Compare property damage liability: How much do I need? |

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Compare property damage liability coverage

This coverage helps with costs if you damage other vehicles or property in a car accident, but your state's minimum requirement may not be enough.


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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.

How much does property damage liability coverage cost?

Drivers typically buy liability coverage, which includes property damage liability insurance and bodily injury liability insurance. A liability-only policy is the cheapest type of car insurance you can buy. As a ballpark, expect it to cost between $500 and $1,000 a year.

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

Does property damage 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.

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.

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What does liability property damage cover?

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 car insurance coverage.

What types of limits are available for liability insurance?

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.

Property damage liability coverage in action

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 coverage 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, which is around $3,000. Costs can increase quickly in multicar accidents, so consider buying a higher amount of coverage.

Bottom line

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. To find the best rates, compare car insurance companies at the coverage amount you need.

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