The cost of even a small repair makes car insurance nice to have. When we start adding in the medical expenses that can go with a car accident, insurance becomes downright necessary. In many states, insurance is even a legal requirement before you can drive your car out on the road.
But a wide variety of options are available when it comes to insurance—there are actually seven different types of car insurance you can choose from—and it can be difficult to decide just what type of auto insurance is the best choice for you, your vehicle and your budget. Here is a list of the seven types and what you need to know about each one.
1. Liability Insurance
When your state requires that you carry some sort of insurance for your car, they’re usually looking for liability insurance. In the event that you are in a car accident and the police decide it is your fault, liability insurance covers the cost of repairing any property damaged in the crash (such as cars or buildings), as well as the medical bills from resulting injuries. Most states have a minimum requirement for liability insurance coverage that you absolutely must have.
However, it usually makes sense to go beyond that minimum requirement if you can afford the payment. That’s because you are personally responsible for any claims that exceed your coverage’s upper limit. In the event that you are in an accident, you don’t want to run the risk of having to pay a significant amount of money out of your own pocket. How much liability insurance you need depends on whether you have a lot of assets to protect, as it is more important to have higher levels of coverage just in case of a catastrophe.
2. Collision Insurance
The biggest problem with carrying only liability insurance is that if there is an accident, you may wind up without the money to repair your own vehicle. A collision insurance policy makes it so that someone else — your insurer — will pay for the repairs to your car. If your car is totaled in an accident, a collision insurance policy will pay out the value of your car. While the payout won’t cover for a brand new vehicle, the sum will equal approximately what the car was worth before the accident.
Collision insurance isn’t a must-have, as far as insurance goes. If your car is older, it may not be worth paying for insurance, especially if you can work on saving up enough to replace the car if necessary. If you have a good-sized emergency fund, you may be safe without collision insurance. If you’ve chosen a more expensive car or your car is relatively new, however, collision insurance can help you sleep much better at night.
3. Comprehensive Insurance
Liability and collision insurance policies exclusively cover car accidents. If something else happens to your car — weather damage, theft, an animal collision — you won’t be able to get your insurance company to address the problem. With a comprehensive insurance policy, however, your insurer will handle just about any situation that comes up.
A comprehensive insurance policy is one of those things that are nice to have. However, coverage can be pricey and may not be worthwhile if your car would be relatively easy for you to replace, if you had to. Note though that you can bring down the price of this policy if your vehicle has an anti-theft and tracking devices installed.
4. Uninsured Motorist Protection
Just because the law requires everyone to have insurance doesn’t actually mean that’s the way things work out. Even if a driver has a liability insurance policy, most states have relatively low minimums that may not cover all of the expenses that can go along with an accident. One of the worst things that can happen is that you get stuck with the bills in an accident that wasn’t even your fault.
The decision to get a policy that covers damage by an uninsured motorist isn’t as clear cut as other policies. In theory, even if a driver doesn’t have enough insurance to cover damages during an accident, he will still have an obligation to cover the costs out of pocket. It’s only when the person at fault doesn’t have any money that there can be problems.
5. Medical / Personal-Injury Protection
The costs associated with treating injuries after a car accident can be astronomical. In order to cover those costs, medical and personal-injury protection is available. No matter who is at fault, such protection will cover your medical bills along with those of your passengers.
If you have a good health insurance plan, however, it’s far less likely that medical and personal-injury protection will be useful to you. And considering how much more a general health insurance policy covers, it should be your first choice.
6. No-Fault Insurance
So far, no-fault insurance is available in twelve states. This option covers injuries and property damage, no matter who is ultimately responsible for a given accident. The decision to choose no-fault insurance really depends on what other insurance options are available to you and at what price. Some no-fault policies can be expensive, making it more cost-effective to choose other options, especially if your car is inexpensive to replace.
7. Gap Insurance
If you are still making car payments, gap insurance may be a good choice. It’s meant for drivers who still owe money on their cars and need to pay off the vehicle if it is totaled in an accident. It’s generally a good choice if you owe more on your car than you could easily pay off on short notice.
Gap insurance is especially worthwhile if you owe more on the car than you could get for it if you sold it today, since many insurance policies will only cover the value of the car, rather than the cost to replace it. Some lenders may require you to have gap insurance or something similar until you pay off the vehicle, so you may already have it whether you know it or not.