According to Insure.com, the most dangerous food to consume while behind the wheel of a car is a cup of coffee. So does that mean you should deny indulging your caffeine monkey during your morning commute to shave a few bucks off your car insurance premium?

Auto insurance can be a costly - but necessary - part of owning and driving a vehicle on the nation's roadways. As the demand for more types of coverage and more comprehensive coverage has increased, the auto insurance industry has responded by offering more services. Unfortunately, more available services can create more confusion when its time to shop for car insurance.

Knowing the types of auto insurance coverage, what increases your costs and what perks you can get along with your coverage is a valuable tool that will get you the best quote and the best piece of mind.

Auto Insurance Coverage Types

· Liability Car Insurance

Liability insurance covers the damages caused by your vehicle, whether bodily injury or property damage. The amount of coverage varies by policy and by the kind of damages covered. Important note: liability does not pay for damages to your or your car. Some form of liability auto insurance is required in almost every state except New Hampshire, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin.

· Collision Insurance

This type of car insurance pays for damages to your vehicle that has been caused by you. For example, if you smash your new Toyota into a guardrail, collision insurance would pick up the tab.

· Comprehensive Insurance

Sometimes known as "Acts of God Insurance," comprehensive auto insurance coverage also pays for replacing your car in the event of theft, vandalism and other unfortunate events that may not be related to driving.

· Underinsured/Uninsured Driver Insurance

Although each state requires motorists to carry a minimum amount of car insurance coverage, this minimum coverage might not be enough to pay for damages that other drivers inflict on you. Plus, this facet of auto insurance covers you against the many drivers that hit the road with no coverage at all.

· Personal Injury Protection Insurance

Auto insurance with this type of coverage can pay for the medical expenses of you and your passengers.

Car Insurance: Contract Terms to Look Out For

In general, anything said during contract negotiations, but not written on the declarations page of your auto insurance contract is meaningless. Here are two terms that you should look out for in your car insurance policy:

· Actual Cash Value

If your car is totaled, you will be paid only the fair market value for the vehicle at the time of the accident. If you are still making payments on a car that has depreciated greatly in value, the fair market value may be less than the amount you still owe for the car. An optional type of auto insurance, called gap insurance, is available to cover this potential loss.

· Excess Provision

This is not the same as a deductible. This term defines the minimum amount a claim must be before the insurance company will pay. For example, if the excess amount is $10,000, the insurance company will not pay anything until the claim exceeds $10,000. So if you have collision insurance with an excess provision of $10,000 and manage to inflict $9,999 of damage to your Jaguar, your car insurance company would pay you…nothing.

Auto Insurance Perks

When you're shopping for the best quote, don't forget about the perks. Extras such as roadside assistance, towing, or tire repair can add a lot of value to your policy which affect car insurance premiums significantly.

Car Insurance Rates: 5 Things that Make You Pay More

Many factors influence the costs of auto insurance. Your occupation, education, even the clubs you belong to can raise, or lower, your car insurance rates.

· Your Driving Record

Your history behind the wheel will determine how much you pay for car insurance. Even minor traffic violations are seen as a sign of increased risk for the insurance company, which means increased costs for auto insurance for you.

· Where You Live and Drive

Bigger city drivers can expect to pay more for their car insurance than motorists in rural or suburban areas. A state’s specific laws concerning auto accident injury liability can also have an impact on your premiums.

· What You Drive

The car insurance industry uses crash test information and real world data to rate the safety a given vehicle. If you drive a car with a lower than average safety rating, you will pay more than average for auto insurance.

· Your Age and Gender

Younger drivers and male drivers are considered more of a risk by the auto insurance industry. Cheer up; car insurance rates tend to fall after age 25.

· Other People

If other people are on the car insurance policy with you, their driving record, credit history, age and gender can affect the premiums that you pay.

Auto Insurance: Get the Best Quote

Although the neighborhood insurance agency still does a brisk business in the car and used car insurance field, the Internet has given buyers the ability to comparison shop from insurance providers around the country.

Some companies, such as Progressive, GEICO and Esurance specialize in the online auto insurance market, while traditional insurance companies such as Allstate and State Farm have followed suit into the online quotes arena. This stiff competition has given rise to significant discounts in car insurance policies purchased online.

So while it's probably not a good idea to lie to your insurance agent in the pursuit of lower rates, aggressive comparison shopping among insurance carriers should get you the best quote for car insurance.