If this is your first car, congratulations! Cars give people the freedom to go where they want at a moment’s notice and explore new places. However, driving responsibly is crucial for your safety, to avoid tickets and keep your finances protected. One essential element is car insurance. Before simply buying the first car insurance policy that sends a bulk mailing, first-time car insurance buyers should take the time to learn about what their state requires, what they need, and how their driving record can affect their insurance rates.

Luckily, Underground Elephant takes the mystery out of car insurance. The company provides valuable resources to help lower your car insurance payment, and offers a personal quote comparison tool from the nation’s top providers. Furthermore, they have created the Underground Elephant Scholarship, which helps young people who practice safe driving get money for college. Here, they weigh in on what first-time buyers need to know about car insurance:

Insurance is necessary

The US has an uninsured motorist problem; in Florida, for example, more than 25% of its drivers were uninsured as of 2015. It’s important to note that driving without insurance is illegal, and each state has a specific amount of car insurance required to be on the road legally. The state of California, for instance, requires that all vehicles have bodily injury liability coverage ($15,000 per person), property damage ($5000), and uninsured motorist coverage. Conversely, New York requires $10,000 in property damage coverage. It’s crucial for drivers to know a state’s minimum to make sure they are legally compliant. Fees for driving without insurance can run about $500, even for a first offender, and could even lead to other punishments such as community service or license suspension.

Know the different kinds of coverage and how they work

Legality is only the first step. While states require drivers to buy minimum amounts of liability and other types of coverage, there are good reasons to expand that coverage. Drivers who own their own home or have considerable saving may want to consider liability equal to the value of their home, so as to avoid losing their property in the case of a lawsuit. Additionally, car loans may require collision or comprehensive coverage, which can reimburse car owners in the event of a road accident, natural disaster, or collision.

Other factors can affect insurance prices

Insurance premiums can be affected by factors other than the amount of coverage. More inexperienced drivers usually pay higher insurance premiums, as do drivers with points on their licenses. Drivers who have previously had accidents, speeding tickets, or other violations pay more in insurance than drivers with spotless records.

Shop around, consider different plans, or get assistance

There are many ways to get the best price possible. Considering higher deductibles, for instance, helps lower rates. Customers should also consider shopping around. And, online services such as Underground Elephant can help drivers find their lowest possible rate. With a personal car insurance expert, drivers can learn how to compare rates or get a digital, personal quote comparison tool. Experts can help cut through industry language and demystify the process.