How to Choose Auto Insurance: Everything You Need to Know

Even if you already own multiple vehicles, purchasing auto insurance takes some research and skill. It’s important to learn how to choose car insurance that works for you. Even if you already own multiple vehicles, purchasing auto insurance takes some research and skill.

It’s important to learn how to choose car insurance that works for you. Narrowing your options and finding the right insurance company can help you greatly reduce your overall insurance costs. Once you understand what makes premiums increase and decrease, you can compare policies and figure out how to save money.

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Understanding Types of Insurance Coverage

Familiarize yourself with the available types of insurance coverage and what each one does. Focus on several core types of coverage that you should focus on:

  • Collision
  • Comprehensive
  • Medical or personal injury protection
  • Liability
  • Uninsured/underinsured motorist

Collision and Comprehensive

Collision coverage covers damage to your own vehicle in an accident. Collision is first-party coverage that will pay for your vehicle repairs, not the other driver’s vehicle. In situations where the repair costs or damages exceed your vehicle’s value, your insurance company might declare the vehicle a total loss.

Rather than make the repairs, the adjuster will cut you a check for the vehicle’s value. This coverage is essential when you own a brand-new or relatively new vehicle.

Comprehensive is also first-party coverage that covers other non-accident damage. For example, if your vehicle is stolen or damaged by adverse weather conditions, you could make a claim under your comprehensive coverage.

MedPay and PIP

Medical payments coverage, also called MedPay, covers some reasonable medical expenses for you and any other passengers, regardless of fault. MedPay applies whether you have your own health insurance that would pay for your medical expenses or not.

Personal Injury Protection, or PIP, is similar to MedPay. PIP differs in that you can have higher policy limits and more comprehensive coverage. However, that means you also have higher premiums, and there is a deductible you must meet.

Personal injury protection coverage isn’t available in every state; only the ones that have no-fault laws. If you reside in a no-fault state where PIP is available, you should take full advantage of the coverage. PIP can pay for more than just medical expenses, such as a portion of your lost wages, funeral costs, and more.

Liability and UM Coverage

In states without no-fault laws, you will need to purchase mandatory third-party liability coverage. This insurance protects you when you cause an accident and injure someone else or damage their property.

Bodily injury liability insurance covers the other party’s medical expenses, lost wages, rehabilitation expenses, pain and suffering costs, and more. Liability coverage can extend to passengers in your vehicle, those in other vehicles, and any injured pedestrians.

Minimum required policy limits will vary by state as well. Property damage liability covers any damage to other vehicles and property, such as a fence, stop sign, etc. Property damage won’t apply to your own vehicle damage; that is what collision coverage is for.

Uninsured (UM) and Underinsured motorist (UIM) coverages are typically sold in a bundle. UM, coverage could help pay a portion of your damages when an uninsured motorist injures you. UIM coverage will apply when the other party’s liability limits are not high enough to cover all your damages.

Other Types of Available Insurance Coverage

The aforementioned coverages are the core products that most people consider when purchasing auto insurance. Depending on your needs and situation, there are several other types of coverage that you might want to consider.

  • Extended Coverage: Talk to your insurance agent about added protection through an extended coverage policy. Experts like Dave Ramsey suggest an emergency fund makes more sense than an extended coverage policy you might never need.
  • Guaranteed Auto Protection (GAP): GAP insurance can help cover you if something happens to your vehicle before it’s paid off. With the average cost of new vehicles rising and loans lasting six or more years, GAP insurance is becoming more popular. If you have an expensive new vehicle that gets totaled, your insurance company will only pay the actual market value. If that’s less than what you owe, you would need to pay off the loan. That is where your GAP insurance would apply.
  • Mechanical Breakdown: Some people purchase mechanical breakdown coverage, but it isn’t necessarily worth it. The upside to this coverage is it lets you choose where you want your car repaired, as long as the mechanic has a license. You could achieve the same outcome if you contribute to an emergency fund you use instead of paying a premium for something you may never use.
  • OEM Endorsement: When your vehicle needs parts, insurance companies usually authorize aftermarket only to save money. If you want original equipment manufacturer parts (OEM), you need to pay for them. With an OEM endorsement, you can have the same manufacturer’s parts that were originally on your vehicle.

Be Prepared When Shopping for Insurance

When you start shopping for a policy, it’s important to have information nearby, including:

  • VIN numbers for all your vehicles.
  • Driver’s license numbers for all parties.
  • Estimates on how many miles you drive annually on each vehicle.
  • Copy of your current auto insurance policy if applicable.
  • Estimates on your monthly and annual insurance premiums.

It’s also helpful to have a copy of your state’s insurance requirements as well.

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How to Choose Your Coverage and Deductibles

Experian suggests finding the right balance with as much coverage as you can afford comfortably. When deciding which coverages and amounts are best for you, consider your financial situation. Do you own a lot of assets? If so, you might want higher liability limits. Don’t put your assets at risk by not purchasing adequate insurance coverage.

When thinking about a deductible, consider your liquidity. Financial sites like the balance suggest asking yourself how much you can afford. Can you afford a $1000 deductible or more?

if so, opting for a higher deductible means you can save on your monthly premiums. Consider a small repair under $1000. Would you want to make a claim for that small of an amount? If not, consider the higher deductible and set aside the money you save to cover your deductible if needed.

Before purchasing a policy, Consumer Reports suggests looking for applicable discounts that can save you additional money, such as:

  • Good driver
  • Student driver
  • Low mileage
  • Anti-theft
  • Multi-car
  • Car safety
  • Multi-policy
  • Occupational, professional, etc.

Not all insurance companies offer the same discounts, which is why you should take notes and compare policies. Investopedia recommends you shop around and request quotes from multiple insurance companies before buying so you know which company ultimately offers the best coverage for your individual needs.

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