Auto insurance, like other types of insurance, is purchased to protect against loss. The loss may be to your own vehicle or the property belonging to someone else. In addition to property, there may be medical expenses or the loss of income. All states have established the types of insurance and minimum coverage amounts that drivers must have in order to operate or register a vehicle. Other types of car insurance may be required by lenders who finance a vehicle.
At minimum, state laws will require that you carry liability insurance. This consists of three categories of coverage and is normally stated as a series of three numbers. The first number is the maximum the insurance company will pay for injuries suffered by one person in an accident you cause. The second number is the maximum paid for injuries to two or more people injured in the same accident. The third number represents the maximum that will be paid for property damage. Liability does not cover your injuries or the damage to your car. It only covers losses suffered by others in an accident for which you are at fault.
Finance companies and banks normally require that you carry collision and comprehensive coverage until the loan is paid. These forms of insurance pay to replace or repair your car in case it is in an accident, vandalized, or stolen. The main focus of this coverage is to protect your lender until the note is paid. Once your car is paid, you are not required to keep this coverage. However, you should weigh the cost involved against the value of the car to decide whether to cancel coverage or not.
Uninsured motorists are those that do not have any insurance. Underinsured motorists have a policy with limits that are not high enough to meet actual costs. The limits mandated by most states are quite low, so a driver can meet legal requirements and still not be able to pay for a serious accident. Uninsured and underinsured motorist insurance protects you from damages you incur from either type of driver. Requirements vary, with some states making such coverage mandatory if liability is purchased. Other states make it totally voluntary or merely require the company to offer it to you. You may be asked to sign a waiver to prove you declined the coverage.
Personal injury protection is mandatory in some states as a modified form of no-fault insurance. This type of coverage pays for necessary medical expenses incurred by you and the passengers in your car no matter which driver is responsible. Personal injury policies are not offered by every insurance provider in all states, however.
A deductible represents your out-of-pocket costs, or the amount you will need to contribute to the repair. The deductible amount is most important for collision and comprehensive coverage. Policies with lower deductibles are more expensive. Your loan documents, however, may specify the amount of deductible you are to maintain.
Miscellaneous forms of coverage are optional. Replacement value options will pay the cost of the car rather than its depreciated value. This may be advisable if you bought the car with no down payment, since the depreciated value may be substantially less than the balance of your note. You can also purchase coverage to have a wrecker tow your vehicle if it is in an accident or mechanically disabled. You may also want to consider a policy that will provide you with a rental car if yours is stolen or undergoing repairs.
When purchasing a policy, you should ask for an auto insurance quote from several companies. Rates are largely based on the company’s history with drivers in your area and so there can be a wide discrepancy between rates charged. To get an accurate picture, you need to use identical features for comparison, such as the limits and deductibles. You should probably also ask the company providing your homeowners’ insurance for an auto insurance quote. Sometimes, combining policies can save you money, but sometimes it is actually cheaper to split the policies between companies.
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