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Auto Insurance is a Legal Requirement
Having car insurance is required by law in most states.
If you are at fault in a car accident, the auto liability coverage required on your car insurance policy helps pay for covered losses, such as the other party's medical bills and damage to their vehicle or other property that results from the accident. It also helps pay your legal fees, if you're taken to court over the accident.
Auto insucance is mandatory
Each state's laws set minimum auto liability coverage limits that drivers are required to buy. A limit is the maximum amount your insurance company will pay toward a covered claim. You may want to increase your coverage limits beyond your state's minimum requirements. Otherwise, you could end up paying out of pocket if, for instance, you cause a wreck that injures another driver and their medical bills exceed your coverage limits. Some states require you to have additional coverages on your car insurance policy, such as uninsured motorist coverage or personal injury protection.
Before you hit the road, understand that
nearly every state requires some form of financial responsibility from drivers. Most states require a Car Insurance by State" minimum amount of car insurance, though some states allow drivers to prove financial responsibility via Alternatives to Car Insurance" other means such as filing a surety bond of a certain amount.
Liability insurance is a two-fold type of coverage:
- Bodily injury coverage: This covers injuries suffered by another person during an auto accident.
- Property damage coverage: This covers damage to another person's property during an auto accident.
Note that liability insurance doesn’t cover you or your car—unless you’re the injured party (and even then, it’s the
other person’s insurance that covers you). Thus, it’s important to consider other types of optional coverage (see “Optional Coverages” below).
Because your car insurance provider is licensed to sell insurance in your state, your agent is schooled on your state’s minimum liability insurance requirements; still, you can prepare yourself by choosing your state in our section on
"Car Insurance by State" Car Insurance.
There are many different kinds of additional coverage you can add on to your car insurance policy, and you can discuss additional coverage types with your insurance agent, who will talk with you about your specific needs.
Below are three of the most common types of additional coverage that drivers request.
1) Collision and Comprehensive Coverage
Generally,Comprehensive and Collision Insurance" collision and comprehensive coverage are optional―unless you leased or financed your vehicle and your lender requires these coverage types until you pay off your loan.
Where liability insurance covers damages to other people's property, collision and comprehensive is considered
physical damage coverage and protects your property.
- Collision insurance: This insurance covers damages to your own vehicle in the event of a collision.
- Comprehensive insurance: This insurance covers damages to your vehicle in the event of theft, vandalism, natural disasters, animal collisions, and weather conditions.
Purchasing these two types of coverage is a good idea even if you're not required to do so. It can be especially useful if you live in a large metropolitan area, or you often commute in heavy traffic.
if your vehicle is older, collision and comprehensive insurance might not pay off; in the long run, you could end up paying more in premiums than you would to repair your vehicle.
If you are like many first-time drivers, your first car will probably be second-hand or low-value, so you might want to avoid these coverages. Also, remember that this may be just another reason to avoid that flashy new car. A cheaper car probably doesn’t need as much coverage, so you’ll save money on the purchase AND on your insurance!
2 Underinsured and Uninsured Motorist Coverage
Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage protects you in the case that you get hit by a driver who doesn’t have coverage to pay for your damages and/or injuries.
- Underinsured Motorist Coverage" Underinsured motorist coverage: This insurance protects you if you're involved in an accident with a driver who doesn’t have high enough insurance limits to cover the damages sustained.
- Uninsured Motorist Coverage" Uninsured motorist coverage: This insurance protects you if you're involved in an accident with a driver who has no coverage.
3) Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
Similar to underinsured motorist coverage, PIP Insurance" personal injury protection (PIP insurance) is a medical coverage that covers the cost of your own medical expenses related to an accident, whether or not you were at fault.
PIP insurance coverage allows you to get your medical bills paid without having to wait for the conclusion of a lengthy accident investigation.
PIP is also referred to as
"No-Fault Insurance and Fault Insurance" no-fault coverage, and is required in some states. Check our Car Insurance by State" Car Insurance section to see what types of insurance you must buy in your state.
There are multiple other types of coverages. These include:
- Medical payments coverage.
- Rental reimbursement coverage.
- Towing and labor coverage.
- Emergency roadside assistance coverage.
Visit our Car Insurance Coverage" Auto Insurance Coverage section to learn all about the types of coverage available from most car insurance companies.
Car Insurance Rates and Premiums
Your car insurance rate, or premium, is the payment you make to have car insurance coverage.
