Comparing car insurance quotes can be head-spinning. Different coverage types, mysterious acronyms, and all those numbers! (Your math teacher warned you that there’d be numbers in real life.)

Not to worry. It’s simply a matter of deciding how much protection you need, then comparing like policies.

Customize your policy

Some coverages are required, so learn what auto insurance you need to stay on the right side of the law in California, Nevada, Utah, or where you live.

Liability coverage comes into play if you cause an accident that harms someone else (bodily injury coverage, or BI) or damages property like a house or fence (property damage coverage, or PD). Personal injury protection (PIP), or “no-fault” insurance, covers injuries to you or your passengers, even if you were driving (because bad things happen to awesome people). This coverage is key if you have so-so health coverage or tote passengers in your car. In addition to medical expenses, PIP can also cover loss of income, loss of essential services, and even funeral expenses if an accident results in death. Another option is to carry MedPay, coverage that is somewhat less robust that PIP, but still covers medical expenses for anyone in your vehicle who is injured during an accident or experiences an auto-related injury. Check with your insurer to learn if either PIP or MedPay are available in your state.

If you hit another car (or a tree, or a billboard), collision coverage helps repair or replace your vehicle. In an ideal world, when another driver hits you, they’ll have stellar coverage. But this is the real world. So if you’re hit by someone with measly car insurance—or none—uninsured  and underinsured motorist coverages can save the day.

An uninsured motorist coverage provides a limited amount of coverage for injuries when you’re in an accident and the driver at fault doesn’t carry any liability insurance. An underinsured motorist insurance coverage will protect you when you're in an accident caused by another driver whose liability coverage is too low to pay for your or your passengers’ medical expenses.

Murphy’s law dictates that disaster can strike even when you aren’t driving—think theft, vandalism, falling coconuts. So comprehensive coverage helps pay for damage unrelated to a collision.

Compare apples to apples

When comparing quotes, it’s tempting to get excited about a low premium (that’s the cost of your insurance policy, it’s what you pay up front to be insured). But before breaking into your happy dance, peruse the details of each policy.

Check the deductible, the out-of-pocket cost you’ll pay when submitting a claim. A higher deductible lowers your premium, which sounds pretty sweet, until you back into a telephone pole—and have to foot the entire repair bill. If you have cash reserves, though, a higher deductible might make sense.

As a ravenous person soon arns at an all-you-can eat buffet, it’s best to know your limits. That’s especially true when comparing auto liability coverage limits, the maximum dollar amounts your insurer will pay when you make a claim. Keep in mind that medical bills from a serious accident can rival Lady Gaga’s wardrobe budget. So experts recommend carrying liability coverage of at least $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident, and property-damage coverage of $50,000.

 

Work the perks

If you find yourself in a predicament—perhaps stranded in a desolate area, horror-movie style—some insurers swoop to the rescue, offering towing service, tire changes when you get a flat, or even gas delivery. Consider these perks as you compare car insurance quotes.

Auto insurance is like running shoes—you tend to get what you pay for. So buy the best coverage that you can comfortably afford.

Ready to run some numbers?