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What is auto insurance?

In its most basic sense, car insurance is a contract between an insurance company and an insured that protects an individual against financial loss in the event of an accident or theft. These types of policies also offer coverage for liability in the event of a lawsuit.

What does car insurance cover?

Auto insurance can cover a number of items that may cause damage to an insured’s vehicle. These include accidents, vandalism, theft, and “natural” disasters, such as a tree falling on your car.

This type of insurance can also cover the medical expenses of others who are injured in an accident, as well as property damage liability in order to pay for the repair or replacement of others’ property and vehicles that are damaged.

Many different components can make up your total auto insurance coverage, such as:

  • Bodily Injury Liability insurance
  • Property Damage Liability insurance
  • Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage
  • Medical Payments
  • Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
  • Collision
  • Comprehensive

Cost of auto insurance

Numerous factors can go into the pricing of auto insurance coverage, including:

  • Age of the insured
  • Make and Model of the Vehicle
  • Driving Record
  • Past Claims History
  • Vehicle Usage (i.e., personal or business)
  • Geographic Location
  • Where the Vehicle is Kept (i.e., in a garage, on the street, etc.)
  • Driver’s Insurance Score
  • Optional or Additional Coverage
  • Insurance Carrier

If you’re considered to be a safe driver and have not had any accidents or moving violations for a certain period of time, you may be eligible for a premium discount from the auto insurer. You may also qualify for premium discounts in other ways, too, such as by having multiple insurance policies with the same insurance carrier.


Do I have to have car insurance?

Although there is no federal law that requires auto insurance, each state in the U.S. has at least some minimum requirement for this type of coverage, particularly in the area of liability coverage. This can help to protect other drivers on the road.

Four basic types of coverage may be included in a state’s minimum auto insurance requirements. These include:

  • Bodily Injury Liability
  • Property Damage Liability
  • Personal Injury Protection
  • Uninsured / Underinsured Motorist Protection

In many cases, only bodily injury and property damage liability are necessary. Each state has different minimum auto insurance requirements, though, so it is essential to check with your state’s Department of Motor vehicles to ensure that you know how much coverage to purchase.

Examples of Minimum Coverages Per State:


  • $15,000 bodily injury liability per person
  • $30,000 bodily injury liability per accident
  • $5,000 property damage liability per accident


  • $20,000 bodily injury liability per person
  • $40,000 bodily injury liability per accident
  • $10,000 property damage liability per accident
  • $20,000 uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage per person
  • $40,000 uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage per accident

New York

  • $25,000 bodily injury liability per person
  • $50,000 bodily injury liability per accident
  • $50,000 liability for death per person
  • $100,000 liability for death per accident
  • $10,000 property damage liability per accident
  • $50,000 personal injury protection
  • $25,000 uninsured motorist coverage per person
  • $50,000 uninsured motorist coverage per accident

Reasons to buy an auto insurance policy

There are several reasons why you should buy auto insurance. For instance, in many states, having at least a minimum amount of car insurance is mandatory. In addition, though, having this type of coverage can be beneficial from a financial standpoint, too.

In addition to helping to pay for damages that your vehicle may incur, many auto insurance carriers today will also help you to save time and inconvenience if an accident happens. Here, for example, your car insurer may walk you through the claims process, as well as assist you with finding a repair shop.

Another area where having coverage can help is if you do not have sufficient health insurance (or you have no health insurance at all), and you are involved in an car accident. In this case, it could help with paying for rehab costs, care for your accident-related injuries, and possibly even necessary dental work that is needed as a result of the incident.

What car insurance won’t provide*

Although car insurance can cover a wide range of items, there are some things that this type of coverage may not provide, such as:

  • Paying off your vehicle if it is totaled or stolen
  • Damage to your car from an animal (such as a deer)
  • Damages to your car if you have an accident while using your personal car for business purposes
  • Your medical expenses
  • Damage to a car that you are driving, but you do not own
  • Damage to your vehicle if someone else is driving it
  • Replacement of items that are stolen from your vehicle
  • Damage to after-market accessories that are damaged on your car

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