What Is Car Insurance?
In short, it’s a contract between you and an insurance company. The insurer will help you recover financially from a number of scenarios that involve bad things happening to or caused by your car. Bad things can range from medical expenses to roadside assistance.
Why Do I Need Car Insurance?
In almost every state, it’s illegal to drive without car insurance. Every state has a minimum of liability coverage that is legally required. If you don’t have it, you could be fined. If you make a habit of getting caught without it, you could end up in jail.
The other good reason to have car insurance is consistency. It’s easier to pay monthly or quarterly premiums than to swallow the sudden cost of a bad accident. Unless you have an emergency stash of cash lying around, you should get yourself covered.
What Does Car Insurance Cover?
Car insurance covers your car, other people’s cars, the people inside the cars and the people around the cars (such as pedestrians and bikers). It really depends on the type(s) of coverage you have.
There are three main auto insurance coverage types—liability, collision and comprehensive. There are also a number of specialized extras available. Here’s an overview of what you can expect from each:
Liability: This is the legal minimum of coverage—the other types are recommended, but not required. It covers your medical expenses (up to a point). If you’re at fault for an accident, it also covers the other driver’s medical expenses and car repairs. It does not cover repairs to your car.
Collision: This covers repairs to your car in case of a collision with another vehicle or inanimate object, like a mailbox.
Comprehensive: This covers everything else that can happen to your car: fire, wild animal collisions, riots and even missiles. It’s more accurately called “other than collision.”
Other options for more extensive coverage:
Uninsured/Underinsured motorist: This covers medical or repair expenses that are more expensive than what the other person’s insurance covers. (For example, if they’re driving uninsured—illegally—or if they carry only the cheapest coverage.)
Medical payments: This covers medical bills that go over what your liability insurance covers. If you don’t have health insurance, this is especially important.
Rental car: This covers rental car costs while your car is being repaired after an accident.
Road service/Roadside assistance: This covers emergency tows, battery jump starts and other roadside mishaps.