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Mountain Plains Agency, Inc.

Hitting the Open Road: 8 Essential Factors for Purchasing Auto Insurance

Purchasing auto insurance marks an important milestone when first hitting the open road with your own set of wheels. While sorting through deductibles, liability limits, and discounts may seem tedious, having adequate coverage provides essential protection. As we shopped for our own policies, we learned key factors to consider when buying auto insurance—knowledge we now pass onto you.

Understand the Different Types of Auto Insurance Coverage

While state-by-state requirements differ slightly, most mandate liability and uninsured motorist coverage at a minimum. As you evaluate options, understand how key types of auto insurance work:

Liability Insurance

Consider liability the cornerstone for protecting assets. It covers injuries or property damage that you cause to others in an at-fault accident. Nearly every state requires drivers carry this coverage, with minimum limits commonly starting at $25,000 per injured person, $50,000 per accident, and $25,000 for property damage. Higher 100/300/100 limits provide more protection.

Collision Insurance

Collision repairs or replaces your vehicle if damaged in an accident, regardless of fault. While not always required, having this coverage gives peace of mind—especially for newer vehicles carrying loans. Collision kicks in after you pay the selected deductible, typically $500 or $1,000.

Comprehensive Insurance

Comprehensive insurance covers non-collision damage from events like theft, vandalism, falling objects, fire, flooding, and collisions with animals. It may also pay if your windshield cracks from a stray golf ball. Like collision, you select a deductible amount before comprehensive coverage kicks in.

Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist

Unfortunately, nearly 13% of drivers lack insurance. Uninsured motorist protection applies injuries and vehicle damage when an at-fault driver either lacks insurance or flees the scene. Underinsured motorist coverage works similarly for when an at-fault driver’s liability limits can’t fully cover your losses. Most states require offering this important backup protection.

Personal Injury Protection

Known as PIP coverage, personal injury protection pays medical expenses resulting from an accident for you, family members, and passengers—without determining fault. Available limits often range from $5,000 to $250,000. Having ample PIP coverage brings peace of mind that medical bills won’t pile up after an accident.

Review Factors That Influence Your Premiums

Insurers weigh several criteria when pricing policies. As you compare rates, understand how these common factors influence costs:

Driving and Credit Records

Insurers closely evaluate driving history and credit reports. Recent at-fault accidents, multiple speeding tickets, and poor credit all raise perceived risk and premium prices. Maintaining a clean driving record and long credit history helps keep rates low.


Where you live significantly impacts premiums. Urban areas with more congestion and accidents tend to have higher auto insurance rates. Suburban and rural areas generally see lower premium costs.

Vehicle Use

Insurers price policies based on expected annual mileage. Commuting long distances to work or frequently using your vehicle for ridesharing services means more time on the road and higher premiums.

Pick Your Deductibles Wisely

When purchasing auto insurance, deciding on deductibles amounts to a balancing act. Selecting higher deductibles lowers premiums but means more money out of pocket if you file a claim. On the other hand, lower deductibles bring higher premiums but less cash needed upfront for covered repairs and medical bills.

Consider your finances and risk tolerance as you evaluate options. For instance, choosing a $2,000 deductible over $500 may save 20% or more on premiums. But could you afford to pay that higher amount if your car got flooded?

Explore Discounts Available

Most insurers offer multiple discounts providing tangible savings. As you compare plan options, inquire about available ways to trim premium costs:

Multi-vehicle Discounts

Insure more than one vehicle with the same provider, and you may qualify for up to 25% off. Multi-policy discounts also apply for bundling home or renters coverage.

Safety Feature Discounts

Insurers reward proactive drivers taking safety precautions. Common discounts include up to 10% off for anti-theft devices and 5% for airbags or automatic seatbelts.

Usage Discounts

Limiting miles driven and maintaining safe driving earn rewards. Low mileage discounts apply for motorists driving 7,500 miles or less annually. Accident-free customers may also qualify for significant good driver discounts.

Compare Rates from At Least 3 Insurers

Auto insurance remains a highly competitive space with over 250 insurers nationwide. Premium rates often vary significantly between providers—even for identical coverage. Local and regional insurers also frequently offer better prices than large national brands.

Cast a wide net and compare rates from three or more top-rated insurers when shopping for policies. Having choices allows finding the optimal blend of rate and service.

Understand Insurance Lingo

First-time insurance buyers often feel overwhelmed by industry jargon. We certainly felt baffled the first time an agent mentioned declarations pages, liability limits, and subrogation rights.

Familiarize yourself with common terminology. Ask plenty of questions if any vocabulary remains unclear—even if it makes you feel silly. Knowledge equals negotiating power when purchasing coverage tailored to your needs and budget.

Consider Professional or Organization Memberships

Often overlooked money-saving opportunities come through alumni organizations, trade associations, or credit unions. Many offer members special discounts or access to group rates not available to the general public.

Before buying a policy, inquiry whether any affiliations provide deals on auto insurance. Just flashing a membership card may slash 10% or more from your premium.

Review Policy Annually or at Life Milestones

While signing insurance paperwork ranks pretty low on the fun scale, reviewing policies annually saves money. Why? Rates and needs constantly shift as life circumstances change.

Major milestones also signal a need to update coverage. Events like marriage, purchasing a home, adding teen drivers, or having kids all change risk and ideal protection levels.

Consulting frequently with agents ensures your policy adapts. Well-matched coverage brings peace of mind with the open road ahead.

Ready to find competitive rates and coverage you can count on? In Mountain Plains Agency Inc., we have relationships with over a dozen top-rated insurers. This allows finding the optimal match of price and service. Contact Mountain Plains Agency Inc.  today to review auto insurance options with no obligations!

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