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Property damage liability coverage

This pays if you damage someone else's car or belongings in a car accident, plus legal fees if they take you to court.

Liability coverage is one of the basic types of car insurance that’s required in nearly every state. Liability property damage coverage protects you from damage you cause in a car accident, otherwise known as costs you’re liable for.

What does property damage liability cover?

Property damage liability helps you pay to repair any damage that you cause to someone else’s property during a car accident. Property damage liability typically applies to the other driver’s car, but it may also include:

  • Repairs for damage to buildings, houses, fences, etc.
  • Lost income from business closures
  • Legal fees from property damage claims

What does it not cover?

Property damage liability doesn’t pay for your own car repair costs. For that, you’ll need collision car insurance coverage.

How property damage liability coverage works

While driving, you lose control of your car and crash into a parked vehicle. Fortunately, you didn’t hit anyone and you aren’t hurt. You do, however, need to pay the repair bill for the damaged vehicle, which comes in at just over $9,000. You have 100/300/50 in liability coverage, so the damage is easily covered by your $50,000 in property damage liability insurance.

Is property damage liability required?

Unless you live in New Hampshire or Virginia, your state will require you to have a specified amount of property damage liability. Even in those states, getting car insurance is much easier than proving your financial responsibility.

Your state will require a minimum amount of property damage liability insurance that covers the typical claim for property damage. Repair costs can increase quickly in multicar accidents, so consider buying a higher amount of coverage than what’s legally required. A solid amount of property damage liability coverage is $50,000 or $100,000.

How much does property damage liability cost?

As a ballpark, expect your liability car insurance to cost between $500 and $1,000 a year. However, your liability coverage includes both property damage liability and bodily injury liability insurance.

The overall cost of liability coverage will vary depending on your age, where you live and your driving history, among other factors.

Liability coverage usually doesn’t come with a deductible. If you hit someone’s fence and your insurance covers the cost of repairs, you won’t have to pay any money out of pocket before your insurance kicks in.

How much property damage liability do I need?

You need at least the minimum amount of liability required by your state. However, consider buying as much liability as you can comfortably afford. This way, you’ll limit the possibility of paying out-of-pocket costs.

Your property damage liability is one of two parts of your liability insurance on your auto insurance policy. You’ll be able to select your desired property damage liability maximum when you purchase your auto insurance policy.

Property damage liability limits, explained

When you buy liability coverage, you can choose a combined single limit or split limit policy.

Combined single limit

A combined single limit policy is written like this: “$300,000 each accident.”

This means you’re protected for $300,000 in the event of bodily injury and property damage costs. If you have to pay for damage to a fence as well as the medical costs of three people, then your policy will cover you. That is, as long as the cost falls within $300,000.

Split limit

A split limit policy for liability coverage might be written like this: 100/300/50.

These numbers are just shorthand for how much your insurance will cover you for:

  • The first number is the individual payment limit per accident for bodily injury. The “25” in our example refers to $25,000. It’s how much your insurance will cover for each person’s bodily injury costs (other than yours). For example, if you’ve injured someone in an accident and their medical bills are $20,000, you’re covered.
  • The second number is the overall payment limit per accident for bodily injury. The “50” refers to $50,000. It’s how much your insurance will cover for the total bodily injury costs in an accident (other than yours). For example, if you’ve injured five people and their medical bills are $20,000 each, you’re on the hook for $100,000. In this case, your policy will cover $50,000, and you’ll need to pay the other $50,000 yourself,
  • The third number is the overall payment limit per accident for property damage. The “15” refers to $15,000. It’s how much your insurance will cover for the total cost of property damage in an accident. (This doesn’t include your own vehicle — instead, you’ll need collision coverage for that.) For example, if you rammed into a barn and it costs $6,000 to repair it, your insurance will cover the expenses.

The three numbers will change to create different policies. Your state will most likely have policy minimums, but otherwise you’re free to choose the right mix for your own needs.

Compare policies with property damage liability coverage

Explore your options by roadside assistance, new car protection, accident forgiveness, safe driver discount and available states. Select the Get quotes button to receive a quote from a particular provider.

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Bottom line

In all states but Virginia and New Hampshire, you’ll need some property damage liability to drive a vehicle. Your state will likely set a minimum coverage amount, but you can buy more depending on what you feel comfortable with.

To get the best policy, compare car insurance with the types of coverage and coverage limits that you need.

Common questions about property liability coverage

How do I know if insurance coverage is mandatory?

The best way is to check with your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. Most likely, your state requires all drivers to carry liability coverage for bodily injury and property damage. (The exceptions are New Hampshire and Virginia, which have different rules.) Your state may also require you to buy personal injury protection or medical payments coverage.

How do insurers figure out how much to charge me for insurance?

Insurance companies want to make a profit. They want to make sure you’re paying them more than they’re potentially paying out on your behalf. To do that, they’ll assess how risky you are to insure.

Many factors go into determining your insurance premium. These include your age, your gender, your driving history, the car you drive and more. For example, teenagers tend to get into more accidents than drivers ages 25 or older, and some cars are safer to drive than others.

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