Your car insurance will help you with costs if you’ve damaged other vehicles or property in a car accident.
In all but two states, you’re required to have liability coverage. This includes insurance for bodily injury and property damage.
What is property damage liability coverage?
If you have property damage liability coverage, your insurer 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, fences, etc.
- 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.
Does it come with a deductible?
Liability coverage usually doesn’t come with a deductible. For example, if you hit someone’s fence and your insurance covers the cost of repairs, you won’t have to pay out of your own pocket.
What is a deductible?
The deductible is what you’ll pay before your insurance company will pay a claim.
Let’s say you file a claim to your insurance company for a $5,000 car repair bill. Your insurance covers you for that amount, but it includes a $500 deductible. This means you must pay $500 out of your own pocket before your insurance will cover the other $4,500.
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How property damage liability coverage works
When you buy liability coverage, you can choose a combined single limit or split limit policy.
A combined single limit policy is written like this: “$300,000 ea. 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.
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.
Property damage liability coverage in action
You have 100/300/50 in liability coverage. This means your insurance will pay injury claims totaling $100,000 per individual and $300,000 per accident. Further, it’ll pay property damage claims of up to $50,000 per accident.
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. That’s easily covered by your $50,000 in property damage liability insurance.
Why should I buy property damage liability coverage?
Unless you live in New Hampshire or Virginia, your state will require you to have a specified amount of property damage liability. This will likely cover the typical claim for property damage, which is around $3,000. Even still, costs can increase quickly in multicar accidents, so consider buying a higher amount of coverage.
What are the requirements for New Hampshire and Virginia?
If you live in New Hampshire, you’re not required to have auto insurance. However, you need to prove you can pay if you cause bodily injury or property damage. The easiest way to do this, of course, is by purchasing insurance.
It’s not mandatory to have auto insurance in Virginia, either. But like in New Hampshire, you must prove that you can pay for costs stemming from bodily injury or property damage. You can do that by either buying insurance or paying a fee to Virginia’s DMV.
How much does property damage liability coverage cost?
Drivers typically buy liability coverage, which includes property damage liability insurance and bodily injury liability insurance.
The overall cost of liability coverage will vary considerably depending on your age, where you live and your driving history, among other factors. As a ballpark, expect it to cost between $1,000 and $2,000 a year.
How do I buy property damage liability coverage?
It’s a standard insurance policy, so nearly all insurers offer property damage liability coverage.
In all states but Virginia and New Hampshire, you’ll need some amount of 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. Compare your options to get the best deal on property damage liability coverage.