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NerdWallet: Car Insurance Coverage You Need To Have

Workers stage a car accident during the filming of the movie "Transformers 3" in Chicago, Illinois.

Workers stage a car accident during the filming of the movie "Transformers 3" in Chicago, Illinois.  (2010 Getty Images)

If you’re shopping for the best car insurance, you might find that, at the end of a long day of comparing quotes and researching coverage, you’ve uncovered more questions than answers.

Getting coverage can be expensive and, for many, the added monthly cost is quite burdensome. For example, according to a survey conducted last year, a quarter of Latinos in Los Angeles drive without insurance because getting coverage is too expensive.

Car insurance is a notoriously complex product - there are many different types of coverage, and it’s hard to know exactly which type you might need. What’s more, insurance agents are constantly pushing you to purchase more coverage that’s needed, when in many cases the extra insurance may be overkill.

To help sort out the types of vehicle coverage on the market today and which option may be right for you, take a look at the information below:

Coverage You Need to Have

Collision: This type of coverage protects your car in the event that it is damaged because you hit something - whether that’s another car, a building or even a mailbox.

If you purchased your car with a loan, you’ll be required to carry this type of insurance. However, even if you paid for your car in cash, it’s a good idea to carry collision insurance since repairing a car that’s been in a serious accident can be very expensive.

Tip – If you have a very large savings account and your car isn’t a luxury model (meaning, it’s less expensive to repair), it may make sense to cancel your collision insurance. Just be sure that you have enough tucked away to pay for a major repair if you end up in a collision.

Comprehensive: Comprehensive insurance covers your vehicle if it is damaged by anything besides a collision. For example, if your car is harmed by a major weather event or vandalism, your comprehensive coverage will pay for the repairs. Again, if you’ve purchased your vehicle with a car loan, you will be required to purchase comprehensive coverage.

Liability: This type of insurance covers you in the event that you are in an accident and it is determined that you were at fault. Not only does liability insurance cover repairs to the vehicles involved, it also pays for medical bills that may result from injuries sustained in the crash.

Nearly every state requires its vehicle drivers to carry liability insurance. To read about state liability insurance requirements, take a look at NerdWallet’s summary.

Tip – Even though most states require liability insurance, coverage minimums are usually fairly low. If your budget allows, purchase additional coverage. The cost of covering another driver’s medical bills could be hundreds of thousands of dollars and if they exceed your insurance coverage, you’ll be responsible for paying out of pocket.

Additional Coverage to Consider

Gap Insurance: Cars depreciate quickly, and many people who take out loans to purchase their vehicles find that soon the car is worth less than they owe on the loan. If this is the case for you and your car is totaled in an accident, the payout from your insurance company won’t be enough for you to pay off your car loan. This is where gap insurance comes in – it covers the “gap” between what you owe on the car and what it’s worth. This type of insurance might be worthwhile for you if you’re underwater on your car and don’t have enough in your savings to cover the difference between your loan and the car’s value.

Personal Injury Protection: This type of coverage will provide for the cost of medical bills incurred by you and your passengers if serious injuries result from an accident, no matter whose fault the accident was. Remember that the costs of medical care are going up all the time, so you might want to consider purchasing this coverage.

Tip: If you and your family have very good health insurance coverage, it may make sense to forgo personal injury protection, as your medical bills should be taken care of by your health insurance company in the unfortunate event of an accident.

Neda Jafarzadeh is a financial analyst for NerdWallet, a financial literacy organization that helps consumers save for retirement, find cheap insurance, improve their credit scores, and make smarter financial decisions overall.