How Auto Insurance Protects You
If you have an accident, auto insurance can help protect you against financial loss. Very simply, it is a contract between you and the insurance company. You agree to pay a premium and the insurance company agrees to pay for your losses, due to an accident, as defined in your policy.
Auto insurance protects you on three fronts:
Property coverage pays for damage to or theft of your car.
Liability coverage pays for your legal responsibility to others for bodily injury or property damage.
Medical coverage pays for the cost of treating injuries, rehabilitation and sometimes lost wages and funeral expenses.
Most states require you to buy some vehicle coverage. If you're financing a car, your lender may also require that you buy car insurance.
The six primary sections of an auto insurance policy
Your auto policy may include these six areas of coverage or a combination of them. Each is priced separately.
Bodily Injury Liability: For injuries the policyholder causes to someone else.
Medical Payments or Personal Injury Protection (PIP): For treatment of injuries to the driver and passengers of the policyholder's car.
Property Damage Liability: For damage the policyholder caused to someone else's property.
Collision: For damage to the policyholder's car from a collision. The collision could be with another car, a fence, a light post, a wall, etc.
Comprehensive: For damage to the policyholder's car that doesn't involve a collision. Coverage includes fire, theft, falling objects, explosion, earthquake, flood, etc.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage: For treatment of the policyholder's injuries as a result of collision with an uninsured driver. Additionally, underinsured motorist coverage can also be included in the policy. Underinsured motorist coverage is for when an at-fault driver has auto liability insurance, but the limit of insurance is insufficient to pay your damages.
Each state requires that you have certain types of coverage combination with minimum liability limits. Talk to your agent about the type of coverage at a premium you can afford.
Footnote: This is a brief overview of how automobile insurance works. You should read a policy thoroughly before purchasing any insurance policy.
Auto Insurance Checklist
What you pay for your car insurance may vary greatly, depending on several factors including:
your driving record
the make and model of your car
the insurance company from which you buy your policy
Here is a list of tips to consider when researching auto insurance that can help you save money on your car insurance costs.
Before you buy a car, compare insurance costs
Don't be surprised. Know what a car costs to insure before you buy it. In part, insurance premiums are based on:
the car's sticker price
the cost to repair it
its overall safety record
the likelihood of theft.
Many insurers offer discounts for features that reduce the risk of injuries or theft, such as air bags, anti-lock brakes, daytime running lights and anti-theft devices. For more information on car safety, check the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Needless to say, cars that are favorite targets for thieves cost more to insure. For information on car theft, check the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB)
Request a higher deductible
The deductible is the amount you pay out-of-pocket before your insurance policy kicks in. Increasing your deductible from $200 to $500 can reduce your collision and comprehensive premium by as much as 15 to 30%, depending on your plan. Typicaly, the greater your deductible the more you save on premium. However, if something happens to your car you will need to have access to money to pay the amount of the deductible.
Re-evaluate coverage for older cars
If you have an older car, think about dropping the collision and/or comprehensive coverage. It may not be cost-effective to insure cars worth less than 10 times the amount you would pay for the coverage. Ask an auto dealer or bank about the value of your car or look it up online at Kelley Blue Book.
Consider buying your homeowners and car insurance from the same company
Many insurers give discounts if you buy two or more types of insurance policies from them, such as auto and home. Also, you may receive a discount if you have more than one vehicle insured with the same company. Some insurers reduce premiums for long-time customers. It’s also worth asking if the insurance company is offering new policy programs.
Most important, shop around; you may still save more money by buying your insurance from a different insurance company even with the multi-policy discount.
Ask for a low-mileage discount
If you drive less than the average number of miles per year, ask if your insurance company will offer you a discount. Low mileage discounts can also apply to drivers who carpool to work. If your insurance company doesn’t offer this discount it might be worthwhile to shop around.
Maintain a good credit rating
Your credit rating can affect your insurance premium, so monitor it carefully. You can check your credit rating with the three major credit-rating agencies Equifax, Experian, Trans Union.
Ask for a safe driver discounts
Many insurance companies offer discounts to policyholders who have not had any accidents or moving violations for several years. You may also qualify for a rate cut if you have recently taken a defensive driving course, or if you are more than 50 and retired.
The addition of a young driver to the policy may increases the premium, but may be eligible for a discount if he or she is a good student, has taken a driver’s education course or is away at a college that is at least 100 miles away from home.
Most importantly, work with a knowledgeable agent to make sure you get the right coverage at the right price.
What To Do After A Car Crash
Although they happen all to often, car crashes always take you by surprise and leave you feeling a bit dazed. That's why it's important to know what to do after you've been involved in a car accident, even if you're in a bit of a daze.
Stay in your car until you know how badly you've been injured, if at all. If everything seems to be fine, just sit for a minute and collect your thoughts.
If you think you’re injured, don't move until help arrives and your injury can be stabilized. Sometimes movement can make your injury worse.
If the car is still running, shut it off. Pull the keys out of the ignition.
Apply the emergency brake. Turn on your hazards lights. If it's nighttime, leave your headlights and parking lights on (if they work). This way, other motorists and emergency personnel can see you.
If your cell phone works and you have coverage, call 911.
Determine if it’s safe to exit the car. If you're unsure, stay in the car until help arrives.
If available, use cones or flares to warn other motorists.
If you struck a deer, wait for authorities to clear it from the roadway.
Check the damage of your car. Look for body damage, leaking fluids, smoke from the hood, and tire and wheel condition. Take photos if you can.
If it’s a serious accident, assume that your car is not drivable. Even if it looks ok, there may be structural and mechanical damage you cannot see. Driving could further damage your car.
Attempt to move the car only if it poses a danger to oncoming motorists in its current position (for example, if it is in the middle of a busy road).
Drive your car away only if it’s dangerous to stay put or if it is absolutely clear to you that your car has not sustained any real damage.
Stay a safe distance away if the car catches fire.
Wait for help to arrive.
Inform emergency personnel if your car is a hybrid or electric car. The high-voltage components in these cars may require specialized handling.
Don't move the car unless it poses a threat to oncoming motorists.
Don't drive the car away unless it is dangerous for you to remain at the crash site.
Don't attempt to drive the car if the fenders are pushed into the tires.
Don't lift the hood too soon if you're checking for damage. The burst of oxygen can make a small fire turn into a large one in a matter of seconds.
Don't try to move a deer you just hit, unless you are absolutely sure the animal is dead and it poses a threat to oncoming motorists.