Are you searching for information about how to get car insurance? This how-to guide removes the mystery surrounding the process and shows you precisely what you will need to complete the purchase.

Here is the short list of information you will need to get insurance for your car. We will include a further explanation of these items in this list and the various decisions you will need to make while you get insurance.

  1. Full names of all drivers living at your address.
  2. The date of birth of all drivers at your address
  3. The driver’s license of all drivers at your address.
  4. The social security number for all policy owners at your address.
  5. Vehicle information for all cars, especially the VIN

Did you know there are three sources for getting insurance for your car?

Everyone has three paths to getting insurance, each with potential benefits. Like many things in life, your preference matters, so follow your instincts. These descriptions will allow you to decide what type of insurance agent is best for you.

Captive agent

  • A captive insurance agent can only represent one insurance company. Sometimes that company may have relationships with subsidiaries, but the primary company determines those relationships. Some examples of companies with captive agents are Allstate, State Farm, and Liberty Mutual.

Direct writer

  • There are similarities between captive agents and direct writers of insurance companies in that they only represent one company. The difference is that a captive agent is not an insurance company employee. If you call GEICO, for example, you are dealing with an employee of the company instead of an agent.

Independent insurance agent

  • How independent agents operate is different than the first two. These agents represent multiple insurance companies and are also not insurance company employees. They can search for policies from several companies to find the best fit for the needed coverage.

If you are the type who likes doing the research yourself, then dealing direct may be best for you. If you prefer to learn from an expert and prefer a guided tour, working with an agent may be your preference. Whichever path you try (and it’s ok if you try more than one), check online for reviews of both the insurance company and the insurance agent.

Remember, don’t just look for the rating; look for a good rating with some volume. A national insurance company will have more ratings than a local agent, be aware of making the comparison relevant. Suppose one agent has a five-star rating, but only three people participated. In that case, that’s probably less valuable data than an agent who perhaps only rated a 4.7 but had fifty reviews. The latter is far more impactful and meaningful to you as a consumer.

Chatting with the one you choose

You’ve now chosen to go direct or work with an agent, and the conversation will be remarkably similar regardless of which path(s) you’ve chosen. The top of this article lists what information is needed to get car insurance.  With this data, insurance companies can evaluate if they want to offer coverage and at what cost.

Full Name

The first item on the list is asking for the full name of all drivers at your residence. You must include everyone with a driver’s license, even if they have their own car and insurance policy. They need to know all the drivers because any driver within the residence could sometimes drive a vehicle located at your residence. It does not mean your rates will go up; it merely means they need to know.

If an adult has their own car with their own insurance, that’s not likely to change the cost. A nineteen-year-old without their own car needs to be on your policy and most certainly will cause an increase in cost.

Date of Birth

It’s required to provide the date of birth of all drivers for several reasons. One is that younger drivers (typically under age 25) have higher insurance risks, and the date of birth determines that criteria. The other significant reason is your date of birth will help confirm your specific identity.

Driver’s license number

The driver’s license numbers for all drivers at the residence are needed. The insurance company can then determine if you have had tickets, violations, or prior accidents. Any of these events could prevent you from getting insurance or cause the price you will pay to increase.

Social Security Number

The insurance company will need your social security number for the same reason as the license. Your credit history is a factor in the cost of insurance. Insurance companies like folks who pay their bills on time, potentially decreasing your costs. And like the date of birth, the social security number allows insurance companies to confirm your identity.

Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)

Now that the insurance company knows all about you, they need to know about your vehicle(s). Certain insurance companies will have specific questions that differ from others, but they all will need the seventeen-digit VIN. This number is exclusive to every vehicle; armed with this number, the insurance company can learn everything it needs to know. That means they will know if it has a sunroof or not and if it was in a prior accident (even if the accident was with a prior owner).

Car insurance decisions

Up to this point, all the data has been about you, allowing the insurance company to determine if they are willing to offer you insurance and at what cost. In some parts of the policy, you can decide the amount of coverage and the insurance company determines other parts.  Some parts are not required.

