If the idea of switching to a new car insurance company has crossed your mind in recent months, you’re not alone. Almost one-third of auto insurance customers in the United States experienced a rate increase in the past year, according to J.D. Power, leaving consumers deeply dissatisfied with their car insurance costs.
The good news is that if you’re unhappy with your current insurer, you can change your auto insurance at any time. Below are some simple steps you can follow to change car insurance carriers, along with the pros and cons of making a change.
General considerations before leaving your current provider
Perhaps the most common reason customers switch insurers is to get a better rate. However, you might also be motivated to shop for new auto insurance due to different coverage needs or for customer service reasons.
Before you begin to gather quotes and compare rates from different insurers, it’s important to assess the types of car insurance you have (e.g., , , , etc.). You should also review the coverage amounts you carry on your current policy and your . From there, you can evaluate if the coverage you have satisfies your current needs or if you want to consider new coverage options.
Be thorough in your research of any new car insurance companies you consider. Make sure your new insurance provider is reputable and reliable.
Reasons and timing for switching car insurance
Whether you’ve been with your current insurance provider for years or months, you can switch car insurance companies whenever you like. Certain times may be more convenient than others, and some life events may prompt you to switch.
You may want to consider changing car insurance companies if:
Your renewal date is approaching: Switching insurance providers on your old policy’s expiration date could be ideal. This strategy might help you avoid cancellation fees, having to pay for double coverage, and waiting for refunds on the former policy.
You’re adding or removing a driver: Anytime you need to add a driver to your policy, especially a teen driver, it’s worth seeing if a competitor can offer you a lower rate. Removing a driver may also be a good time to switch auto insurance providers. As your insurance needs change, you might find more affordable or better coverage elsewhere.
You purchase a home: When you buy a home, you’ll most likely buy a homeowners policy at the same time. Many insurance providers offer discounts to customers who bundle their homeowners and auto insurance policies. (The same may be true for renters insurance.) So, if you’re shopping for a new insurance policy for your home, it may be a good time to think about switching your car insurance coverage too.
You move to a new city or state: Insurance rates can vary widely from one location to another. Furthermore, different states often have different insurance companies doing business. Anytime you relocate, it could be a good time to see if a different insurance carrier might be able to offer you a better rate based on your new location.
Switching insurance providers in the middle of a coverage period has the potential to save you money or upgrade your coverage. But be careful not to cancel your original auto insurance policy too soon when changing carriers. It’s better to pay for an extra month of coverage on your existing policy than to risk a lapse in coverage—aka being without any insurance coverage before your new policy kicks in.
Ready to change? Here’s how
When you’re ready, the process of switching your policy should be simple. Here are three easy steps to follow.
1. Shop around for new rates. Compare car insurance rates and premiums from multiple insurance companies before you make a change in coverage. You can call around for car insurance quotes, contact an insurance agent to shop new policies on your behalf, or use online tools to search for the best rates based on your details (e.g., location, vehicle, coverage needs, etc.). Don’t forget to look for available car insurance discounts that might help you save even more.
2. Establish a new policy. Once you find an offer for auto insurance coverage that you like, you can move forward with setting up a new policy. Be sure to read over the details (both coverage amounts and rate) to make sure they match your quote. Your new auto insurance provider may also have forms that you need to sign and you may need to put down a deposit to establish new coverage. Be sure to obtain proof of insurance from your new provider.
3. Cancel your old policy. Before you contact your old insurance company to cancel your old auto policy, it’s important to verify that your new auto insurance is active. If you skip this step, you risk having a gap in coverage that could result in penalties from your state. Note that if you’re switching in the middle of a coverage period, your old insurance company might owe you a partial refund. However, you could also owe an early cancellation penalty depending on the terms of your policy.
4. Update your lender. When you lease or finance a vehicle, you agree to maintain car insurance as part of your loan or lease agreement. So it’s important to notify the lender or leasing company when you change auto insurance providers. You might face negative consequences (and even a potential repossession in extreme circumstances) if your lender believes your vehicle is uninsured.
When to think twice about changing insurance
Although you always want to have the best rate for your coverage, in certain situations it could be wise to wait before changing insurance companies.
During an active insurance claim
Although you can typically change car insurance companies at any time, switching providers in the middle of an active isn’t ideal.
When you switch insurance companies during the claims process, you might experience:
Future rate increase: A new insurance provider may have a hard time properly pricing your new policy during an outstanding claim. Until your claim is complete, the company won’t have all the information it needs to assess your risk level as a customer (aka the risk of you filing a new claim that would cost the insurer money). In this situation, you might face a significant premium increase when your policy renews.
Policy cancellation: There’s also a risk that your new provider might decide to cancel your new car insurance policy after your claim is complete. If you were dishonest or failed to inform the company about an outstanding at-fault claim, a policy cancellation may be more likely to occur. In extreme circumstances of insurance fraud, the insurance company might take legal action against you.
If you do change car insurance providers in the middle of a claim, you’ll still have to deal with your original insurance company until the claim is finalized. In general, it’s best to wait until any outstanding claims are resolved before you switch to a new provider.
After a DUI or accident
If you’ve had a series of at-fault accidents or a DUI conviction, it may be more challenging to find auto insurance companies that are willing to work with you (or to offer you competitive car insurance premiums).
If you’re in this situation, you should start researching auto insurance providers in your area that specialize in high-risk insurance (sometimes called insurance) ASAP. Your current provider may increase your premiums significantly at your next renewal date — or drop you altogether.
But even with a DUI or accidents on your driving record, you can take steps to reduce your insurance rates in the future. First, avoiding issues like additional DUI convictions, speeding, at-fault accidents, or lapses in insurance coverage is key. Taking a might help you receive discounts from some insurance providers. And in some (though not all) states, DUI records may come off your driving record after five to 10 years.
Canceling your old insurance
After you establish a new insurance policy (and confirm that it’s effective and you have your new insurance ID cards), it’s important to notify your former insurance company. You should submit a cancellation request in writing, but it’s fine to follow up with a phone call as well. If you don’t cancel your existing insurance coverage, you could wind up paying for two car insurance policies at once.
(On the other hand, if you cancel your previous policy before the new one is fully in place your driver’s license could be canceled by your state DMV if it looks like you’re going without coverage. Make sure your new company notifies the state that you have the required coverage.)
It’s also worth noting that you might have to pay early cancellation fees or penalties if you change insurers before your current policy expires. Nonetheless, you can typically switch insurance companies in the middle of a coverage period as long as you give your provider proper notice.