- What is auto insurance?
Auto insurance protects you against financial loss if you have an accident. It is a contract between you and the insurance company. You agree to pay the premium and the insurance company agrees to pay your losses as defined in your policy.Auto insurance provides property, liability and medical coverage:
Property coverage pays for damage to or theft of your car.
Liability coverage pays for your legal responsibility to others for bodily injury or property damage.
Medical coverage pays for the cost of treating injuries, rehabilitation and sometimes lost wages and funeral expenses.
An auto insurance policy is comprised of six different kinds of coverage. Most states require you to buy some, but not all, of these coverages. If you’re financing a car, your lender may also have requirements.
Most auto policies are for six months to a year. Your insurance company should notify you by mail when it’s time to renew the policy and to pay your premium.
- What is covered by a basic auto policy?
Your auto policy may include six coverages. Each coverage is priced separately.1. Bodily Injury Liability
This coverage applies to injuries that you, the designated driver or policyholder, cause to someone else. You and family members listed on the policy are also covered when driving someone else’s car with their permission.It’s very important to have enough liability insurance, because if you are involved in a serious accident, you may be sued for a large sum of money. Definitely consider buying more than the state-required minimum to protect assets such as your home and savings.
2. Medical Payments or Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
This coverage pays for the treatment of injuries to the driver and passengers of the policyholder’s car. At its broadest, PIP can cover medical payments, lost wages and the cost of replacing services normally performed by someone injured in an auto accident. It may also cover funeral costs.
3. Property Damage Liability
This coverage pays for damage you (or someone driving the car with your permission) may cause to someone else’s property. Usually, this means damage to someone else’s car, but it also includes damage to lamp posts, telephone poles, fences, buildings or other structures your car hit.
This coverage pays for damage to your car resulting from a collision with another car, object or as a result of flipping over. It also covers damage caused by potholes. Collision coverage is generally sold with a deductible of $250 to $1,000-the higher your deductible, the lower your premium. Even if you are at fault for the accident, your collision coverage will reimburse you for the costs of repairing your car, minus the deductible. If you’re not at fault, your insurance company may try to recover the amount they paid you from the other driver’s insurance company. If they are successful, you’ll also be reimbursed for the deductible.
This coverage reimburses you for loss due to theft or damage caused by something other than a collision with another car or object, such as fire, falling objects, missiles, explosion, earthquake, windstorm, hail, flood, vandalism, riot, or contact with animals such as birds or deer.
Comprehensive insurance is usually sold with a $100 to $300 deductible, though you may want to opt for a higher deductible as a way of lowering your premium.
Comprehensive insurance will also reimburse you if your windshield is cracked or shattered. Some companies offer glass coverage with or without a deductible.
States do not require that you purchase collision or comprehensive coverage, but if you have a car loan, your lender may insist you carry it until your loan is paid off.
6. Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage
This coverage will reimburse you, a member of your family, or a designated driver if one of you is hit by an uninsured or hit-and-run driver.
Underinsured motorist coverage comes into play when an at-fault driver has insufficient insurance to pay for your total loss. This coverage will also protect you if you are hit as a pedestrian.
- How much coverage do I need?
Almost every state requires you to buy a minimum amount of liability coverage. Chances are that you will need more liability insurance than the state requires because accidents cost more than the minimum limits. If you’re found legally responsible for bills that are more than your insurance covers, you will have to pay the difference out of your own pocket. These costs could wipe you out!The Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) recommends that you have $100,000 of bodily injury protection per person and $300,000 per accident. If your net worth is more than $300,000, consider buying additional liability insurance. You may also consider purchasing an umbrella or excess liability policy. These policies pay when your underlying coverages are exhausted. Typically, these policies cost between $200 and $300 per year for a million dollars in coverage. If you have your homeowners and auto insurance with the same company, check out the cost of coverage with this company first. If you have coverage with different companies, it may be easier to buy it from your auto insurance company.
In addition to liability coverage, consider buying collision and comprehensive coverage. You don’t decide how much to buy. Your coverage reflects the market value of your car and the cost of repairing it.
Decide on a deductible-the amount of money you pay on a claim before the insurance company reimburses you. Typically, deductibles are $500 or $1,000; the higher your deductible, the lower your premium.
