While there is a seemingly endless number of companies issuing auto insurance policies these days, there are really just two ways to buy car insurance: You can purchase a policy in-person through an agent -- a licensed individual who sells policies on behalf of one or more insurance companies -- or you can buy directly from an insurer via Web site or telephone.
Buying car insurance online still accounts for a relatively small portion of total auto insurance sales, but it's increasing in popularity. According to a 2011 survey by the Internet marketing research company ComScore, just 20 percent of new auto insurance policies were purchased online, compared to 43 percent purchased from an agent. However, the number of online purchases represents an increase of 5 percent from just two years earlier, while the number of agent purchases represents a 6 percent decline. Additionally, a 2011 survey by J.D. Power and Associates showed that 54 percent of new auto insurance owners applied for a rate quote online, the first time this has happened for a majority of respondents [source: Insurance Information Institute].