New York State has minimums for some portions of your vehicle coverage, but you can often increase the amount. However, we want to be very clear about our opinion of state minimum coverage amounts: they are rarely enough. In most situations, you are much better off with more coverage. Let’s start with what you need to have, then discuss how much flexibility exists.

Required coverage and the options you may have

Bodily Injury Protection

A portion of every auto policy in New York State gets labeled as Bodily Injury, and this portion of the policy will pay for injuries to other people due to an accident you caused. NYS requires you to include minimum amounts of coverage, which is $25,000 per person, with a maximum amount of coverage for any single accident of $50,000.

Here are some basic examples: three people get injured in an accident, and their medical costs are $10,000 per person. A state minimum policy would cover each in full because each person experienced costs less than $25,000, and the total of $30,000 is less than the $50,000 maximum.

But what if those same three people experienced $30,000 in bodily injury? Each person exceeded the $25,000 per person limit, and their total of $90,000 exceeds the maximum coverage provided by your policy. In this situation, the amount of coverage is insufficient to cover all the expenses, potentially leading to you getting sued personally for the additional amount.

That example is why we strongly suggest you include more coverage than the state minimum. Experience shows that the additional cost for adding this proves to be very cheap if needed. At the least, you should explore the cost difference for including more coverage and then make an informed decision.

Property damage

Suppose you hit something other than a person and the accident is your fault. In that case, the property damage portion of your policy will cover those damages. Some examples might be hitting another vehicle or a guardrail or road sign. The minimum coverage in New York State is $10,000. If the dollar amount of damage exceeds that amount, you will likely get sued for the extra money.

Property damage is another type of coverage we strongly suggest you consider increasing beyond the minimum requirement. The price of new and used vehicles continues to increase, with most vehicles worth more than $10,000. Explore different amounts of coverage before making your final decision.

Personal Injury Protection (PIP)

First, we will explain to you what this topic involves and how it works in New York State. Anyone injured in an accident is covered first by PIP, and then and only then would their health insurance kick in if needed. However, PIP can cover more than medical bills for an injured passenger.

If someone is out of work because of an accident, this part of the policy will help replace a portion of the injured person’s income. Currently, the amount covered is 80% of what they make per month, up to a maximum of $2,000 per month. There is also coverage for some practical day-to-day tasks like paying someone to help clean or driving you to doctors while you recover. This policy protection is only $25 per day, so while helpful, it will not cover the luxury ride upgrade at Uber or Lyft.

The New York State minimum for PIP is $50,000, a per injured person limit. It covers medical expenses, lost wages, and per diem assistance items. If someone’s medical bills exceed $50,000, nothing remains for the other items.

You can increase this coverage just like the other types of coverage already reviewed. New York State is a “no-fault” state regarding whose policy takes care of passengers in a vehicle or pedestrians hit by your vehicle who become injured in an accident. But what does that mean?

How about an example of PIP in action?

Let’s assume a two-car accident. Vehicle A caused the accident by hitting vehicle B. Let’s also assume that at least one person became injured in each vehicle. After impact, vehicle B hit a pedestrian.

The injured person in vehicle A will have their injuries paid for by the vehicle A policy. The injured person in vehicle B will have their injuries paid for by the policy covering vehicle B. The pedestrian hit by vehicle B would have their injuries paid for by the policy covering vehicle B. Why is this if vehicle A caused the accident?

That scenario is where the term “no-fault” applies. New York State has determined it does not matter who is “at fault” for the accident. An injured person will receive coverage from the vehicle in which they were riding or by which they were hit. The concept of “no-fault” coverage is to make it easier for the injured to have qualifying expenses covered with as little hassle as possible. The “no-fault” concept eliminates this hassle, up to $50,000 per person.

Uninsured motorist

Imagine this scenario: you are in an accident, and all the witnesses and cameras leave zero doubt that the other driver caused the accident. The other person’s insurance policy is responsible for paying for your and your passengers’ injuries beyond the above-mentioned Personal injury Protection. One tiny problem is that the other driver has no insurance. Now, what happens?

