While car insurance companies differ greatly in their quality of service, their stated benefits are roughly comparable for similar levels of coverage. Therefore, when looking for a certain level of coverage, it can pay to shop around for the cheapest car insurance as long as you do not sacrifice quality of service.
Some brokers or websites provide ratings of insurance companies while others allow for comparison quotes. These generally work by partnering with 3 or more insurance companies for the purpose of allowing a potential customer to choose from multiple quotes.
This approach can be effective, but understand that you are still limited in choice to the partners of that service. There may be many other car insurance companies that provide the same or better service, and many may carry cheaper premiums.
When you are shopping around, consider the reputation of the company. Look for red flags, such as a low Better Business Bureau rating or regulatory action against the company by your state's Department of Insurance.
Also., when choosing between different companies, make sure that you are comparing similar policies with matching levels of coverage. Look for anomalies that can make a cheap car insurance quote seem like a great deal. There may be missing levels of coverage that you were not aware of that might come back to haunt you later on.
One of the best approaches is indeed contacting individual companies directly to request a quote. This can often be done online in just a few minutes. Expect them to review your driving history and your credit report prior to issuing a quote. Most companies will also investigate a little known insurance bureau that aggregates claims made to insurance companies. If you have made claims in the past, these could increase your quote.
Online sites allow you to obtain multiple quotes for comparison. If you choose to call the company to obtain a quote, understand that the person is required to make an attempt to sell the policy to you, even if you are simply shopping around. While you may indeed choose to go with that company, you will need to make sure there are not better policies out there. Sometimes the cheapest car insurance quotes actually come from good companies, so shop around and make sure that you select the one that you are most comfortable with!