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Compare car insurance policies from a wide range of brands and insurers, including modified, vintage and classic vehicles as well as motorcycles, motor homes, RVs and trailers. For a specific type of coverage, explore comprehensive, property damage and third party auto insurance. New to car insurance coverage? This is the guide for you.
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In simple terms, car insurance is a contract that you have with an auto insurance company where you pay a regular fee in exchange for the promise to pay for certain kinds of coverage in the event of an accident. The auto insurance company will cover medical fees and vehicle repair damages up to the amount in the insurance policy that you’ve signed up for.
No one ever plans to be in an accident, but there are around 16 million auto accidents in the United States every year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more drivers die in car crashes in the United States than any other high-income country. That’s why car insurance is a necessity, especially in the US.
In most parts of the United States, having car insurance is mandatory and required by law in order to drive. Minimum coverage auto insurance is required in almost every state except Virginia, New Hampshire and Mississippi. Minimum coverage is determined by the state and vary from state to state. Auto Insurance typically covers medical fees, vehicle repair damages, bodily damage, legal fees and property damages.
Did you know?
Shopping for and comparing your auto insurance quotes every six to 12 months can save you thousands of dollars over your lifetime.
How do I meet my state’s car insurance requirements?
Most states have minimum car insurance requirements for drivers. What type of insurance you need depends on where you live. For example, liability coverage is required in every state except New Hampshire and Virginia and covers you if you’re at fault in an accident and need to pay for the resulting costs. You’re likely to need the following types of insurance.
Bodily injury liability. Your insurer will help you pay costs that result from any injuries you cause to another person. These may include immediate medical aid, legal help, health care, funerals and pain and suffering. Bodily injury liability coverage doesn’t pay for your own medical costs. For that, you’ll use your own health insurance, medical payments coverage or personal injury protection.
Property damage liability. Will help you pay costs that result from any damages you cause to someone else’s property. These costs may include vehicle repairs, repairs for damage to buildings, houses or fences, lost income from business closures, legal fees from property damage claims. Property damage liability doesn’t pay for your own car repair costs. For that, you’ll need collision coverage.
Personal injury insurance. If you’re involved in a car accident, PIP pays for the medical services you may need afterward including ambulance rides, nursing care, prosthetics, lost income, childcare and funeral services. PIP will apply regardless of who’s at fault in an accident.
Uninsured motorist coverage. If another driver doesn’t have insurance, you won’t have to liaise with them to receive compensation. Instead, your own insurance will cover your expenses. You can choose to have bodily injury (UMBI) or property damage (UMPD) coverage.
Optional insurance coverage you might want to consider
Unlike liability, personal injury protection, and uninsured motorist coverage, which are required by most states, the following coverage types are all optional. These optional coverage features offer extra protection against all the other mishaps that might happen to you or your car.
Comprehensive. Ensures you are covered for the expense of replacing or repairing your vehicle, regardless of fault, and damages that aren’t within your control, such as natural disasters, terrorism, explosions and fire, glass damage, falling objects, vandalism, damage from animals and theft. In some cases, it also covers the expense of transportation, emergency repairs and repairing damages caused by another vehicle.
Medical payments Helps you with your medical costs resulting from a car accident — no matter who’s at fault.It covers you and your passengers can pay for such expenses as ambulance fees, surgery, funerals, dental care, prosthetic limbs and hospital visits. Medical payments coverage doesn’t only apply to auto accidents. It can also protect you outside of your vehicle, such as when you’re walking or riding your bike.
Collision. If you’re at fault in an accident, your liability insurance kicks in and pays for the other driver’s costs. For your own vehicle repairs, you’ll need collision coverage. Collision coverage pays for costs if your vehicle is damaged.
Gap Insurance. When you buy a car, it immediately starts depreciating. Here’s the issue: If your car is stolen or totaled, your insurer will pay only what the vehicle is worth. Meanwhile, you’re still stuck paying back your entire loan. This creates a gap between how much money you receive from your insurer and what you still owe to your bank.
Umbrella. Protects you beyond the coverage offered by your basic insurance. It’s especially recommended for individuals with significant assets — those who stand to lose a lot from getting sued. It will pay for what you owe beyond what’s covered by your home, auto or renters insurance.
