When shopping for car insurance, make it your policy to consider more than just the cost.
It's important to strike a balance between price and reliability when you want to ensure you're appropriately covered against loss and liability.
Start your quest for car insurance by taking time to conduct research. Ask friends and family members for recommendations. Check consumer experiences on a trusted online review site. Visit agents in their offices.
When talking to agents, make sure they fully explain the differences between the policies they offer. Find out if the policies offer roadside service, rental car reimbursement and gap insurance for leased cars.
As you compare policies, be sure you're comparing apples to apples, and ask each company you're considering for quotes on the same coverage levels and services. Also, find out if you can save by "bundling," or having all your major insurance needs — home, auto, life — covered by the same company.
When you've narrowed your search to a few possible insurers, take the extra step of contacting your state's department of insurance to make sure the companies are licensed and in good standing.
And here's something you might not usually consider when shopping for car insurance: Ask agents for references and take time to contact them. This is a good way to find out if the agent and his or her company do a good job dealing with real-life situations.
As you talk to agents, discuss any kind of unusual coverage you might need. For instance, owners of vintage automobiles might qualify for less expensive insurance than other drivers because collectible cars aren't usually driven as often as other vehicles. In such a case, find out how the insurance company handles special needs, including the fact that a vintage vehicle could appreciate in value, unlike the average car.
Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie's List, a resource for local consumer reviews on anything from home improvement to automotive repair.