How to switch car insurance
It’s easier than ever before to compare car insurance quotes and find a better deal. You can do it using Insurance.com’s quote comparison tool below or over the phone.
But switching car insurance companies the right way is every bit as important.
You don’t want a gap between your policies that can come back to haunt you. You don’t want your old insurance company to cancel your policy for nonpayment and report you to the state. And you want a refund of any premiums that may be due.
Take these six steps when you want to switch your car insurance company:
- When to switch car insurance: The best and easiest time to switch is three to four weeks before renewal, giving you time to find a new policy and to qualify for any early-shopper discount. But you are free to switch companies at any time.
- Buy a new policy before you drop the old one: A gap of even one day can be costly, not just if you have an accident, but also if your state penalizes registered cars without continuous coverage.
- You don’t need to wait for renewal: Big changes in your life — change in vehicles, your address, or even getting married — can mean big savings. You can switch at any time.
- Consider the downsides: Some companies may charge an early cancellation fee. While many companies offer a discount to new customers, you may lose some perks and discounts by leaving a longtime insurer so you will want to weigh that.
- Cancel your old policy. Usually you have to do this in writing. Your old company may ask for a new policy number, so that your state knows you are continuously insured.
- Confirm cancellation and any refund: Make sure your old insurance company confirms; otherwise it pay automatically renew you and then cancel you for nonpayment. You should get a refund of unused premium if you cancel early, minus any fees.
When to switch car insurance
The best time to shop for insurance is about three to four weeks before your old policy is about to renew. Depending on the regulations in your state, a renewal notice will be sent to you approximately a month before your new policy period begins. The notice will describe your coverage, discounts, and your premium amount. Using that information, you can shop online for the same coverages to see your options.
If you have moved, gotten married, bought a house, made major improvements in your credit or changed vehicles, you’re likely to see a substantial difference in rates.
Be sure to get new car insurance first
Always have a new policy in place before canceling your old auto insurance coverage. You don’t want to have a lapse in car insurance for even one day. You would not be covered for any accident that might occur, and your old company may report your expired policy to the state, which may penalize you. Your new company will be able to time the onset of your new policy to coincide with the cancellation of your old coverage.
You don’t have to wait until renewal
All standard auto insurance policies give you the right to cancel your policy at any time, once proper notice is given to the insurance company. You don’t need to wait until renewal. If you choose to cancel in the middle of a cycle, the company will prorate your latest premium payment up to the cancellation date and return the remainder to you.
Some states have laws that prevent a cancellation during the first month or 60 days (to keep drivers from buying a policy to meet registration or license requirements and then quickly cancelling). But there are exceptions:
- You can show proof that you obtained another car insurance policy with a different insurer, or
- You no longer own the vehicle that you insured on the policy
Car insurance cancellation fee and other costs
Unfortunately, some car insurance companies may charge a special “short rate” cancellation penalty if you cancel in the middle of a policy term, so be sure to ask before you switch. If they do charge a penalty (it’s often 10 percent of the unspent premium amount), you’ll need to decide if the better rate outweighs the fee you’ll pay.
Insurance companies advertise that you’ll save 15 or even 20 percent by changing to them, but you may also lose your current insurance company’s loyalty discounts, which can be as high as 25 percent. There are also other auto insurance discounts, including bundling policies, earned accident forgiveness, future renewal discounts, and other benefits that grow with or depend on the amount of time you maintain a policy with that car insurance company.
On the plus side, many car insurance companies also offer a “transfer discount” or new-customer discount, typically 5 percent, to help offset these costs, but you’ll want to weigh what the change will mean to your car insurance’s cost.
How to cancel your old auto insurance
Generally, you need to cancel your auto insurance policy in writing. Send a letter to the company’s customer service address with the following information:
- Your name, printed or typed
- Your full address
- A request to cancel your policy, giving the policy number and effective date of cancellation.
- A reason for the cancellation, such as “I have bought a new policy” or “I have sold the insured vehicle.”
- The name of your new insurance carrier and the policy number.
- Your signature
- Date of signature
Here is a downloadable cancellation form you can print and send to your old insurance company.
If you have a local agent through a company, such as State Farm or Farmers, you may be able to call and cancel. If you have a policy through an online insurer, such as Geico or Progressive, you may be able to cancel through the company s online policy management system. The company may ask for information about your new car insurance policy.
Your prior carrier may want a copy of the declarations page from your new policy.
If you’ve sold a car, you may be asked to provide a bill of sale.
Most states’ insurance laws actually require the company to confirm that you have a new policy for your car before cancelling your old policy. The reason is that most insurance companies have to report policies that are cancelled to the state insurance department, so the state can keep track of uninsured drivers. This helps reduce the number of uninsured drivers. If they let you cancel your old policy without proof that you had a new policy, they’d have to report you as uninsured.
Don’t just walk away from your old policy without formally canceling it, because most policies are “continuous” – which means your policy will continue to be renewed every six or 12 months, unless you cancel it. If you fail to cancel, your auto insurance company will continue to bill you for insurance and will eventually cancel the policy for failure to pay. It’s much easier to cancel in writing when you’re ready to switch.
Once a policy is canceled properly, you should expect a final notice confirming the cancellation and a pro-rated refund of your premium from the date of your cancellation through the end of your term.
Switching car insurance companies can be a great way to save money. Before switching insurers though, you need to compare the benefits of going with a new insurer or keeping your current policy. Once you’re comfortable with switching, you should then take the time to fully understand how to properly cancel your auto insurance so you’re not hit with any charges.