What is third-party coverage?
You’re the first party, and your insurer is the second party. Everyone else on the road is the third party. To cover any claims other drivers make against you, you’ll need third-party auto insurance. For auto insurance, there are two types of third-party coverage: bodily injury liability and property damage liability.
Car insurance coverage comparison: knowing when you’re covered
Accident type or cause
Am I covered?
Another driver crashed into me / I was not at-fault
Yes, only if you have liability coverage
I crashed into another driver / I was at-fault
Yes, only if you have collision coverage
I damaged someone’s property
Yes, only if you have property liability coverage.
A natural disaster (hurricane, hail, fire, animal etc.) destroyed my vehicle.
Yes, only if you have comprehensive coverage.
What is covered in my insurance policy?
The table below shows the type of coverage you get with each insurance policy, making it easier for you to determine the coverage you need.
While exclusions may vary between providers, you generally will not be covered for:
If the damage was caused by mechanical failure, depreciation, rust, wear and tear or changes made to the vehicle
Loss of income from being unable to drive
If the damage was incurred due to your vehicle not being safe or participating in a race
Damage that was caused intentionally
Any damage incurred if the person driving didn’t have a licence, was drunk or on drugs
If the person driving was not covered by the policy
How is agreed and market value actually different?
Agreed vs. market value determines the value of your car and how much it’s worth for car insurance purposes. This amount will affect whether your car is written off, repaired or replaced under the terms of your insurance policy.
With market value, your car is insured for its current market value at any given time, including depreciation. With agreed value, you and the insurer agree on a specific amount your car is worth for your policy terms.
The sum-insured that has been agreed upon between you and the insurer at time of application or renewal
Recognised as the expected value of your car on the open market
Not the trade in value or what it would be purchased for by a collector
Will pay what your car is deemed to be valued at the time of the accident
This may not include warranty cost, the vehicle transfer costs, stamp duty or dealer profit
Is market value or agreed value best for me?
When deciding if market value is right for you, you need to consider if the reduced amount will be enough to replace your lost vehicle. Is the money you save on your premium worth the additional cost you will have to pay to purchase a new vehicle? If you drive an older vehicle that’s 10 to 15 years old, replacement cost may not be as great a concern as saving on your premiums.
How to save money on your car insurance bill
Watch: 3 simple ways to save on car insurance
Is your current insurer reliable?
What makes a car insurance company reliable? The best indicator is if it’s there for you when you need it. A reliable insurer:
Pays claims promptly rather than immediately looking for loopholes to avoid paying
States all their terms and conditions clearly, without attempting to hide them in the fine print or couch them in legal jargon
Is accessible 24/7, is located in United States and has a branch and claims assessment center near to you
Does not penalize its customers for claims when they were found not at fault
Whether you want the best value, bare bones, third party car insurance in the US, or a reliable insurer that will provide a comprehensive package with great extras, it’s worth looking for discounts.
Your credit score affects your car insurance - except in these states.
Using a person’s credit score to decide their car insurance rates is banned in California, Massachusetts and Hawaii. But in most states, your credit score is a major factor for your insurance premium.
Studies have shown a correlation between drivers with lower credit scores and likelihood of filing insurance claims. That’s why most car insurance providers use your credit score to assess your risk. A higher credit score can translate into lower monthly rates.
Car insurance for drivers with poor credit can be expensive or difficult to find. Most of the car insurance policies you’ll find without credit checks are sold by high-risk insurers. By opting to go without a credit check, providers often automatically place you into a high risk group.
Direct Auto and The General are two of the bigger providers who are typically more accepting of poor credit applicants. You might also have some luck with local or regional providers who specialize in high risk drivers.
For young drivers under 25
If you’re a young driver under 25, it can be hard to find the best value car insurance. Due to inexperience, these groups are at higher risk of having accidents.
If you’re in this demographic you will be hit with higher costs, but there are still some things you can do to reduce your premiums.
Choose a cheaper car. More expensive cars have a higher sticker price and tend to cost more for as long as you use it. If you’re a young driver, it’s worth buying cheap.
