how to choose an insurance policyWhen you’re shopping for insurance, it’s important to consider your current stage of life. The coverage you had in your teens may be different from the coverage you require as a senior, so you’ll want to choose an insurance policy that fits your needs.

Below are policies you should consider in the different stages of your life:

Auto insurance

Teens. Teenage drivers are involved in more serious and fatal accidents than any other age group, which is why auto insurance is so important for this age group. Unfortunately, adding a teenage driver to your policy can add 50 percent to 100 percent of the cost to your auto coverage.

Luckily, there are some ways your teen driver can lower his or her premium, including driver education programs and good student discounts. Picking a safer car may also lower the cost of insurance. In addition, if your college student does not have a car during the school year and attends a school at least 100 miles from home, an auto insurance company may lower rates significantly for the period your student is not at home.

20s and 30s. If you get married, you’ll probably qualify for an auto insurance discount. If you and your spouse have two cars and two different insurance companies, review your existing coverage to see which company offers the best combination of price and service. You may be eligible for a multi-car discount as well.

40s and beyond. At some point, you may need to help parents or in-laws decide when they should stop driving. While driving ability is not strictly a matter of age—there are middle-aged drivers who are terrible and older drivers who are highly skilled and perfectly safe—older drivers, particularly after the age of 70, are involved in more serious accidents and are increasingly vulnerable to injury. Many states require older drivers to get vision and driving tests more frequently, but it often falls to the children to help parents decide when it is no longer safe to get behind the wheel.

(Click here for five questions to ask when shopping for insurance online.)

Homeowners or renters insurance

Teens. Most teens live at home or in college dorms, so their personal possessions—including computers, stereos, televisions, and clothing—are covered by their parents’ policies. Items of exceptional value, however, may need to be covered by a separate endorsement on the policy.

20s and 30s. Homeowners or renters insurance questions frequently begin when couples buy engagement and wedding rings or accumulate expensive household items. A standard homeowners policy includes a limit on personal possessions, so an endorsement or floater may be needed to cover high-value items. Merging two households presents a good opportunity to do a home inventory that will help you choose an insurance policy that gives you the coverage you need.

40s and beyond. Once you pay off your mortgage, it’s still important to have protection in case of fire, burglary, or natural disasters. As you get older, keep in mind that many insurance companies provide discounts for retirees because they often spend more time at home.

Life insurance

Teens. Many people scoff at life insurance, especially when they are considering how to pay for their children’s college education. Yet they should also be thinking of how to keep things on track if tragedy strikes.

Life insurance, whether permanent or term, is one way to ensure that resources will be there for your child to finish college if something happens to one or both parents. At a minimum, you should think about a limited policy that would cover burial expenses if a child were killed in an accident.

20s and 30s. When you’re married, life insurance is a way of ensuring that a surviving spouse is taken care of in the event of a tragedy. The primary purpose of life insurance is to provide the beneficiary—often a spouse or child—with resources in the event of your premature death.

40s and beyond. As you get older and your life expectancy decreases, the cost of purchasing life insurance can increase. However, the need for it can become increasingly important if you have others who depend on you, including your aging parents.

While these life stages may be good barometers, your insurance may differ from that of your peers based on your individual circumstances. You may want to consider long-term care insurance while only in your 30s, for example, if you will be a guardian for your aging parents. In general, the earlier you consider buying long-term coverage, the cheaper it will be.

Loretta L. Worters is vice president of the Insurance Information Institute, whose mission is to improve public understanding of insurance – what it does and how it works. Ms. Worters is an author and woman’s advocate frequently quoted in leading publications including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, Business Week, Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, and appears regularly on television networks including ABC, CNBC, CNN, and Fox. Follow her on Twitter at @LWorters.