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Car insurance tips: Research insurance companies before buying a policy

Consumers looking for a few helpful car insurance tips should consider the resources available to them from state insurance departments, which publish detailed information on insurance companies and agents that can help them pick the right insurer for their needs.

The Missouri Department of Insurance recently launched a website that allows consumers to search a database of complaints against insurance companies operating in the state.

John M. Huff, director of the Missouri Department of Insurance, said the complaint database helps consumers to compare companies and see whether complaints are high, low or average for companies of different sizes.

"Before doing business with any kind of company, consumers should always do as much research as possible," Huff said.

Every state has separate laws and regulations governing insurance, so consumers should look into their own state's laws to know their rights and responsibilities when it comes to owning car insurance.

California has what might be the strictest oversight of insurance companies, which consumer advocates say has produced consistently lower rates there. The state's insurance commissioner, Steve Poizner, said recently that state oversight offers more consumer protection than federal oversight.

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