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Like many people buying car insurance, you shop around and buy online. You've found a really good, cost-efficient deal.
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This just in: auto insurance is not as expensive as you thought it was. Results from the online Pricing Report showed that many drivers experienced a reprieve in 2005 from the high costs of auto insurance. A decline in the 2005 national average was reported along with a rate fall for over 21 states. That amounts to a 2% decline from 2004 and means many customers saved an average of $60.00 a year. Judging from the decline, now is as good a time as any to sign up for auto insurance or to look for new insurance carriers.

But which company will you choose? Most insurance carriers have an online presence established, including the giants of auto insurance like Progressive, State Farm, Allstate, GMAC, and of course the famous : Gecko lizard Geico. These nationwide insurance carriers can all give you a free auto insurance quote based on demographic information and a credit report.

Even local auto insurance carriers doing business within one state have a web site, and can guide you step by step from a free quote all the way to transferring your insurance, online and with time to spare.

However, there is also another runner in this insurance race, and that is the online auto insurance carriers, as distinguished from regular insurance companies that merely have a nationwide web site. Online carriers are insurance companies that market exclusively over the web. Most web sites not affiliated with the big insurance companies are merely quote comparison services. However, online insurance carriers are actual businesses that aggressively target consumers online.

The most prominent of these online carriers is Esurance, which recently began a major advertising campaign on television, in print ads, and of course, through Internet advertising (including search engine optimization). Online services are available 24 hours a day and can afford to offer more competitive prices than traditional auto insurance companies. You can get a quote, buy a policy and print out a proof of insurance card all within minutes. You can also file claims and make policy changes online.

One other important factor, possibly the most important, is the accessibility factor. Everyone loves the idea of low premiums and affordable auto insurance, but how many imperfect drivers really qualify for such low rates? They usually have higher premiums if they meet any of the common criteria: had a traffic ticket, were in a major or minor collision in the last 5 years, are under 25, or live in a major traffic-heavy city. Online carriers on the other hand, are usually less discriminatory based on demographics and driving history. Most customers with an average amount of traffic history to report pay the same competitive rates as everyone else. There are even some drivers who do not qualify for traditional auto insurance at any rate. Online carriers, however, remain competitive and will most likely provide virtual insurance to even the most unpopular drivers.

Online carriers can afford to take risks, since they are competing with the corporate giants of auto insurance. Whether you choose traditional or online insurance, getting started over the Internet is easy and convenient two words not normally associated with auto insurance.

Tristan Andrews is a writer for California Car Insurance.

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