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Understanding Car Insurance

Car insurance protects you from financial liability in incidents involving your vehicle. It can help save your from costs involved with bodily injury (medical costs) and property damage, to both you and your property and other people involved in the accident if you’re at fault. Car insurance is required in most states and it is illegal to operate a car without it. Some people are hesitant to file a car insurance claim, fearing that their premiums will increase even if they aren’t at fault. However, this isn’t necessarily true, and an insurance company will look at the damage involved and who is responsible for the accident before deciding whether or not a claim results in a rate increase. If you find yourself in an auto accident, whether it’s a fender bender or your car is totalled, exchange insurance information with any involved parties. Even damage that looks cosmetic may have comprehensive damage that you can’t see, so you should file a claim.

What Car Insurance Covers

In general, car insurance covers damage, vandalism, and theft of your vehicle. But what any specific auto insurance policy will cover depends on the coverage type(s) you have. Each car insurance policy is made up of at least one of the following:

  • Liability insurance. Doesn’t cover your vehicle, but covers damage you cause to others in an accident. It is made up of bodily injury (BI) and property damage (PD).
  • Collision and comprehensive insurance. Collision insurance covers your vehicle in case of a collision; comprehensive insurance covers your vehicle in the event of anything else (theft, vandalism, etc).
  • Personal injury protection (PIP). PIP covers medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages. It’s required in “no-fault” states because it pays regardless of legal liability.
  • Uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance. If you’re in an accident with an uninsured driver and they’re at fault, uninsured motorist insurance means you’ll still be covered. Like liability insurance, BI and PD are covered here, but for you instead of the other driver.

No-fault states are states in which drivers can file a claim with their insurer regardless of which driver is at fault.

How Is Car Insurance Priced

In 2014, the average annual cost for car insurance was around $900. However, what an individual will pay depends on a number of factors beyond just the coverage amount, including:

  • Personal details (Age, gender, marital status)
  • Driving record
  • Place of residence
  • Type of car
  • Average driving distance

You may have heard that men pay more than women for car insurance. This is true, because statistically men are more likely to engage in risky driving practices like speeding and driving under the influence, which results in more accidents. Massachusetts, Hawaii, and North Carolina do not allow gender to play a role in auto insurance rates, so drivers in those states don’t have to worry.

Age is one of the biggest factors in car insurance rates, and rates begin to go down every time you renew your policy, with a bigger drop happening at around 25 years old.

An easy way to lower your auto insurance cost is by looking for a number of car insurance discounts. Affinity group members, students, and safe drivers can all get discounts. People who have newer vehicles and bundle their auto insurance with other insurance types (like their homeowners insurance) can also get discounts from most carriers.

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