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Some people don’t understand the need for auto insurance, which can leave them personally exposed and cause significant financial problems in the event of an accident. Auto insurance is mandatory in nearly all states, except New Hampshire, which still requires financial responsibility. Here is our guide to car insurance explained to help you better understand the important of buying the right coverage.
What Are the Components of an Auto Insurance Policy?
Every insurance policy has components that you need to understand, such as:
- Premium: Amount you pay for your coverage, with payments set monthly, quarterly, or semi-annually.
- Deductible: Your insurance deductible is what you pay out of pocket before your insurance pays anything. Your deductible applies in each claim, and your rates will be higher if you opt for a lower deductible.
- Coverage amounts: How much your insurance will pay out per accident or claim.
- Claim filing: Directions on how to file a claim.
Common Types of Insurance Coverage
Understanding your options for available types of insurance coverage is important when you are purchasing a new car or shopping around for insurance. Some coverages protect you, your passengers, and your vehicle, while others protect you if you cause injuries or damages to another party. According to Allstate Insurance, the six most common types of coverage you can purchase are:
- Uninsured/underinsured motorist
- Medical payments (MedPay)
- Personal injury protection (PIP)
According to Progressive Insurance, some of these coverage types are mandatory, while others are optional. Familiarize yourself with your state’s insurance regulations so you can narrow down your options when insurance shopping.
Collision coverage will cover damage to your vehicle while driving. If you hit another vehicle or a stationary object, collision coverage will cover the repairs to your vehicle. For example, if you need your windshield repaired because your vehicle flipped over, collision coverage will apply. However, collision will not cover anything related to the other property damage you caused. Collision is not necessarily a state-mandated coverage, but Wallet Hub points out that your financing company might require it if you have an outstanding car loan.
Many people purchase comprehensive and collision coverage together, but they are distinctly different. For one, comprehensive doesn’t cover accident-related damage to your vehicle. Comprehensive covers damage from causes such as natural disasters including hail, earthquakes, fires, and floods, among others. If your vehicle is stolen or vandalized or is damaged by contact with animals, comprehensive will cover the damage.
Liability insurance protects you from any accidents that are your fault. If someone else needs medical attention or has property damage, your liability coverage will cover their damages. Liability coverage is required in most states. Liability coverage has three main aspects, and each has a different policy limit:
- The maximum coverage amount that any one person can receive in an accident.
- The total amount of coverage for all injured parties in an accident.
- The maximum amount of coverage for any property damage in an accident you cause.
To better understand the breakdown of limits, use the example of 15/30/5. What that means is that $15,000 is the maximum for only one injured person, $30,000 for all injured parties, and $5,000 for property damage.
Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Uninsured motorist (UM) and underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage is usually sold together as a bundle. UMBI will cover your injuries if an uninsured motorist hits you. UMPD will cover your vehicle damages if you’re struck by an uninsured motorist. UIM will provide additional coverage if the at-fault party didn’t have high enough policy limits to fully compensate you for your damages.
Medical Payments (MedPay)
Medical payments coverage is similar to personal injury protection, but is much more limited in its coverage scope. MedPay will cover medical expenses for you, your passengers, household members, and any other policyholders. It can serve as a supplement for those who have health insurance that covers accident-related expenses. For those who do not have health insurance, it’s a good substitute. MedPay can also cover your deductibles and co-pays for other polices you have, such as your health insurance.
Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
Personal injury protection (PIP) is often referred to as no-fault insurance. PIP is mandatory coverage in states with no-fault accident laws. PIP will cover your injuries and expenses in the event of an accident, regardless of who is at fault. Coverage will extend to other drivers you list on your policy, household members, and other passengers. PIP coverage is more expansive than MedPay and may cover loss of earnings, child care, funeral expenses, and more.
Factors That Affect Your Insurance Premium
How Stuff Works points out that numerous factors can influence your potential car insurance rates. You should familiarize yourself with these factors to better understand how your premiums are calculated. Some of the most important factors include:
- The type of vehicle you drive. Some vehicles cost more to repair, are higher theft risk, etc. You can compare vehicles and see the premium differences by using an online tool such as the car insurance calculator tool from Cover.
- How many miles you put on your vehicle each year. If you commute further, your premiums could rise because you have a greater risk of an accident.
- How clean your driving record is.
- Where you live. If you live in an densely populated area, theft and vandalism increase. Rates will also vary state to state based on medical costs and litigation expenses.
- Your age. Drivers who are under 25 or older than 65 typically pay higher rates for insurance.
- Your sex. Men are typically considered higher risk and often drive vehicles that are more expensive to insure.
- The length of your credit history. Younger people have shorter credit history and typically pay more in premiums.
- Your marital status. Married people often pay a lower premium amount because they are lower risk but also typically have multiple policies with the company.
- The coverages and deductibles you choose.
- Number of prior claims.
- Your insurance history. Any gaps in coverage will cause your premiums to increase.
- The main purpose you use your vehicle for. If you drive your vehicle for business, you will need higher coverage. If you drive for rideshare companies, you will likely need a separate policy.
When you’re ready to purchase auto insurance, be sure to keep these factors in mind. Before buying a policy, get a few quotes for comparison and figure out which company gives you the right amount of coverage for what you can afford.
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