There are many benefits to buying a used car: the car's value has already depreciated, so you won't pay as much as a new model, and you may have more wiggle room to negotiate a sales price. Buying a used car can save you money on both the purchase and auto insurance, but it’s important to do your homework so you can find the right used car insurance protection for your situation.

There are some steps you can take when buying a used car to ensure that you get the car that you want and the right used car insurance coverage to protect it.

Key Takeaways

  • Depreciation on used cars can make used car insurance much more affordable than it is for new cars.
  • The most expensive used cars to insure include the Maserati Gran Turismo, Maserati Quattroporte, and Porsche Spyder.
  • Some of the cheapest used cars to insure include the Honda Odyssey, Chrysler Town & Country, and Dodge Caravan.
  • To ensure you get the cheapest car insurance rates for your used car, always collect multiple quotes from the best providers.

How to buy a used car

Buying a used car takes homework, research and persistence, whether it's your first car or a new upgrade. These steps can help you purchase the right used car for you.

Decide what kind of car you want

Buying a used car isn't always that easy and usually means searching databases, online forums and local car lots to find what you want.

Contact the dealership for help

You may need to cast a wider net to find the right vehicle, but this is where a dealership can help. You can usually list the features you want to the dealership, and the dealer can then search for the make, model, color, and features to find the right car for you.

Research vehicle history

A used car may look shiny on the outside, but you may not know that it's been completely repaired after a major accident. Most states don't have the same "lemon law" consumer protections that apply to new cars, so you should take extra steps to review the vehicle's history. Check the vehicle's history to make sure there aren't any red flags. You can also read reviews from other drivers, learn about issues and see the car's safety ratings and recalls.

Negotiate

Now that you are better informed, you have more wiggle room to negotiate the price. For example, a new car dealership may not be able to give you the price that you want on a new vehicle, but a used car dealer might be able to shave more money off.

Average insurance rates for your Used Vehicle

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Used car inspection checklist

You don't know everything about a car's past by looking at it, but the good news is there is a way to explore its history.

Check the VIN

You can research a specific used car's history by running the vehicle identification number (VIN). The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) maintains a database called VINCheck, allowing consumers to check for a stolen or salvage vehicle. The VinCheck is free to consumers, and you can do a maximum of five searches within a 24-hour period. If you're interested in a used car, you should run the VIN before starting any serious negotiations with the car dealer.

Purchase an NMVTIS report

You can use the VIN to check the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS), which was created to stop the concealment of flood damage and other vehicle histories. It is meant to help protect you from unsafe vehicles being resold, as well as title fraud. This is the only national database that requires all insurance companies, salvage auctions, junkyards and auto recyclers to report loss and junk/salvage vehicles, according to federal law. An NMVTIS report must be purchased from an approved NMVTIS provider.

Check the vehicle history report

You can also purchase a comprehensive vehicle history report, which will tell you a vehicle's accident history, previous owners, correct odometer mileage, major repairs and warranties on the vehicle. This report also tells you the vehicle's "lemon" status. Federal lemon laws cover new cars, but they can also cover used cars if the vehicle is still under warranty. A few states, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Minnesota, have stricter lemon laws for used cars, requiring dealers to offer warranties and take back vehicles that have problems.

Talk to your dealer

If you are working with a major car dealership or car-selling site, most will provide you with a vehicle history for free. Otherwise, you could purchase vehicle history reports from companies like AutoCheck, CarFax, and VinAudit.

Inspect your vehicle

You don't need to be a car enthusiast to give the vehicle a close inspection. Look for things like dents, rust, wear and tear on tires, interior damage, and heat and air conditioning issues. You can also check the radio, power seats, power windows and other features for problems.

In addition to visually inspecting the car yourself, it’s recommended by experts that you take the time, and money, to get a trusted mechanic to give the car a full review before buying it.

How much does used car insurance cost?

Several factors can determine used car insurance rates. Car insurance companies also take into account insurance rate factors such as where you live, your driving record and credit score.

One of the most factors, however, is what car will be insured under your used car insurance policy.

Expensive used cars to insure

Some cars are far more expensive than others to insure. These are the most expensive used cars to insure in 2021, based on 100/300/50 coverage with a $500 deductible.

YearMake and modelAverage rate
2016Maserati Gran Turismo MC Centennia$4,248
2017Maserati Gran Turismo MC Centennia$4,350
2015Maserati Quattroporte GTS$4,388
2019Maserati Ghibli S Q4 GranSport$4,451
2016Maserati Quattroporte GTS$4,549
2018Maserati Gran Turismo MC Centennia$4,623
2017Maserati Quattroporte S$4,723
2018Maserati Quattroporte GTS Granspor$4,778
2019Maserati Quattroporte GTS GranSpor$5,102
2015Porsche 918 Spyder$5,239

Cheapest used cars to insure

If you do not have a lot of money to spend on car insurance, you could save a ton by opting for one of these models. These are the cheapest used cars to insure based on 100/300/50 coverage with a $500 deductible.