Take a defensive driving course, often provided by your local DMV.
Maintain a safe driving record, which will gradually decrease your premiums over time.
Consider being a nominated driver on your parents’ insurance, although this will likely increase their premium.
Increase your deductible to an amount that’s high but affordable.
10 tips for getting cheap car insurance coverage
No one wants to overpay for car insurance. In a study done in New York, the average driver can save up to $625 by switching car insurances. Insurance prices differ for all individuals based on age, driving history, credit history, car model etc. so it is best to always check with at least 2 or 3 providers before committing to a company. Here are ten ways to pay less than your state’s average driver.
1. Don’t assume there’s one company that’s cheap for everyone.
Different people can pay drastically different prices for car insurance at the same company. Compare car insurance companies that can offer you the best deal for you individually, not across the board. You can also compare local insurance companies, which tend to have higher customer satisfaction rates than their big-name counterparts and could potentially have lower rates.
2. Hunt for discounts.
Some insurers offer discounts to drivers for a variety of reasons such as having a clean record, paying an annual premium all at once or being a safe driver for a certain period of time. If the insurance company you’re with offers more than just auto insurance, consider bundling all your insurance through them, like home and car insurance. Most companies offer a group discount, even if it’s just for more than one car.
3. Get the right coverage for your car.
Make sure you are getting the appropriate coverage for the car you’ve driving. Consider skipping collision or comprehensive coverage for an old car. The value of your car determines your maximum payout if it’s stolen or totaled, meaning these policies are not very useful for older vehicles.
4. Raise your deductible.
A higher deductible means lower premiums, your monthly or annual price. But if you get in an accident, you will have to pay more than if your deductibles were lower. For example, if you have a $500 deductible on a $2,000 accident, you’d pay $500 before your insurance company covers the other $1,500. With a $1,000 deductible, you’re paying $1,000 and your insurer covers the remaining $1,000.
5. Look into pay-per-mile insurance.
If you drive under a certain amount of miles every year, you can tell your insurance company and possibly qualify for a low mileage discount. This is a common discount that many drivers actually qualify for but are not aware of. If you only use your car for occasional short trips, you can sign up for a usage-based insurance program that determines your rates based on how much you drive.
6. Pay your bills on time.
In most states, your credit score is a major determining factor for your insurance premium because it’s seen as a risk indicator. Factoring a person’s credit score into their car insurance rates is banned in California, Massachusetts and Hawaii.
7. Avoid accidents and tickets.
These two are surefire ways to make your premium go through the roof. If you live in a high risk area or are prone to getting in accidents, look into a provider that offers accident forgiveness, where your first accident won’t make your premiums go up.
8. Get married.
Married people often have cheaper car insurance because they tend to file less claims. It’s one more reason to tie the knot — if you were already going to do it, that is. This is also a good reason most married couples combine their insurance on one policy to save money, unless one spouse has significantly higher premiums.
9. Check and maintain your credit history.
Most auto insurance companies take your credit history into account for your pricing. The reasoning behind it? Research actually shows that people with a higher credit score tend to make fewer claims.
Applying for car insurance involves first getting a quote, and then the application process itself.
Compare car insurance quotes
The quote process will differ depending on the insurance brand though most will follow similar steps to those listed below:
Specify what policy you want and when you want it to start: comprehensive; third party property damage, fire and theft or third party property damage.
Input your vehicle type, including non-standard modifications and accessories, if the vehicle is for business or personal use, and if you want to insure it for an agreed or market value.
Enter your personal details and the details of any drivers.
Choose any policy extras and decide if you want to increase your excess to reduce your premiums.
Apply for the best car insurance provider for you
Once you’re happy with how much you’ll be spending each year or month, you’ll have to go through an application which go through the same steps above but in further detail. When this is completed, you’ll make your payment, and the policy will start on the date specified.
Information you must include when applying
While it may be tempting to avoid disclosing some details about your vehicle or driving history from your insurance brand, in doing so you only risk your claim being rejected in the event you actually have an accident. Insurance companies go to great lengths to verify the information you have provided in the event of a claim.
