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How much car insurance do you really need?

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Insurance » Auto Insurance » How Much Car Insurance Do You Really Need?

When you've got that proverbial "set of wheels," you need to know how much, or how little, insurance coverage is best for protecting them.

Shopping for the right amount of car insurance requires some homework and an evaluation of how much coverage your wallet can handle.

"You can always pay less for car insurance, but it's important to remember that you typically get what you pay for," says Larry Thursby, vice president of auto product and pricing at Nationwide Insurance.

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What insurance is required?

When determining how much insurance you need, start by investigating the insurance that you must have.

Every state, with the exception of New Hampshire, requires a vehicle owner to carry auto liability insurance. It includes bodily injury coverage, which takes care of other people's medical bills and related costs when they're injured in an accident you've caused, and property damage coverage, which pays for damage to other people's cars or other property when you're at fault.

Liability coverage has limits often expressed by three numbers in a policy. For example: 100/300/50. The first number is the limit on bodily injury coverage for one person hurt in an accident; the second number is the total payout limit for everyone who was injured; and the third number represents the total amount of property damage coverage available per accident. Each number is expressed in thousands of dollars.

Most states have a minimum bodily injury liability coverage requirement of $20,000 to $25,000 per person and $40,000 to $50,000 per accident, says Bob Passmore, senior director of personal insurance lines for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America. State minimums for property damage liability coverage range from $5,000 to $25,000 per accident,

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However, you probably want more than just the bare minimum.

"If you have assets to protect, like if you have a home or any sort of other assets like that, those are things that if you don't have enough insurance (and) you cause an accident where someone's seriously injured … you could wind up with some of those assets being exposed," Passmore says.

Are there any other musts?

Some states also require drivers to have personal injury protection and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. Personal injury protection covers medical expenses and lost wages for you and your passengers injured in an accident, and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage pays for injuries you sustain if you're hit by a motorist with inadequate car insurance.

You can find out what coverage you are required to carry by checking with your state insurance department.

But wait, you say. Isn't there anything else that must be included in a car insurance policy? Maybe you've heard of "collision," "comprehensive" and "transportation expense coverage." Isn't any of that stuff mandatory? And, if not, would a person need it anyway?

"Everything else you might not need to purchase, so you really have to know what your own desires are and (your) needs are," says Jim Whittle, chief claims counsel for the American Insurance Association.

Car insurance rules of thumb

Factors to consider when evaluating your car insurance needs:

  • Your age, assets and driving record.
  • The age, make and model of your car.
  • Your risk tolerance, or how much you can pay out of pocket in the event of a claim.
  • Any discounts available to you.

To help decide how much to spend on coverage:

  • Learn what your state requires.
  • Educate yourself on the different types of coverage available.
  • Consult an insurance agent.
  • Shop around.

Source: Insurance industry experts.

Category: Forex

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