As a responsible driver, you want to make sure you have the best auto insurance possible. But it’s not always that easy. Car insurance isn’t one-size-fits-all and by cutting corners or failing to do research, you can cost yourself big time. Avoid these common mistakes to make sure you get the best policy to suit your needs (and you don’t pay too much for it):

Not being prepared

Deciding on a policy without any research can leave you paying too much, getting the wrong coverages, or worse. Before you ask for a quote, make sure you know all the following information:

  • What coverages does your state require?
  • If you’re financing your car, what coverages does your lender require?
  • How much can you afford to pay each month for premiums?
  • How much can you afford to pay out-of-pocket in the case of an accident?

Buying the minimum coverage required by state law

Purchasing the state minimum in coverage will allow you to get your vehicle off the lot, but it won’t necessarily protect you in the event of an accident or other loss. Take for example liability insurance, which protects you in the in the event that you cause damage to someone else’s property. If you total someone else’s brand new car, but you only carry $15,000 in liability, you’re going to have to pay the rest out of pocket.

Failing to shop around

While you can’t haggle down the price of car insurance, you can shop around to see who has the best deal. Each carrier has their own parameters for setting a price. So, for example, one may offer you a discount for being married, while the next one does not. You won’t know who can offer the best price for your policy until you call around and compare.

Buying more coverage than you need

Just as you can buy too little coverage, you can also buy too much. For example, if you’re driving an old clunker, you probably don’t need as much collision or comprehensive coverage as someone with a newer vehicle. Also, be wary of add-ons: If you already pay for a service like AAA, for instance, there’s no need to add roadside assistance to your auto policy.

Sticking with the same insurer year after year

Most insurance carriers today offer front-end loaded discounts. That means that you get a whole bunch of savings up front (say, a ‘new policy’ discount’), but they slowly fall off over the years. That’s why it makes sense to shop your policy around every two years or so–and if you really love your current carrier, you can come back when the discounts reset again (usually after one year has passed).