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After buying a car, how long do I have to shop for car insurance?

You'll need to purchase insurance before you buy the car if you currently have no coverage at all. Get car insurance quotes for comparable levels of coverage from several insurers to find the best deal. Also, consider customer service ratings and financial strength of the insurance companies when you make your final decision. Most state insurance departments, which oversee the insurance industry, provide helpful resources on their websites, including data on complaints against insurance companies.

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Because car insurance is mandatory for drivers in most states, car dealerships typically require you to show proof of insurance for your new car before you drive it off the lot. If you have insurance on another vehicle, then that policy will cover you temporarily for the new car. Just show the dealer your insurance card, and you should be good to go.

You don't have to tell your insurance company you're planning to buy a new car, but you shouldn't wait long to inform the insurer once you've made a purchase. Car insurance companies generally give you 14 to 30 days to inform them that you've bought a new vehicle. Don't forget. You could end up driving without insurance if you wait too long to tell your insurance company.

Bear in mind you should add collision and comprehensive coverage if you carried only liability coverage on your old car. Banks that provide financing for new cars require collision and comprehensive to protect the investment. Liability insurance covers damage you do to others if you cause an accident, but doesn't cover damage to your own vehicle. Collision covers damage to your vehicle in case of a traffic accident, and comprehensive covers damage to your vehicle from some other cause, such as a natural disaster, theft, vandalism or collision with a deer or other animal.

For more, see auto(matic) coverage for new cars.

Last updated: Jan. 18, 2011 Redesign Survey