Driving convictions – While many motoring convictions can be removed from your licence before you can be considered rehabilitated, from a legal standpoint, you still have to inform the insurance company of any convictions you haven’t been rehabilitated for.
Other criminal convictions – If you have any other criminal convictions, you must let the insurer know as they can determine the level of premium you have to pay or the terms you are offered. If you don’t let them know, you can find yourself with a policy that is not valid.
Vehicle incidents – Most insurance companies will require you to reveal your entire vehicular incident history, which not only refers to claims you have lodged yourself or have been lodged against you but also those pertaining to any other person driving on your policy. Such incidents could be accidents, joy riding, vandalism, damage to the windscreen, fire or theft.
Alterations – Most insurance companies will require that you reveal any alterations you may have made to your car. Even if these alterations do not affect the performance of the vehicle, they could make it more valuable or increase the chances of it getting stolen. Things like installing specialty exhausts or tinting windows, which otherwise do not affect the performance of the vehicle, are considered alterations you must inform your insurer of. While this might seem strange, the fact is that insurance companies have found that people who make alterations to their vehicles tend to statistically have a higher likelihood of being involved in a claim.
If any of the requirements of what must be disclosed to your insurer is unclear, it’s always worth giving them a call to verify the details to ensure you are adequately covered. Keep these details with the rest of your insurance documentation in the event you have to provide proof in the future that you did as you were required.
The deductible is the charge you are required to pay on every claim. So, for example, if the rear and front of your car have been damaged in two separate situations, you are required to make two claims, which means you will need to pay a deductible for each claim. The total amount you have to pay depends on the conditions of the claim.
Yes, depending on the coverage type. For example, you might have a $250 collision deductible but a $500 comprehensive deductible.
The amount covered represents the maximum sum an insurance company will pay for the damage or loss of your vehicle, minus any applicable deductions, unless otherwise stated in the policy. This amount includes the entire value of the vehicle, including alterations and accessories and also includes GST.
You have the option of paying your premiums every month or on an annual basis, and sometimes on a six-month basis. In some cases, paying monthly will raise the total amount you pay each year. You can save by paying for your policy annually.
If the insurance company is willing to renew your policy, in most cases you’ll receive notice a minimum of 14 days before the expiration date of your policy. The notice generally includes how much you have to pay as well as when you have to pay by. If you pay your premiums every month, you won’t have to do anything as the company will simply continue to draw payment for your account on the same date every month. However, if you pay your premium as an annual lump sum, you should talk to your insurance company to see how you can make the payment.
If your renewal doesn’t contain the correct information, you have to get in touch with your insurer. You have to make sure that all your information is updated and accurate and if you don’t take action to inform your insurer about any changes to your circumstances that you are fully aware are relevant to your policy, you might end up with a reduced payout on a claim or no payout at all. Your policy might be canceled and if fraud is suspected, the insurance company may simply act as if the policy had never existed.
In most cases, a car insurance policy can be canceled by calling or emailing the insurance company or by sending in a written cancellation.
Generally, your insurance company will be able to help with getting your vehicle repaired. Depending on the insurer, you will be sent to one of their assessment centers or recommended repairers, or the repairer of your own choice. In either case, an assessment will be performed and repairs will be organized.
Generally, legal advisors will tell you to contact your insurance company if you receive any letters making demands from any other person involved in the event, even if it’s from their insurer or legal representative. If contact is initiated verbally, inform the other party who your insurance company is and let them know that the insurer will be handling the claim. At no point should you admit that you were to blame for the damage or accident and you should certainly not make any promises regarding covering their expenses. Write down as much information as possible on the other party, including their name, place of residence, telephone number and vehicle information. Then get in touch with the insurance company to let your provider know what has occurred and get help with the process.
No, some providers only cover certain kinds of cars or vehicle use. If you aren’t sure whether your vehicle is eligible, it’s best to contact the insurance company directly and see what it says.
