Anytime is a good time to shop for car insurance. Seriously! But some times are better than others. It all depends on your expiration date, and on whether your policy is actually in danger of expiring.
Auto insurance policies will generally auto-renew unless one of two things happen:
The company cancels your policy. It might be because of non-payment, or it might be because you received too many citations or had too many accidents. Whatever the reason, it’s a common practice to give 45 days’ notice to let you know you’re being cancelled or “non-renewed.”
You cancel your policy. If you tell your insurance company that you don’t want to be their customer anymore, the company has no recourse but to cancel your policy. Even if you cancel, though, you can usually get your policy reinstated (or at least get a new one) if you talk to them within a couple of days of cancellation.
Unless you or your insurance company cancels your policy, the main sense of urgency comes from quoting and buying in time to qualify for the “early quoting” and “early binding” discounts.
Urgency = Low
Maybe you just renewed your policy, or maybe you have six months remaining on a 12-month term. Even if you’re still covered for a while, there’s no reason not to shop for a new insurance company right now. That’s because you’re never truly locked into a car insurance policy.
If you find a better deal with another company, set the start date about two weeks from the date you quote. That way you’ll qualify for both early quoters’ and early purchasers’ discounts—if your new company offers them. Once you’ve finalized the purchase of your new policy, let your current company know what date to cancel. If you’ve pre-paid for the term (usually either six or 12 months), they’ll refund the difference. If you pay monthly, they’ll pro-rate your final month’s bill.
Urgency = Medium
Once you’re within a month or so of your current policy’s expiration, timing is everything. Acting sooner rather than later is the key to getting discounted rates.
Here’s the good thing: most insurance companies now send out a renewal reminder about 30 days before your policy is due to expire. Just remember that “renewal reminder” really means “Talk to your agent and make sure you’re getting the best possible deal reminder.” You can get online quotes, or you can talk directly to an agent, but whatever you do, make sure you do it at least 10-14 days before your expiration date.
Urgency = High
It’s easy to let your expiration date creep up on you. If you haven’t gotten around to comparison shopping and your existing policy is just a couple of days from renewal, you can still re-quote your coverage. You might not get the best rates if you wait until the last minute, but you can still change companies if the numbers make sense. Another option is to have your agent re-quote with your current company to make sure you’re taking advantage of every discount. Changing circumstances often present new opportunities.
An alternate strategy would be to renew your existing policy while at the same time shopping around for a better deal. If you or your agent happens to find better car insurance at a lower cost, you can always cancel after the renewal, refund or pro-rate the unused coverage, and still end up with the better policy.
Urgency = Highest
There is one situation in which you absolutely must not procrastinate finding a new car insurance policy. If you or your insurance company has cancelled your policy—for whatever reason—you need to act immediately to prevent any gaps in your coverage. Even if your expiration date is today or tomorrow, contact your independent agent immediately to make sure you don’t have a lapse of coverage.