Home » Finance, Tips » Online Vs. In-Person Car Insurance Quotes

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Thanks to online services and the growing complexity of car insurance company websites, it’s possible for you to compare car insurance quotes, buy coverage and get your proof of insurance cards, all without ever stepping foot in a car insurance agent’s office. While you may like the convenience of online car insurance quotes, there is the danger that you won’t be getting the best coverage or the best advice on which plan is the most cost-effective for your circumstances.

Think carefully before you commit to going completely online for your car insurance quotes or if you choose to contact an agent. To help you clarify your thinking, here are some things to consider.

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Online car insurance quotes: pros, cons and some leading options

Pros – one of the first advantages to going online for car insurance quotes is convenience. Instead of calling multiple agents with multiple companies and trying to keep track of all the plans, options and costs you compile, there are a number of sites you can visit that will provide you multiple comparisons, instantly. Getting an online car insurance quote can also help you expand the base of options you look at and give you a broader picture for what’s available and/or required in the state where you live.

Cons – one disadvantage with online car insurance quotes is that you can’t get your questions answered immediately in the process and if you are able to get answers to your questions at all online, they may not always be detailed or accurate or up-to-date. One other precaution you need to take with online car insurance quotes is to be certain that you are getting apples-to-apples comparisons. There are some notable, national car insurance companies that tout online comparison features. They claim that they will “even give you the rates of our competitors” to show you a balanced array of options. Nearly all of those services skew either the selection of companies used for a comparison or offer ranges of limits and coverage options that tend to put them in more favorable light. You may get five quotes from a leading insurer showing you four other national brands (all, surprisingly, with higher rates) but what the online quote service doesn’t show you is the local or regional insurer that can beat that price for a comparable package of options.

Leading providers – while every major car insurance company has an interactive website allowing you to “build” a potential car insurance policy and request car insurance quotes from local agents, there are a handful of online providers of note:

  • Esurance – this is the wholly owned, online subsidiary of Allstate. The Coverage Counselor® feature, unique to Esurance, is an interactive, online process whereby you can build prospective car insurance policies, compare them to what’s required in your state, and see levels of cost and discount options before you buy.
  • Safe Auto – this company is best known for offering low rates on state-required packages, especially liability insurance.
  • The General – it’s possible you’ve seen the tiny, white-mustachioed general on television commercials ordering you to call 1-800-General, Now!, and with them, you can compare and even buy policies right online.
  • Progressive – one online feature unique to Progressive is its Name Your Price® option. Here, you can plug in a budget, some basic information (such as the state where you live) and the online service will give you a range of coverage options within or very near that budget limit.
  • GEICO – its online tool allows you to answer a series of questions and see a set of coverage options build right before your eyes. If you decide to buy a policy, you can make a payment and have insurance cards printed from your own printer, sent as a text, or even saved for future use.

In-person quotes: pros and cons

Pros – there still is no substitute for the personal touch if you can carve out the time to sit down with an actual agent and compare car insurance quotes. If you choose to go with an independent agent, that agent can generally offer you a wider range of insurance companies to choose from and with more options, you’re bound to find better rates. If you select a “captive” agent, one advantage is that s/he mar be able to combine types of insurance for better rates, with the added convenience of having all your insurance handled by the same person. Sitting down with an agent will allow you to get questions answered right away and down the road, you will have a local or at least a specific person to deal with should you have claims you need to file or issues regarding to coverage.

Cons – it’s not always easy to find the time to get an in-person quote. You also can be opening yourself for phone calls and solicitations down the road from a car insurance agent you choose not to ultimately go with. While not always the case, car insurance agents tend to carry more overhead and have higher rates for certain plans.

Here’s an idea…use both

You can also put the strengths of both approaches to work for you. Arm yourself with as much information as you can from gathering online quotes and information regarding coverage types, limits and rates. Take that information with you to a few in-person sessions and work to get the best coverage your budget can sustain.

The Insurance Information Institute and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) both estimate that over the course of your driving life, you will spend between $85-95,000 on car insurance premiums. Why not put the best of both online and in-person car insurance quotes to work for you and save some of that investment for something a little more enjoyable?

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