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As you add up the cost of owning a vehicle, don't forget to factor in auto insurance. While car insurance is not mandatory in all states, you are still liable for any accidents caused. Here, we'll discuss the value of auto insurance and what could happen if you don't have a policy.
Auto insurance is the only thing standing between many drivers and financial ruin. The average motor vehicle accident costs $7,500 in property damage. If someone is injured, that amount jumps to more than $61,000. And if someone is killed in a motor vehicle accident, you're looking at more than $1.1 million. It takes a split second to change your life, and if you're not adequately insured, you could spend years paying damages. Auto insurance is a relatively inexpensive way to guard against financial ruin due to an accident.
Coverage varies by state, but here are the six basic components that go into an auto insurance policy:
This includes bodily injury liability and property damage liability. Bodily injury can help cover the costs of injuries to another person if a driver causes an accident. Property damage can help pay for damage a driver causes to another person's property. Each state requires some level of liability coverage.
This covers the policyholder, their medical bills, and repairs to the vehicle (in some states) if the policyholder is hit by a driver who carries too little insurance or none at all. Some states require this coverage, while others don't.
Comprehensive coverage can help repair or replace a vehicle if it's damaged by things like vandalism, theft, hail, or fire. A person may need comprehensive coverage if they're still making payments on their car or leasing the vehicle.
Car collision coverage can help repair or replace a policyholder's vehicle if they are hit by another car or an object like a fence or tree. Again, it may be required if there's still a lender or leaseholder on the title.
As the name implies, medical payment coverage may help pay the costs associated with injuries resulting from an accident. Medical coverage is required as part of an auto insurance policy in some states.
PIP takes medical payments one step further by covering other costs associated with auto injuries, like loss of income, house cleaning, or childcare expenses. Some states require PIP coverage.
There is no "typical" coverage amount as each state sets its own minimum standards. And each state has the right to require additional coverage. The state where the policyholder lives makes all the difference.
For example, the state of Missouri requires a minimum of $25,000 coverage for bodily injury, with $50,000 per accident. That state also requires drivers to carry $10,000 in property damage coverage.
On the other hand, Maine requires drivers to carry $50,000 coverage for bodily injuries, and $100,000 per accident. They must also have $25,000 in property damage coverage.
Rather than focus on typical coverage amounts, a driver should consider the most comprehensive coverage they can afford. According to an estimate from the Insurance Research Council, about 1 of every 8 drivers on U.S. roads has no auto insurance. That means if one of those millions of drivers hits someone, there will be no auto insurance on their side to cover the other driver's losses.
Getting car insurance quotes from several auto insurance companies may not be anyone's idea of a fun way to spend time. Still, prices vary wildly, depending on age, driving history, and credit score. Shopping around can save money.
As we've mentioned, nearly every state requires drivers to carry, at minimum, liability insurance. And comprehensive coverage is a good bet to protect a vehicle. Beyond that, optional add-ons could also save drivers financially in the event of an accident. These include:
Medical payment coverage: This coverage is not available in every state, but here's what this coverage can pay for:
Personal injury protection: PIP is only available in states that don't offer medical payment coverage in their auto insurance policies. While it's required in some states, others make it optional. PIP may help pay for medical expenses if a driver or their passengers are hurt in an accident. It also covers things like lost wages and childcare if a person can't work following an injury.
Gap insurance: This covers the difference between what a car is worth and how much the driver still owes. Let's say someone borrows $30,000 to buy a vehicle. A week later, they're in an accident, and the car is totaled. The value of the car now that they've driven off the lot (and it's no longer new) is $25,000. That means the most an insurance company will pay the driver for the totaled vehicle is $25,000. Gap insurance pays the difference. The policyholder would get $25,000 from their auto insurance company and $5,000 from the company providing gap insurance. And they'd have enough to pay the $30,000 loan off in full.
Towing and labor coverage: If a person has a comprehensive auto insurance policy, they likely already have this coverage. If not, they can add it to their policy. As the name implies, towing and labor coverage reimburses the policyholder for the cost of towing the vehicle and having it repaired.
Rental reimbursement: This coverage helps pay for a rental car if a person can't drive their car following an accident.
Classic car insurance: This coverage will help people who collect or restore classic cars protect their investment. Many classic cars are worth far more than their Kelley Blue Book value due to customization and upgrades. Classic auto insurance makes it possible to insure a vehicle for what it's really worth.
Before you commit to an auto insurance policy, take a look at our lists of some of the best options out there:
If you're looking to learn more about auto insurance, read more about the ins and outs of this important coverage:
We're continually on the lookout for breakout companies, insurers going the extra mile to provide top-notch coverage at a fair price. Once you land on a company that goes above and beyond and offers a premium you can afford, you know it's worth a second look.
Our Insurance Expert
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