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.
There is a case to be made for getting just comprehensive and not collision insurance, even if your car is not valuable. Comprehensive covers you for a lot more perils than does collision--including, most importantly, against theft. Regardless of the value of your car, having it stolen is a major inconvenience. Even if your car is worth only $2,000 at the time of the theft, and your insurer gives you $1,500, that sum would go a long way in buying yourself a new vehicle. As we discuss in more detail below, comprehensive insurance generally costs no more than $200 per year, so a $1,500 reimbursement would make the coverage valuable.
The main difference between collision and comprehensive coverage comes down to the question of what the driver controls. Collision insurance will cover events within a motorist's control or when another vehicle collides with your car. Comprehensive coverage generally falls under "acts of God or nature," or things that are typically out of your control when driving. These can include events such as a spooked deer, a heavy hailstorm, or a carjacking.
Collision coverage is limited to the actual cash value of the vehicle, and requires a deductible, which is the amount you'll need to pay before receiving benefits. Higher deductibles lower your premium but increase the amount you must pay out of your own pocket if a loss occurs. Ask yourself how much you would be willing to pay on short notice in order to save on your premium, or talk to your agent.
Travelers: Travelers is the second-best car insurance company. Travelers' customers report that they appreciate the customer service Travelers provides, and the company gets high marks for how it resolves its customers’ claims. Travelers' lost a few points from customers who didn’t feel like they got good value from the company, and Travelers' average annual rates are a bit higher than average among all companies on this list.
In a best-case scenario, you’ll never have to use your car insurance. After all, making a claim on your auto insurance means you’ve suffered some sort of loss, and no one wants that. However, going through life without ever having a fender bender or other damage to your car is unlikely. In some cases, you’ll be making a car insurance claim after a harrowing experience, like a serious accident. After going through something like that, you want to be sure your insurance company isn’t going to make things worse.
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.
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.
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.
Deductible: A car insurance deductible is the amount of money you will be required to pay out of pocket to cover a claim. Let’s say a car rear-ends you in traffic, scratching your paint, damaging your bumper and breaking one of your tail lights. The total cost of repairs is $2,500 and your deductible is $500. You will pay the $500 and your insurance will pay out the remaining $2,000 to cover the cost of the repairs. Electing for a higher deductible is one-way drivers can secure cheaper car insurance.
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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.
While all car insurance companies offer a similar product, they differ in how they deliver it. Some car insurance companies are basically self-service, allowing you to shop for and choose a policy completely online. Others use local agents who can meet with you and talk you through the process of buying a policy and personally handle any claims you have. Some companies use a mix of the two. Make sure you find a company that has the type of service you want.
If you’re getting turned down by traditional insurers due to a spotty driving record, the Texas Automobile Insurance Plan Association (TAIPA) is probably your best option. It only offers the bare minimum required by law, it’s more expensive than traditional insurers, and you’ll have to show proof that you’ve been turned down by at least two companies. It’s a last resort, but TAIPA will get you back on the road.
Any car insurance comparison tool you look at should have your state’s minimum car insurance requirements pre-loaded into its options. States requiring PIP or medpay are generally referred to as “no-fault” states, meaning that when injuries occur, each driver in a crash makes a claim with their own insurance company to pay for them. Beyond the PIP or medpay limit, the at-fault driver’s liability insurance kicks in to cover the rest.
There are many factors that go into determining your car insurance rates. Some, like your age and gender, are out of your control. Others, like where you live and your marital status, are somewhat in your control. Finally, there are several factors that affect your auto insurance rates, like the insurance company you choose to work with, your driving record, your credit score, the kind of car you drive, and the amount of coverage you choose, that are completely within your control.
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?
If you insure more than one vehicle, you may be able to stack your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. For example, let’s say you cover two vehicles on the same policy and each vehicle has a standard $25,000 in uninsured motorist protection. If you have stacked coverage and sustain injuries in a crash caused by an uninsured driver, you’ll be able to draw from both payouts for a combined total of $50,000 in coverage.