Auto insurance is one of the most aggressively marketed products in the modern world. Everywhere you look, commercials advise you to buy insurance or call for a free quote. Whether on the radio, online, on television or even in billboards, auto insurance companies are trying to gain clients.

One reason for the sudden popularity of car insurance is the changing model of how insurance is sold. Everyone needs car insurance; if you own a vehicle, you must insure that car to stay in line with the law. The company you choose to purchase that insurance from, however, is your choice.

At one time, most people purchased their auto insurance from a local agent. They would find an insurance agent through referrals from friends or family and develop a relationship with that agent. The agent would then sell a policy for whatever insurance company the agent chose to provide; some agencies would specialize in only one company, while others were independent and carried multiple different insurers.

The Internet has changed the way we buy car insurance.

Once car insurance companies were able to advertise directly to consumers, customers were more likely to buy a policy directly from the insurance company. Call centers were established and filled with customer service operators who would create new insurance policies. Websites were built to enable customers to buy policies online.

Suddenly, direct marketing became much more lucrative than it had been before. Now, a large number of people choose to buy their auto insurance coverage off the Internet. It’s easy to get a free quote online; you can input your information and receive quotes from dozens of insurance companies. Once you find one that you like, you can request more information.

At that point, the insurance company will have a representative call you to finish the process. The reason you must speak with an individual before purchasing insurance is to make sure that all of the information you provided is accurate and to discuss any details about your coverage.

What else can you do online?

In addition to locating and purchasing an auto policy online, you can also use the Internet to complete other insurance-related tasks. For example, you can choose to pay your bills online or sign up for automatic monthly payments to be withdrawn from your bank account. You can also access your policy online and make any changes that you wish to your policy coverage.

Many car insurance companies are also implementing online self-service claims processing. This program allows you to log in from your computer or smartphone and fill out the necessary information to establish a claim. You may even be able to schedule an appointment for an inspection and arrange to have payments deposited directly into your bank account.

Is shopping for car insurance online cheaper than using a local agent?

Shopping online for car insurance does have some limitations, however. While most of the major insurance companies such as Allstate, Progressive and GEICO have a direct sales option, many other companies still sell coverage exclusively through agencies. This means that there may be insurance companies available to you that you will only learn about if you use an independent agent.

Some people also prefer to have local insurance agents. Agencies provide a name and face to put to your insurance company, and many people develop a friendly relationship with their agency over years of service. For some individuals, having a trusted expert walking them through difficult insurance times can be extremely valuable.

Other people prefer to maintain as little contact with their insurance as possible and view the service as just another monthly bill. Direct sales insurance companies are often cheaper than companies that employ a large staff of agents. Some customers also enjoy the independence that purchasing policies directly can bring; they may not enjoy talking to customer service representatives or might want to buy a policy at their own pace without being coerced by salespeople.

Whether you decide to buy a policy online, over the phone or in person you can obtain the best rates on car insurance by comparison shopping before you commit to any policy. You can also maintain low premiums by signing up for any special discounts available, such as safe driver discounts or discounts for carrying multiple policies under the same company.