In New York State, your policy includes uninsured-motorist coverage that covers you in a situation like this. The minimum coverage required in New York State is $25,000 per person, with a maximum per accident limit of $50,000 (the same as the bodily injury limits described above). This portion of the policy only applies to people. It does not cover property such as your vehicle (see the section below titled What is Collision Coverage to learn how your car would be fixed).

Like other parts of the coverage, you have choices in this category. One is to increase the coverage amount, and the other is to add “underinsured motorist” coverage. That covers you if another person is the cause of an accident, has coverage, but does not have enough to cover the entire cost of your injuries. To be clear, you need uninsured motorist coverage; you are not required to have underinsured motorist.

Optional types of coverage you can include in your car insurance policy

How does my policy cover my vehicle?

Believe it or not, in NYS, an auto policy is not required to cover your vehicle. If you want to run that risk yourself, New York has no problem, but you cannot put that risk on another party. All the mention of minimum coverages is about protecting everyone else.

However, most folks want at least some coverage on their vehicle. The finance company will require it if you financed or leased the vehicle, .  So what’s the difference between comp vs. collision?

What is collision coverage?

Suppose your vehicle is damaged by hitting something (another vehicle or tree, for example). In that case, the collision portion of your policy will pay to repair or replace the vehicle up to the policy limit (minus your deductible, more on this topic in a bit). While this is an optional coverage, if you decide to include this coverage, the insurance company determines the amount.

Using the VIN mentioned earlier, the insurance company determines the amount of coverage needed to repair or replace the vehicle if you run into something. The amount of coverage needed will increase as your vehicle’s value increases, which will cause your insurance cost to increase.

What is comprehensive coverage in my car policy?

What if your vehicle is damaged and that damage was not caused by you hitting something? An easy example of this type of coverage is a tree landing on your car while parked (it doesn’t matter whose tree). Another vehicle did not hit your car, and your car did not run into something else, and it was parked legally and minding its own business when the tree decided to fall.

The damage would be covered by the comprehensive portion of your car policy, up to the limit determined by the insurance company. Similar to the collision portion, subject to the deductible. Like its cousin collision coverage, comprehensive coverage is not mandatory on your policy in New York State, but a finance company would require it. Another similarity with collision coverage is that while you may decide if you want it included in the policy, the insurance company determines the amount of coverage using the VIN.

Are there other optional coverages?

Now that the heavy lift of decision-making is behind you, there are a few other choices you can decide to include or not include in your car policy. If you decide to add these items, it will increase the cost of the policy.

Supplementary Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage – SUM

Whereas Uninsured/Underinsured Coverage provides coverage inside New York State only, SUM stays with you when you leave the state. So, if you were injured by an uninsured or underinsured driver while driving through Pennsylvania, you could make a claim on your own policy.

With SUM coverage, you would be insured for the difference between what the other driver has and the amount you purchased. For example, you purchased $100,000 in SUM coverage, and suppose the PA driver has $50,000 for bodily injury coverage. You would be entitled to up to $50,000 from your policy.

That is because SUM picks up the difference between what the other driver had and what you had in SUM coverage. If that PA driver were uninsured (think hit and run), you could collect up to $100,000 in SUM coverage.

Roadside assistance

Did your car break down on the side of the road? Flat tire in no man’s land and not a tire shop nearby? Left a light on in your car and drained the battery? If you add roadside assistance, your policy will cover at least some of the cost of handling these scenarios.

It will not pay for repairs, nor the flat tire, and not a battery either. It will pay for towing, perhaps changing your tire if you have a spare, and giving your battery a jump to get you on your way.

While a nice feature, we would be remiss if we did not point out potential negatives. Any time you call the insurance company to pay for something, regardless of how much or how little the dollar amount is, it is considered a claim.

Why is this important? The more frequently someone puts in a claim, regardless of the dollar amount, it catches the eye of the insurance company.

Suppose you have multiple claims on your car policy. In that case, the insurance company will increase your cost or may decide not to offer you coverage when your policy is up for renewal. While it can be inexpensive to include in the policy, we think it’s a good idea. We suggest also considering a third-party roadside assistance program such as AAA.