Rates vary from provider to provider, but some of the most common factors car insurance companies use when determining your insurance rates include:
- The amount and type(s) of coverage you want (and need).
- Your driving record, also known as a Driving Records" motor vehicle record (MVR). Your MVR is a record of your driving history and helps car insurance companies determine the risk involved when insuring you. MVRs provide information including your:
- Current driver license status.
- Any traffic violations (including the associated DMV Point System" driving record points ).
- Any at-fault accidents in which you’ve been involved.
- Your vehicle. This includes factors such as:
- The make and model.
- How at risk the vehicle is for being stolen or vandalized.
- How much it would cost to repair the vehicle.
- How many (if any) safety features the vehicle has installed.
- The vehicle’s overall safety rating.
- Where you park your vehicle (specifically, how safe the location is).
- Where you live. Vehicles in urban areas notoriously are more expensive to insure than those in rural areas.
- How often you drive. Vehicle owners who don’t drive much tend to get lower rates than those who spend a lot of time behind the wheel.
- Your credit score. Many auto insurance companies determine factors such as how likely you are to make payments on time or file a complaint based on your credit history.
- Some personal information, such as your age and gender.
- For example, females 25 years old and older tend to get lower premiums because they belong to two groups less likely to become involved in accidents: women and drivers over 25.
Again, because providers’ rates vary, it’s important to shop around for car insurance coverage. Get quotes from a variety of companies before choosing the best insurance policy and rates for you.
“How to Shop for Insurance” below for more details.
Car Insurance Limits
Your car insurance limit is the
highest amount of coverage your company provides on a specific coverage.
For example, if your collision limit is $10,000 and you incur $15,000 in damages to your vehicle, your car insurance company will pay $10,000 and you’ll be responsible for the remaining $5,000.
Sometimes, you’ll see policies written with two numbers, such as 50/100. For example, if your bodily injury liability coverage is written as such, it means that it will pay:
- $50,000 maximum for bodily injury to a single driver in an accident you cause.
- $100,000 maximum for bodily injury to multiple people in an accident you cause.
Increasing your limits means your car insurance company will cover more of the costs, but increasing your limits often means increasing your rates, too. Make such a decision based on how much you can reasonably afford to pay in premiums.
Car Insurance Deductibles
"Deductibles, Coverage, and Car Insurance Rates" car insurance deductible is the out-of-pocket amount of money a driver pays before his car insurance coverage will kick in to pay a claim.
For example, let’s say you have an accident and rack up $2,500 worth of damage to your car. If your deductible is $1,000:
- You pay $1,000 toward the damage repair.
- Your insurance company picks up the remaining $1,500.
Typically, the higher the premium, the lower the deductible, and vice versa.
Although choosing a higher deductible so you can get a lower premium seems like a good idea, it’s not always financially responsible. Why? You might have to pay that deductible some day, and if it’s too high (especially depending on where you are in life), you might no be able to afford it.
Always be mindful when
How to Choose the Right Deductible for You choosing your deductible about whether you can reasonably afford to pay it if you get into an accident.
How to Shop for Insurance
You probably already know you can directly shop for car insurance online or in person, but did you know there are even more thorough ways to go about it?
you might use an agent or a broker when shopping for auto coverage.
Generally, car insurance agents work with specific companies; on the flip-side, brokers (sometimes referred to as independent agents) work with several different insurance companies. As such, brokers tend to give you a more well-rounded view of your options. However, they might charge you a broker fee.
Additionally, agents might be more knowledgeable about the companies they work with, including discounts provided by those companies!
Research Car Insurance Companies
Whether you use an agent or broker or go it alone, it’s crucial to research car insurance companies before applying for quotes and
"How To Choose the Best Car Insurance Company" choosing a provider.
Ways to dig a little deeper into companies include:
Find the provider’s social media accounts (such as Facebook and Twitter).
Reach out and ask specific questions about coverage options and cost. Gauge responses and determine the quality of customer service.
Talk with family members and friends about their auto coverage providers.
What kinds of experiences have they had? Are they pleased? Why or why not?
- Check with Department of Insurance for Auto Insurance Consumer Complaint Ratios"consumer complaint ratios
- Learn about the provider’s financial standing.
- Look up the company’s rating on the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
- The BBB rates businesses from A+ to F and provides a wealth of specific information including customer complaints and how long the provider has been in operation.
