that you are getting the best coverage at the best rates.

Now that you’ve read this breakdown of basic auto insurance, you can shop for insurance with ease.