I’ve lived in Pennsylvania for close to three years now, but it was only this past weekend that I registered my car in the state. For all you law-abiding drivers — it wasn’t my fault! With the car in my dad’s name, I wasn’t able to get my own insurance and kick-start the process to re-title and register my car.
Until, of course, this past December, when my dad signed over the car. This month, I dove headfirst into auto insurance. My one main tip for folks buying their own auto insurance for the first time? Pay attention.
- Do your research: Gather quotes from multiple companies and be sure you’re comparing prices for the same coverage across the board. It’s not my idea of a fun after-work activity to enter my personal information four or five times and then field pushy phone calls from insurance agents for days afterward. But oftentimes, putting in the work will get you the best rate.
- Ask questions: A reputable insurance agent should be able to recommend coverage levels dependent on your budget or other factors. If you don’t understand what liability is or what the medical section covers, he or she can also break that down.
- Seek discounts: I qualified for discounts for having multiple policies with one company, owning a car with an anti-theft system, having a good driving record and — to my surprise — being a college graduate with proof of good grades. Each of these lowered my premium.
- Be aware of payment options: Most plans offer you the option to pay each month, or all at once. Monthly payments can be nice if you’d like to spread out the hit to your wallet, but they often come with added service fees. Be aware of how much you’ll spend to pay monthly — or how much you’d save by paying in a lump sum.
- Consider others’ experiences: I set this last because only you can truly decide which company and what coverage will work for you. But it can be helpful, if you truly don’t know where to begin, to ask friends or family members about their experiences with different auto insurance companies — specifically if they’ve had to file claims. A company’s reputation won’t guarantee a positive experience for you, but it’s something to consider.
Of course, if you’re new to Pennsylvania, purchasing the insurance is only your first step. You’ll also have to verify your vehicle’s VIN number (which you can do yourself by tracing, or at any certified inspection station), obtain a Pennsylvania photo ID and turn over your out-of-state title at the time of transaction.
I ended up at the AAA office in East York, where a supremely patient representative helped me out — through each of my three visits — as I gathered the appropriate paperwork to verify my VIN and prove sales tax had been paid on the vehicle at the time of purchase. (He also let me borrow a wrench to change out my license plates. Never loved my AAA membership more!)
All in all — from insurance research to Pennsylvania plates on the car — the process took about eight hours of man time and $88.50 of my hard-earned dollars.
Up next? A state inspection, which newly registered vehicles must undergo within 10 days of registration. Pennsylvania never lets up on the fun.