Getting Car Insurance Quotes
Now that you have a handle on a few possible companies, it’s time to apply for car insurance quotes.
In addition to some of the tips and discount information listed below, it’s important to
never limit yourself to one company. Always get at least three quotes from three different providers. This is easy to do in today’s market, as you can get multiple quotes online at one time.
You will need to have some
What You Need For A Car Insurance Quote" information on hand, such as:
- Your Social Security number.
- Your VIN number.
- Your car’s make and model.
- Your daily mileage.
Giving yourself as many options as possible opens the door to better coverage, more affordable rates, and a multitude of discounts.
Tips to Find Cheap Car Insurance
You know that getting as many quotes as possible is one way to find more affordable coverage. Now try some of these tips for first time drivers on getting discounts and the best car insurance rates:
- Ask about multi-line coverage.
- Also known as “bundling,” insuring multiple properties (such as vehicles and houses) can get you a discount on both lines of insurance.
- Look for good-driver rewards programs.
- Some companies provide drivers with discounts after a certain period of accident- and violation-free time.
- Complete driver’s education or driving training courses.
- Even if they’re not required in your state, some insurance providers offer discounts for successfully completing these driver-training classes.
- Keep a clean Driving Records" driving record.
- Car insurance companies are notorious for hiking up rates if you have a history of license suspensions, traffic violations, and at-fault accidents.
- Learn about discounts for Teen Guide To Car Insurance" teen drivers.
- Teen drivers are among some of the most expensive to insure, but many companies provide discounts to those who’ve completed Driver’s Ed or bring home good grades each semester.
- Choose a safe vehicle for your first car. Safety features get you discounts and keep you protected!
Understand, this isn’t an exhaustive list. You can—and should—always ask each car insurance provider about discounts for which you might be eligible.
GAP Guaranteed Asset Protection
If your vehicle is ever declared a total loss due to an accident, theft, or natural disaster, your primary insurance company may only pay you for the amount equal to their assessment of the market value of your vehicle at the time of the total loss, less your deductible amount. Unfortunately, there may be a significant “gap” between what your primary insurer pays and the balance you owe on your vehicle finance agreement. The Guaranteed Asset Protection (GAP) product may help protect you by waiving some or all of the difference
GAP Insurance protects you from paying for a car that you no longer have because of an accident or theft. In the event that your car is totaled in an accident or stolen, your insurance company will only pay for the market value of the car you lost. Unfortunately, many car owners owe more on their car loans than their cars are worth, meaning that their insurance payout will not fully pay off their car loan if they lose their car for some reason.
We recommend GAP Insurance (Guaranteed Asset Protection) which pays the difference between the outstanding loan amount on your car and your vehicles actual market value. Additionally, when your car is totaled in a crash or stolen, GAP will cover your insurance deductible up to $1,000, protecting you from having to pay to get your insurance money.
GAP Insurance can save borrowers thousands of dollars. With GAP Insurance, you have no need to roll “negative equity” (or debt from old car loan) into your next car loan because you could not pay off your car after losing it in an accident or to theft.
Around 80% of the vehicles on the road today are worth less than the amount owed on them, meaning GAP Insurance will likely provide protection for you, especially if you do not plan on paying your car loan off quickly.
You can bundle GAP Insurance into your auto financing.
Vehicle Service Protection
Save Yourself from Costly Car Repairs with a Service Protection Plan
Vehicle Service Protection, also known as an Auto Warranty, covers car owners from expensive repairs related to mechanical breakdowns. However, not all service agreements are the same. They come in all types and sizes so it is important to purchase coverage from a trusted source.
GAP represents only the best and most comprehensive vehicle service protection programs. We offer programs from many providers and our Finance Advisors are trained to match our customers with the programs that are right for them.
Get peace of mind with Vehicle Service Protection.
Stick with the Service Centers You Trust
Service agreements allow customers to select their own qualified repair facilities to address major mechanical and electrical system issues, meaning that with one of our service agreements you will have the option of using your neighborhood auto dealer or independent garage for repairs (any license repair facility in the United States or Canada is acceptable).
Vehicle protection plans offer extensive coverage well beyond standard factory coverage with flexible deductibles and contract lengths. Additionally, as an added benefit, our automotive warranties are transferable should you choose to sell your car, adding resale value to your car.
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