Sunday, October 2, 2011

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Car Insurance

1:03 PM |

Every state requires automobile liability insurance. You generally must show proof of having liability insurance in order to register your vehicle or renew your tags, and many states require that you present proof of insurance if you are stopped for any moving violation. Liability insurance pays your legal defense costs and any successful claims against you if cause injury or death to another individual or damage to property while you are driving. Liability insurance is attached to a particular vehicle, not an individual, meaning that it also pays if someone else driving your car with your permission causes such bodily harm of property damage. Liability insurance does NOT cover your own medical or repair expenses if you are injured or if you vehicle is damaged in an accident.

There are other types of insurance coverage that you may be interested in even though your state may not require it.

Personal injury protection pays for your medical expenses if you or someone riding with you are injured in an accident. It also pays for your medical expenses if you are injured while a passenger riding in someone else’s car.

Uninsured motorist insurance pays for costs related to personal injury to you and your passengers or damage to your vehicle if you are involved in an accident with someone who does not have insurance.

Collision insurance pays for damage to your own vehicle if you are involved in an accident regardless of who was responsible for the accident.

Comprehensive insurance pays for damage to your vehicle resulting from non-accident-related events such as hail, vandalism, fire or theft. If your vehicle is financed it is almost certain that your finance company will require that you carry collision and comprehensive insurance until your loan has been paid off.

Insurance rates vary widely from one insurance company to another, so it is always advisable that you obtain quotes from at least three different companies before you select one. Rates charged by one company can be two or even three times higher than a rate charged by another company. It is also a good idea to solicit quotes on an annual basis.

Rates vary not only by auto insurance company, but also according to how much of the risk you are willing to bear yourself, that is, according to the amount of the deductible. For example, the same company will charge you a lower rate if you select a $500 deductible and lower still if you choose a $1000 rather than a $0 deductible. A $500 deductible means if there is an accident, you are responsible for the first $500 of the resulting expense; the insurance company will pay only expenses in excess of $500. A zero deductible means that the insurance will pay all expenses. By increasing your deductible from $500 to $1000 you could easily reduce your premium by 25%. This works only up to a certain point, since the state in which you live will generally specify that your deductible cannot be higher than a certain amount (most often $500).

There are a host of other factors that will affect your premium. Premiums are usually higher for cars that are expensive to repair, or are popular targets of theft. Likewise, the premium can be higher for what the insurance companies regard as a sports car, even if the car itself is no more expensive than a family sedan. Their logic in doing so is that driver of a sports car is more likely to be involved in an accident. Some auto insurance companies also offer lower premiums to drivers who drive fewer miles; they may charge a driver who lives 25 miles from his workplace more than they charge a driver who lives only 10 miles from his workplace. Generally speaking, rates in rural areas are lower than rates in urban areas, and even within the same city the rate may be lower if you live in some zip codes rather than others. You may also get a discount if you go a specified number of years without a moving violation or being involved in an accident, if you are over a certain age or if your car is equipped with an anti-theft device.

If you are a teenager or a college student, they may actually charge a lower premium if you maintain a higher grade point average. You may also be able to lower your premium if you take part in a driver’s education course.

Some optional types of coverage are relatively cheap, but might save you a lot of money if you are involved in an accident. For only a couple of dollars more a month, you can add coverage that pays for a rental car while your car is being repaired as a result of an accident.

It is important that you maintain a good driving record. Your auto insurance company
may increase your premiums drastically if you are involved in more than one accident within a given period of time, of if you are found guilty of multiple moving violations. Not only that, your company may actually cancel your policy, figuring you are just too great of a risk. If your insurance is ever cancelled, you may have serious difficulties finding a company willing to insure you, and if you do such coverage can be prohibitively expensive.

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