Rental car coverage

This optional coverage would pay to rent a vehicle to use while your vehicle is getting repaired. This coverage does NOT include normal wear and tear mechanical work, only if your vehicle is in the repair shop due to a covered accident.

Did you forget to change the oil and learn it will take a week for them to install a new engine? No rental coverage from your policy. You decided to include comprehensive coverage, and a tree fell on your car, and it needs some bodywork? That’s why you have this coverage in place.

Rental coverage is one of those coverages you get to decide how much you want to include in the policy. If you need transportation to and from work while your vehicle gets repaired, you can get less coverage and rent a less expensive vehicle.

Have four kids you cart all over town daily in your minivan and cannot get along without a similar vehicle? Then you should add more coverage to this part of your policy.

Can I change the deductible on my car policy?

The short answer is “yes,” but within certain limits. Each company will have its range of allowable deductibles, but for auto insurance, the typical range we see is $100 on the low end and $2,000 on the high end. Regardless of the insurance company, what is consistent is the higher the deductible, the lower your cost for the policy. Why is this?

The higher the deductible, the more you would need to pay out of your pocket before the insurance company needs to get involved. A higher deductible reduces the chance you will make a claim. Thus, they are willing to reward you with a potentially lower cost should you select a higher deductible.

Remember that different portions of your policy may have different deductible levels. You might have a $500 deductible for collision and comprehensive coverage but a zero deductible on personal injury protection. We like a zero deductible for PIP because it removes a significant frustration source for you or your passenger if they become injured in an accident.

Are there any discounts I can get?

Different insurance companies may have variations of discounts, but some are consistent from one company to another. For example, most companies will give you a discount if you insure more than one vehicle on the policy.

They will also likely offer you a discount if you bundle your car and home policy with the same company. Be aware that this discount may exist, but if the insurance company’s price is high, the discount may not be enough to offset the higher cost.

You might be able to take a six-hour safe drivers course, and this may reduce certain portions of your policy cost. Many think it reduces the policy’s total cost, but this is incorrect. Please take notice and ask the insurance company or agent how much of a discount you may receive.

You will likely receive a discount if you pay for the policy in full. The insurance company receives all the money upfront, reducing the chance of missed payments.

What if I am trading in a car? Can I transfer the coverage?

When you trade in a car, you can transfer your insurance. You would contact your agent with the vehicle information; specifically the VIN discussed earlier in this article. Your agent will also need to know which vehicle is being traded in to remove it from your policy. The date of the transfer is also essential, partly for your insurance but mainly for the New York State DMV registration process.

Many car dealers can process the registration from one vehicle to another on your behalf, saving you a trip to the local DMV office. For them to make this happen, you will need to provide the dealer with an insurance card showing the VIN and the date of the new registration for the vehicle you are purchasing.

It is important to note that the DMV and the insurance company may have different answers to the question regarding the transfer of coverage. The insurance company often allows you to have coverage on the new vehicle for a certain number of days following purchase.

That’s all fine and a good benefit for you. Still, the dealer may not be allowed to legally transfer the license plate without the insurance policy being updated. As your agent, we can guide you on this question regardless of the circumstances.

What if I am selling the car and not replacing it with another one?

You will need to check with the DMV for the proper paperwork to convey the title, and you will need to turn in the plates. We sometimes get asked, “Can I keep my license plates in New York State?”. The short answer is “no,” and the reasons why are included in the article in the link in more detail.

New York State assumes that if you have a license plate in your possession, it is attached to a vehicle you have on the road. If you have a car on the road, you must have minimum coverage, as described earlier in this article. You can only cancel coverage on a vehicle by turning in the plates to the DMV, getting a receipt to prove that has happened, and providing that proof to your insurance agent.

The Car Insurance Quote

Congratulations on becoming a more enlightened car insurance buyer. The next step for you is to reach out to our team via the “Get Started Here” button below. Once we receive your request, one of our friendly insurance professionals will contact you, and together, we will complete a thorough car insurance quote for your consideration.

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Horan Companies offers comprehensive auto insurance in New York State, including: Baldwinsville, Syracuse, Onondaga County, Liverpool, Fulton and Camillus, NY.