Some insurance companies will not provide coverage for vehicles such as:
Classic and vintage cars
Commuter buses that can carry more than 12 passengers
Vehicles that are damaged
Vehicles that were formerly ambulances or taxis
Privately imported vehicles
Vans built for special purposes like fire rescue vans
There are also some limitations in terms of what the vehicle will be used for. Many insurance companies will not provide coverage or will require a different kind of coverage if the vehicle is used:
As a courtesy car
For the transportation of inflammable liquids, explosives, chemicals, dangerous goods
In time trials
In a racing competition or rally
For taxi services
For hire services
As a demo vehicle
Coverage and exclusions
While this varies from insurer to insurer, generally a learner driver will be covered by a car insurance policy as long as there is an instructing passenger in the front seat who is a fully licensed regular driver. In most cases, you don’t have to pay an additional premium but if the learner driver has an accident, you might have to pay an age or inexperience deductible or both. Most car insurance policies also cover international drivers as long as they can legally drive in Australia and have a valid license. Of course, they must abide by the terms and conditions of the policy as well. If you drive while pregnant, it won’t affect your policy unless you’ve been advised to refrain from driving or that your pregnancy could negatively affect your capacity to drive. To ensure you are fully able to drive, it is a good idea to consult your doctor.
Some insurance companies take things a step further than simply handling your claim. Some insurers offer a valet service whereby they take care of all the details and, if your car can be driven safely, they will even deliver it to where it needs to go. Generally, such perks are only available for comprehensive policies.
Some insurance companies offer certain benefits for your teenagers if you’re an existing customer. If your child wants to insure their vehicle with the same insurance company, they might receive a rating for every year they’ve been driving while licensed and haven’t made a claim. Check with your insurance company as some offer additional perks such as free one-day skilled drivers courses, which are meant to help them with their driving skills and offer discounts after completing the course.
To change any information pertaining to the registration of your car or the regular driver, you have to contact the insurance company. You will need to give them the number of your policy and/or the registration number of your vehicle, as well as your mailing address, which must coincide with the address on our policy, and your birth date when submitting your request. Some details you will have to provide them with when changing the details of a regular driver include:
How often the driver will now be driving the car
What they will be using the car for
Their name, gender and date of birth
How long they have held their license for
Accident and claims history for the past 3 years and details of the accident including dates and fault assigned
Whether or not the driver has had their license suspended or canceled and any details.
If you intend to alter your vehicle in any way that makes it different from the standard model, which includes adding non-standard accessories, you will have to contact the insurance company. You will have to provide your insurer with a list of the alterations and accessories along with their monetary value. You also have the option to remove alterations and accessories from your policy by contacting the insurance company.
Some insurance companies will provide their customers with a hire car for a limited period of time if their vehicle has been stolen. There is also the possibility of pre-purchasing a ‘discount hire car benefit’ or ‘comprehensive hire car benefit’, which will ensure you have access to a hire car while your vehicle is being repaired from damage caused in an accident.
Most insurance companies will not cover tools of trade under a car insurance policy, meaning that you will have to seek the services of a specialist insurer. In terms of trailers, some companies will offer a limited degree of coverage for accidental damage caused to your trailer while it was connected to your vehicle.
Most car insurance policies only provide coverage while your vehicle is being driven in Australia. If you’re overseas, the policy doesn’t cover the vehicle or the personal liability of the driver.
In some cases, the damage to a vehicle is so severe that it’s not economical or safe to attempt to repair it. If the insurer feels this is the situation, your vehicle will be declared a write-off and you will receive the amount covered or the agreed value. If you have comprehensive insurance, some policies allow for the replacement of your car with a new vehicle and coverage of on-road costs, if your original vehicle was declared a write-off after being stolen or damaged within the first two years of its first registration.
Some insurance policies will provide coverage for your vehicle if you are driving off-road but you do have to take some precautions to make sure your car is safe.
There are certain restrictions when it comes to the type of coverage a car insurance policy offers. While these vary between insurance companies some of them include:
You are not covered if the accident was caused by a fault with your vehicle that you were aware of and chose to ignore;
You are not covered if your car was damaged during a race, trial, test, competition or similar arena;
You are not covered if your car was lost or damaged with intent either by you or a person acting on your behalf;
You are not covered for any further loss or damage caused to your vehicle if you drive it after it has been in an accident.
Car insurance is a very important way to protect your asset and stay out of debt, so be sure you know what your policy covers, and how it works in the event of an accident.
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