Understanding your car insurance policy

Gain confidence behind the wheel when you know what you’re protected against.

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Knowing what driver and policy terms mean, and the details of your coverage can help you understand your policy. Make informed decisions about changes to your policy to fit your insurance needs to a T.

What is a car insurance policy?

A car insurance policy is an agreement or contract between you and your insurance company regarding the car damage it covers, your costs and any other conditions that affect your contract. This contract typically outlines the coverage purchased under the policy.

Also, you might see the term declarations page used, which is the first page of your policy. The declarations page summarizes policy information, giving you a 100-mile view of important details like your name, policy number and coverage purchased.

What does a car insurance policy look like?

What’s included in a car insurance policy?

A car insurance policy includes a detailed look at your protection and who receives coverage and payment. Your policy should include key details that help you understand how much and what kind of protection you have.

Driver and policy info

  • Policy number. The number your insurer assigns to identify your policy. Useful when contacting your insurer with questions or filing a claim.
  • Named insured. This is the policy owner in control of paying for and making changes to the policy.
  • Drivers. Any licensed drivers who live in your house need protection under your policy in case they drive the insured car.
  • Loss payees. If you lease your car or are making payments on a loan, a loss payee would be the lender or other company that secures your car loan.
  • Driving record. Your policy may list recent accidents or traffic violations on record as proof of your increased insurance risk.
  • Covered vehicles. The vehicles that receive the insurance protection, usually identified with the license plate number, make, model or VIN.

Coverage info

  • Coverage. This is what’s included in your policy like liability, comprehensive, collision, uninsured/underinsured motorist and medical coverage.
  • Coverage limits. The maximum amount an insurer will pay out after an accident.
  • Exclusions. Your agreement should detail any stipulations to getting coverage, such as filing a claim within a certain time frame.
  • Policy period. The set amount of time that you receive insurance protection, usually six or 12 months. You’ll need to renew the policy before it expires to keep it going.
  • Deductible. The amount you pay out of pocket for damage after an accident. Your insurer should cover all other costs beyond your deductible. This amount is not included in your regular premium payment.
  • Discounts. A list of savings you can get on your policy. Discounts can include having safety features on your car, autopay, bundling insurance and making annual payments.
  • Total premium. Your annual or monthly payment for the insurance coverage.

How do I know what my coverage limits are?

You may see liability coverage limits written like 50/100/30. This represents the payout limits: $50,000 for individual bodily injury, $100,000 total bodily injury and $30,000 property damage coverage. These are the maximum amounts the insurance company will pay after an accident.

Where can I find my car insurance policy number?

You can find your eight- to ten-digit policy number in several locations:

  • Billing statement. Look for policy number listed on the top of your statement — don’t confuse it with the account number.
  • Declarations page. The policy number should be listed at the top of your policy’s first page, called the declarations page.
  • Your insurance card. The insurance ID card that your company might send through the mail states the number clearly toward the top.
  • Online. Here, you might find the policy number on a digital insurance card or listed under your account information. But be sure to differentiate between the account and policy numbers.

Insurance companies should offer more than one way to view your policy, including:

  • Online. Once your policy is established, you can log into your customer account and look for a section like My Policy.
  • Mail. Some insurers mail a paper policy, although you may have to request this option since more companies are going paperless.
  • Email. You might find an email with the policy attached or linked inside.
  • Phone. If you’re having trouble finding or understanding your policy, customer service or your local agent can help with your questions.

How do I change my car insurance policy?

If you need to change your car insurance policy, say if you’re updating your email account or if you get a new vehicle, the process should be straightforward:

  • Online. If you’re viewing your policy, you might see an option to edit or update car, driver or address information.
  • Email. While not a typical method, you could email customer service to request changes.
  • Phone. Call your insurer or local agent and let them update your account.

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Bottom line

Your policy is essentially a contract between you and your insurer, and it breaks down important details like the types of damage covered and costs you’re responsible to pay. Once you understand your policy, you can see how your coverage stands up against other providers.

Questions about car insurance policies

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