When you're shopping for auto insurance, you may hear about a product called either "instant auto insurance" or "instant online car insurance." Either way, it refers to insurance that is purchased online and put into effect almost immediately.
How Do You Get It?
Instant car insurance is when you go online, get a quote, accept the terms, pay for the policy and print proof of your insurance in a single session at your computer. Some insurance companies will ask you to make the first premium payment (generally via credit card or instant transfer from your bank account) at that point, before allowing you to print copies of your insurance card and policy.
Not every insurance company offers instant insurance, and those that do may only offer such coverage on a state-by-state basis, so always be certain to read all the information before you provide a form of payment.
What Should I Look For?
Once you print your insurance policy and insurance card, read them both. With the policy, you'll want to make sure the terms of coverage match what you agreed to online, and that the cost of the policy is correct. On both the policy and the insurance card, you should verify that your name and address are spelled correctly, and that the correct VIN (vehicle identification number) and effective dates appear. If anything is incorrect, contact the customer service department at your auto insurance company immediately.
Is It Legal?
While the insurance card you print at home may not look terribly official, as long as you're using a legitimate auto insurance company, it's perfectly legal. It's important to remember that the proof of insurance you printed out is also sent to your state's insurance database, so it can be accessed if you have to register - or re-register - your car, or if you're ever pulled over by the police.
In some states, police can even access your insurance information electronically while they've got you stopped at the side of the road, which is one of the reasons instant car insurance is even possible.
Instant online car insurance isn't necessarily better or worse than getting a policy in a more traditional way, but it is much more convenient, especially if you've been waiting for the last minute to renew a policy or switch insurers.