- How can I save money?
The price you pay for your auto insurance can vary by hundreds of dollars, depending what type of car you have and the insurance company you buy your policy from. Here are some ways to save money.Before you buy a car, compare insurance costs
Before you buy a new or used car, check into insurance costs. Your premium is based in part on the car’s sticker price, the cost to repair it, its overall safety record, and the likelihood of theft. Many insurers offer discounts for features that reduce the risk of injuries or theft. These include air bags, anti-lock brakes, daytime running lights and anti-theft devices. Some states require insurers to give discounts for cars equipped with air bags or anti-lock brakes.Cars that are favorite targets for thieves cost more to insure. Information that can help you decide what car to buy is available from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ( http://www.iihs.org ).
Ask for higher deductibles
Deductibles represent the amount of money you pay before your insurance policy kicks in. By requesting higher deductibles, you can lower your costs substantially. For example, increasing your deductible from $200 to $500 could reduce your collision and comprehensive coverage cost by 15 percent to 30 percent. Going to a $1,000 deductible can save you 40 percent or more.
Reduce coverage on older cars
Consider dropping collision and/or comprehensive coverages on older cars. It may not be cost-effective to continue insuring cars worth less than 10 times the amount you would pay for coverage. Any claim payment you receive would not substantially exceed your premiums minus the deductible. Claims occur on average only once every 11 or 12 years. Auto dealers and banks can tell you the worth of a car, or you can look it up online at Kelley Blue Book ( http://www.kbb.com)). Review your coverage at renewal time to make sure your insurance needs haven’t changed.
Buy your homeowners and auto coverage from the same insurer
Many insurers will give you a discount if you buy two or more types of insurance from them. Also you may get a reduction if you have more than one vehicle insured with the same company. Some insurers reduce premiums for long-time customers. But shop around; you may save money buying from different insurance companies despite the multi-policy discount.
Take advantage of low-mileage discounts
Some companies offer discounts to motorists who drive a lower than average number of miles per year. Low mileage discounts can also apply to drivers who carpool to work.
Some companies offer reductions to drivers who get insurance through a group plan from their employers, or through professional, business and alumni groups and other associations. Ask your employer or any groups or clubs to which you belong.
Maintain good credit
Your credit rating may affect what you pay for insurance, so keep a close eye on it. Credit makes insurance rates more accurate, fair and objective. While the use of insurance scoring varies from state to state and company to company, it is a fact that drivers with long, stable credit records have fewer accidents than drivers who don’t. There are various Internet services that allow you to check your credit rating and provide tips on how to improve your score.
Seek out safe driver discounts
Companies offer discounts to policyholders who have not had any accidents or moving violations for a number of years. You may also qualify for a cut if you have recently taken a defensive driving course.
Inquire about other discounts
You may get a break on your insurance if you are over 50 or in some cases 55 and retired or if there is a young driver on the policy who is a good student, has taken a drivers education course or is at a college, generally at least 100 miles away.
When you comparison shop, inquire about discounts* for:
More than 1 car
No accidents in 3 years
No moving violations in 3 years
Drivers over 50-55 years of age
Driver training course
Defensive driving course
Low annual mileage
Daytime running lights
Student drivers with good grades
Auto and homeowners coverage with the same company
College students away from home
*The discounts listed may not be available in all states or from all insurance companies.
But don’t forget that the key to savings is not the discounts but the final price. A company that offers few discounts may still have a lower overall price.
- Can I drive legally without insurance?
NO! Almost every state requires you to have auto liability insurance. All states also have financial responsibility laws. This means that even in a state that does not require liability insurance, you need to have sufficient assets to pay claims if you cause an accident. If you don’t have enough assets, you must purchase at least the state minimum amount of insurance. But insurance exists to protect your assets.
Trying to see how little you can get by with can be very shortsighted and dangerous.If you’ve financed your car, your lender may require comprehensive and collision insurance as part of the loan agreement. There are limits for all persons injured, and the third refers to property damage liability limits. For example, 20/40/10 means coverage up to $40,000 for all persons injured in an accident, subject to a limit of $20,000 for one individual and $10,000 coverage for property damage.
- Get a Auto Insurance Quote
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