YearMake and modelAverage rate
2006Honda Odyssey LX$922
2006Chrysler Town & Country$923
2006Dodge Caravan SE$925
2007Honda Odyssey LX$936
2007Dodge Caravan SE$937
2007Chrysler Town & Country$944
2008Honda Odyssey LX$952
2006Ford Escape XLS$956
2006Jeep Wrangler SE$957
2006Ford Escape XLS$958

How much auto insurance coverage to buy for your used car

Before getting quotes, map out what levels of comprehensive, collision and liability insurance you want.

Liability insurance covers injuries to people in another vehicle or property if you’re legally liable for an auto accident. Every state except New Hampshire requires at least a minimum level of liability insurance. Liability coverage is broken into two types: bodily injury and property damage. Though state minimums are much less, experts say you should get at least:

  • $100,000 coverage for bodily injury per person
  • $300,000 coverage for bodily injury per accident
  • $100,000 property damage for your vehicle

The higher the coverage, the better, since if your limits are exceeded you’ll be personally responsible. Insurance companies also consider a model’s claims history when calculating rates. This means you will likely pay higher auto insurance rates if your car's model is often stolen, gets into many accidents or its drivers receive many tickets, regardless of your driving record.

Remember to be sure you compare rates for the exact same coverage levels using an apples-to-apples comparison as you shop around.

Rating factors: Vehicle

Value: Whether new or used, the value of the vehicle is a big deal to insurers for your collision and comprehensive costs, since they may need to pay to replace it if ever is a total loss.

Repairs: The cost of repairs is also looked at, so a used car with expensive newer tech will cost you more to insure than an older car with little or no tech. An old car that has hard-to-find parts and needs a specialist to repair it will again cost more to insure, maybe even more than a new car that has parts and repair specialists readily available. The more an insurer may have to pay out for repairs, the more you’ll pay in premiums.

Claims history for vehicle: If your insurance company has historically paid out a lot of claims for your model vehicle, it will cost more to insure. For instance, if your model vehicle is stolen more frequently, you’ll normally pay more than a vehicle that is not as popular with thieves.

Type of vehicle: Same as with new vehicles, if the vehicle is a sports car, it will normally cost more to insure than a minivan. If insurance companies find that certain cars are notorious for being driven fast and others slow and the claims and accident data agree, those vehicles will cost more to insure.

Other rating factors: Non-vehicle

When looking for a used vehicle remember it’s not just the vehicle that insurance companies care about and rate you on. You will get better rates with:

  • A good driving record
  • Good credit score
  • Driving experience (the more years licensed, the better)
  • Driving 10,000 or less miles per year
  • Having previous insurance coverage (a gap in coverage is not desirable, so if without a car for a few months, get a non-owner auto insurance policy)

Though the price is important, there is more to auto insurance than getting the cheapest rates. Make sure you get quotes with the same level of coverage so you can get accurate, comparable quotes from each insurance company. You'll also want to read consumer reviews of the best car insurance companies to make sure you're choosing one with stellar customer and claims service.

How long do you have to get insurance after buying a used car?

You'll need auto insurance before you drive off the lot or away from the curb of a private owner, so it's a good idea to contact your insurance company before making the purchase. That way, you can have that settled before you potentially forget and get into trouble. You don’t want the finance company placing “forced” insurance on your vehicle at a very high cost.

Also, be sure to make it clear if you are replacing a vehicle on your policy or adding an additional car to it, as that can make a difference if there is immediate coverage with your current policy.

Do I need insurance before I buy a used car?

If you already own a vehicle, you can generally transfer your insurance to your new vehicle for at least a few days. Ultimately, it depends on your insurance company's policy and state laws how soon you need a new insurance policy for your “new” car.

If buying a vehicle from a private party and you’ll be making payments to the seller, you will need to title it in your name. The seller should sign over the title to you and then be listed as a lienholder so you can obtain the necessary auto insurance.

Frequently asked questions

How does car insurance change for a new vehicle versus used?

Insurance costs are generally cheaper for used cars because they can be cheaper to replace. If your car is fairly old, you may decide that comprehensive and collision aren’t needed, which reduces your overall premium.

Is it cheaper to insure a used car?

Used cars are typically cheaper to insure than new ones, but not always. Our used vehicle insurance rates tool gives you an average cost, so you don’t have to call or go online to get a quote for every car you see in your car search.

What used cars are cheapest to insure?

Some of the cheapest used cars to insure include car makes and models like the Honda Odyssey, Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Caravan, and Ford Escape.

How do I get insurance when buying a used car?

While you’re researching cars to buy, don’t forget to take into account the cost of insurance so you can be sure you can afford to insure it after you purchase it. Insurance companies offer different discounts and devise rates in different ways, so you'll want to get at least three quotes to get the right deal for you.