Collision insurance is a coverage that helps pay to repair or replace your car if it's damaged in an accident with another vehicle or object, such as a fence or a tree. If you're leasing or financing your car, collision coverage is typically required by the lender. If your car is paid off, collision is an optional coverage on your car insurance policy.


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Collision coverage has a deductible, which is the amount you pay before your coverage helps pay for your claim. You can typically choose the amount of your deductible when you buy coverage. So, if you choose a $1,000 deductible and your car is later damaged in a covered accident, you'd have to pay $1,000 toward repair costs. Your collision coverage would help pay the rest, up to your coverage limit.
USAA: USAA is the best car insurance company we found. Customers report that they love USAA for its customer service, ease of filing a claim, and frequent updates on claim status. USAA customers also report that USAA is a good value, and USAA’s average annual rates are some of the lowest in the business. The only downside we could find to USAA is that its insurance products are only available to veterans, members of the military, and their immediate families, so not everyone will be able to work with the top-ranked insurance company.

Gap insurance is insurance that may be required if you lease or finance a car. Gap insurance covers the difference between what your car is worth and what you owe on your auto loan should your car be a total loss in an incident. For example, let’s say you have a car loan with a balance of $20,000, but your car is only worth $15,000. If it’s totaled in an accident, your insurance will only pay out $15,000 and you will owe $5,000 to settle your loan. If you have gap insurance, that policy will pay the $5,000 to settle your loan balance.
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It’s important to note that every company considers credit very differently, and even among insurers this factor fluctuates by state. For example, NerdWallet’s 2019 car insurance rate analysis indicates that while State Farm charges higher rates for poor credit in many states, it doesn’t seem to do so in Maine. Similar variations are true for many other companies as well.
Progressive has a slew of available discounts — including one for adding a newly licensed teen driver to your existing auto policy (surprising, given that teenage drivers are among the riskiest to insure). But a policy loaded with discounts isn’t necessarily cheaper than a non-discounted policy, and the Texas Department of Insurance’s data on premiums show that Progressive is, on average, the most expensive for young drivers among the top five in Texas.
Liability auto insurance protects you from that worst case scenario by providing a cushion between your assets and the amount you’re on the hook for. For this reason, choosing the right auto liability limits is the most important part of your car insurance quote comparison. NerdWallet typically recommends having at least as much liability coverage as your net worth.
Gap insurance is insurance that may be required if you lease or finance a car. Gap insurance covers the difference between what your car is worth and what you owe on your auto loan should your car be a total loss in an incident. For example, let’s say you have a car loan with a balance of $20,000, but your car is only worth $15,000. If it’s totaled in an accident, your insurance will only pay out $15,000 and you will owe $5,000 to settle your loan. If you have gap insurance, that policy will pay the $5,000 to settle your loan balance.
Auto insurance is financial protection, and not just for the investment you made when you bought your car. After a really serious accident, bills for damage and injuries can easily reach into hundreds of thousands of dollars. If you happen to cause such a wreck, the victims could sue you. In the worst case scenario, assets such as your savings and home could be seized.
Collision and comprehensive insurance are two optional types of auto insurance where your insurer pays for repairs to your vehicle. While there are other optional auto insurance coverages, liability, comprehensive, and collision are three of the most common. These coverages work hand-in-hand to repair or replace most of the damages to your car. It's important to know the difference, and make sure you're adequately covered.
How much car insurance costs depends on the amount of risk you pose to your auto insurance company. Remember, if you have an incident and make a claim on your insurance policy, your insurance company must pay – even if you’ve only paid them $1,000 in premiums and you make a claim that costs $100,000. If it’s more likely that you’ll need to make a number of claims on your car insurance, you’ll get charged more. It’s just the insurance company making sure they don’t lose money on your policy.
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USAA: USAA is the best car insurance company we found. Customers report that they love USAA for its customer service, ease of filing a claim, and frequent updates on claim status. USAA customers also report that USAA is a good value, and USAA’s average annual rates are some of the lowest in the business. The only downside we could find to USAA is that its insurance products are only available to veterans, members of the military, and their immediate families, so not everyone will be able to work with the top-ranked insurance company.
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One of the most common ways to lower your car insurance rates is by choosing a higher deductible. The deductible is the amount of money you must pay after an accident before your insurance kicks in. So, for example, if you are in an accident and there is $10,000 worth of damage done and your deductible is $1,000, you pay the $1,000 and your car insurance company pays $9,000. A higher deductible means less risk for your insurance company and lower rates for you. However, it also means that you need to have that much money on hand in case of an accident. If you go for a $2,000 deductible and don’t have $2,000 available after an accident, you won’t be able to get the repairs you need.
How much car insurance you need depends on how much coverage you are legally obligated to get, as well as how much coverage you need for your situation. Each state has certain legal requirements for car insurance, and not meeting them can result in negative consequences. Check out our car insurance state guides to see the legal car insurance minimums in your state.
The amount of coverage required by law varies from state to state. If you’re a cautious person, you might opt for a more expensive policy with better coverage. If you have a lot of assets, experts recommend that you get enough liability coverage to protect them; otherwise, the other party involved in an accident could sue and attempt to collect on those assets.
Because her car’s so old, her savings are less: $168 to $204 in a year. But in this case, it could be wise for the driver to drop collision. If she were at fault in an accident, collision coverage would pay for repairs only up to the value of the car minus the deductible, or about $1,750. Is it worth repairing a car that wasn’t in great shape to begin with?

You can also save on car insurance by choosing the lowest amount of coverage you can get while still making sure that you’re meeting your state’s legal requirements for insurance and giving yourself the coverage you need if you’re in an accident. For example, let’s say you choose to get the legal minimum for liability coverage, which we’ll say is $30,000 for this example. If you are at fault for an accident that hurts someone, resulting in $100,000 in medical costs for them, you will be on the hook for the $70,000 difference between your insurance coverage and the harm you caused. You can be sued and lose assets, like your home or retirement savings, if this happens – so make sure you have enough insurance to keep your assets in the event of an accident where you are at fault.


But liability coverage levels come in threes — you’ll probably see something like 50/100/50 up to 250/500/250 in typical policies. You can think of these limits like: individual injuries / total injuries / property damage. Insurers are a little more technical, calling them bodily injury liability, total bodily injury liability and physical damage liability.
Liability insurance covers you if you’re in an accident deemed to be your fault. It will cover repairs to damaged property, as well as medical bills resulting from injury to the other driver and their passengers. Most states require at least a minimum amount of liability insurance, but it’s a good idea to purchase extra protection if you can afford it.
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