Insurance for a first-time car buyer
February 11, 2006 9:37 AM   Subscribe

When do I need to get insurance for my new car?

I am about to buy my a car. I have never had a car or car insurance before. I live in Washington state, which has mandatory liability insurance. Do I need to buy insurance before I drive the car home from the dealer? If not, how soon after buying the car do I need to have insurance?
posted by mbrubeck to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Here's a pamphlet on auto insurance in WA. The last page has the number you can call to have all your questions answered.
posted by acoutu at 9:41 AM on February 11, 2006

If you already owned a car, usually your old insurance will temporarily cover the new one; however in your case, it is probably a good idea to buy insurance before you get the car. I know people who have had car accidents driving home from the dealer!
posted by reverendX at 9:42 AM on February 11, 2006

Best answer: Not sure about WA but in Ontario and Quebec they won't let you take the car from the dealer without proof of insurance.

This is easy to get here - the dealer should give you the VIN of the car you are buying. Just call the insurance company you want to use, answer their questions and they'll fax a temporary proof of insurance to the dealer directly.
posted by mikel at 9:42 AM on February 11, 2006

Best answer: If Washington is anything like Maryland, the car must be insured by the time it's registered in your name. Select an insurance company, call them or their agent for the procedure. They've done this once or twice before.
posted by mojohand at 9:43 AM on February 11, 2006

Response by poster: Well, the dealer just called unexpectedly and I asked him this question. He said that I do need proof of insurance to drive the car off the lot. If I don't have insurance yet when I pick up the car, they can sell me a 30-day policy for "around US$150 to $250."

Thanks, everyone!
posted by mbrubeck at 9:52 AM on February 11, 2006

If you don't currently have a car, pick an insurance company, write down their number, and you can even call them from the dealer while the paperwork is being completed and have them fax over insurance coverage.

I would suggest Geico. They really are cheaper in most cases. Despite the acronym, they provide insurance to anybody.
posted by jellicle at 10:14 AM on February 11, 2006

A few more insurance tips. Basic insurance is required, extra insurance on top of that is not, unless you have a bank loan for teh car in which case it may be. When I was in Washington State, uninsured motorist insurance was not part of the mandatory instuance but it's strongly recommended. I think it added another $20-30 a year to my total yearly bill.

When I insured my car in Washington, I just went with a local Allstate agent, but you may be able to get a better deal if you belong to a larger group like AAA (good to have for cars otherwise, or their green alternative whose name I always forget) or USAA. Going to a website like can give you an idea of what information they need and what you're going to be looking at in terms of costs. YMMV but paying the dealers that much seems like a huge waste when you can do the legwork yourself and be covered when you get the car. Usually you can have the insurance agency fax proof of insurance to the dealer, it's all pretty simple.
posted by jessamyn at 10:16 AM on February 11, 2006

Response by poster: Yes, I'm definitely going to shop around for insurance on my own. (I do have motorcycle insurance already, but that policy explicitly does not include autos.)
posted by mbrubeck at 10:25 AM on February 11, 2006

Call 21st Century Insurance. They helped me deal with this very issue. I simply signed up for the policy online and paid for it and printed up my temporary insurance card. The whole thing took about 10 minutes and I did it from my PowerBook while leeching WiFi from the car dealer.


The temp policy that they'll sell you is way expensive. $250 is all I pay for 6 months of insurance.
posted by drstein at 10:32 AM on February 11, 2006

Yah, the 30 day thing is totaly a ripoff
posted by delmoi at 10:55 AM on February 11, 2006

We've been Pemco customers in WA state. Every few years I check to see if I can get an obviously better rate, but haven't yet. You'll need a good driving record to do Pemco.

Agreed, that temp policy sounds spendy. Even when our car was brand new I don't think we were spending more than $60/month for two drivers.
posted by Good Brain at 11:24 AM on February 11, 2006

in some states you must have full coverage on a new car. be sure to check.
posted by nimsey lou at 12:29 PM on February 11, 2006

In Connecticut, you need to show insurance forms in order to register the car and you can not drive the car legally till it is registered. For those who hate to spend money on such silly things, you can drop the insurance as soon as you get registered. Then, for those of us with insurance, we will add extra insurance to protect us from being in an accident with an unisured we will pay for you in a sense. Cute, right?
posted by Postroad at 1:04 PM on February 11, 2006

USAA is hands-down the best, cheapest insurance and financial services available. Best customer service, too. Unfortunately, you need to be a member of the military or related to someone in the military or retired from same. If you think you might qualify, I strongly recommend checking it out.
posted by frogan at 1:39 PM on February 11, 2006

I had great experience with Progressive. They *do* look up other company's rates for you, which is sweet of them, but they also don't increase your rates in non-fault accidents of break ins, etc. Which is nice when your car was broken into and your stereo and turbo timer stolen, and the passenger window was left scraping against the door, causing $1700 in damage.

The $100 comprehensive deductible was terrific, too.
posted by disillusioned at 3:10 PM on February 11, 2006

When I bought my new car, the sales guy wrote down the VIN, looked up the number for Progressive, and had me call right there. Progressive faxed the proof of insurance to the dealer and I was set.

They *do* look up other company's rates for you, which is sweet of them, but they also don't increase your rates in non-fault accidents of break ins, etc. Which is nice when your car was broken into and your stereo and turbo timer stolen, and the passenger window was left scraping against the door, causing $1700 in damage.

It's also nice when some dude pulls out in front of you three weeks later and totals your car. BTW, Progressive's GAP coverage is way, way cheaper than the dealer probably offers.

This was not a Progressive ad. In fact if I get another car, I'll probably insure through State Farm.
posted by dirigibleman at 7:15 PM on February 11, 2006

Definitely call around a few different insurance places, the prices vary wildly. Do some preliminary work online to narrow down the field, by getting online quotes from sites like
If you only got your car license recently then places like Geico and State Farm will be $$$$. I'll suggest Mercury Insurance, who have consistently beaten all the other big names mentioned above, by several hundred dollars. They have been great to me too.
posted by Joh at 12:41 AM on February 12, 2006

A word of warning: if you're buying your car with 100% financing, you could have a problem if you get into an accident and the car is a total writeoff. Normally, your insurance reimburses you only for the replacement value of the car - and when you drive it out of the dealer's showrun, the value drops several thousand dollars. In other words, in this situation you'd have to come up with several thousand dollars to pay off the loan (on your dead car).

I think that most insurance companies offer something (a rider?) to cover this, but often you need to ask, and there is a small additional fee. A minimum, if you're doing 100% financing, ask the agent what happens in this hypothetical situation.
posted by WestCoaster at 3:26 PM on February 12, 2006

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