While the internet provides great resources to help you become well-informed about car insurance and the various coverages, we strongly recommend you purchase your insurance from an experienced independent insurance agency.
As we shop your car insurance for you, we explain the different coverages and discounts each company offers, since they’re not all the same. You may find “cheaper” insurance online, only to discover at the time of a loss that the policy has exclusions and fine print you missed, resulting in an unexpected unpaid claim.
What does car insurance cover?
A basic personal auto insurance policy provides the following protection coverage for you and your vehicle. The state requires you to carry liability coverage to protect other people and their property. Insuring damage to your own car is your choice, unless you have a loan or lease that dictates you carry this coverage.
Bodily Injury (BI) – Other People You Injure
This coverage applies to injuries that you cause to someone else. This covers the driver and passengers in another car, as well as any motorcyclist, bicyclist, or pedestrian you harm with your vehicle. Each state sets their own minimum limit of liability insurance coverage they require by law.
Liability insurance is written as either a split limit, broken down into three amounts, or a Combined Single Limit (CSL) for the maximum amount of payout.
Limit Per Person Bodily Injury / Limit Per Accident Bodily Injury / Limit for All Property Damage of Others
Property Damage (PD) Liability – Other People’s Property You Damage
This coverage pays for damage you may cause to someone else’s property. Usually this means damage to someone else’s car, but it also includes damage to structures you hit such as telephone poles, fences, guardrails, signs, buildings or other piece of property your car damages.
Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
If you, your family or any passengers in your vehicle are injured in an accident, your necessary medical, hospital and funeral expenses are covered under Personal Injury Protection. This coverage applies regardless of who is at fault. PIP may also pay a percentage of your income or your passengers’ incomes should you or your passengers be unable to work due to a covered injury. Even if you have medical insurance on your own, or through your employer, please consider this coverage, particularly if you drive non-family members in your car. They may not have medical insurance, or may carry catastrophic medical insurance with a high deductible.
Damage to Your Car
States do not require that you purchase collision or comprehensive coverage, but if you have a car loan, your lender will require you to carry it until your loan is paid off.
This coverage pays the Actual Cash Value (ACV) for damage to your car resulting from a collision with another car or object, or as a result of flipping over. Even if you are at fault for the accident, your collision coverage will reimburse you for the costs of repairing your car, less the deductible. If you’re not at fault, your insurance company may try to recover the amount they paid you from the other driver’s insurance company through subrogation. If they are successful, you’ll also be reimbursed for your deductible paid. Instead of choosing a limit for this coverage, you choose a deductible.
You don’t set a limit for this coverage. Instead, you choose a deductible of your choice, typically $250, $500, or $1,000.
This coverage reimburses you for loss due to theft or damage caused by something other than a collision with another car or object, such as fire, falling objects, explosion, windstorm, hail, vandalism, etc. Comprehensive insurance coverage will also reimburse you if your windshield is cracked or shattered. Instead of choosing a limit for this coverage, you choose a deductible. Hitting an animal, such as a deer, is actually covered under this coverage and not collision as you might think.
Again, you don’t set a limit for this coverage either. Instead, you choose a deductible of your choice, typically $250, $500, or $1,000.
Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UM/UIM)
This coverage will reimburse you if you are hit by an uninsured or hit-and-run driver. Underinsured motorist coverage comes into play when an at-fault driver has insufficient insurance to pay for your total loss. This coverage may also protect you if you are hit as a pedestrian or bicyclist, and the driver of the car that struck you does not have insurance.
If you opt out of this UIM B/I and UIM P/D coverages, and an uninsured or underinsured driver hits you, you will need to rely on your collision and Personal Injury Protection coverages if you elected to purchase those. Otherwise, these costs are out of pocket for you.
Bodily Injury (UM/BI)
Pays the medical bills for you or other passengers in your vehicle, up to your limit, if you’re injured by an at-fault, uninsured or underinsured driver in an auto accident.
Property Damage (UM/PD)
Pays for damages to your car, up to your limits, if your car is damaged by an at-fault, uninsured or underinsured driver. This is also where you would have coverage for a hit-and-run accident.
Rental Car Reimbursement
This pays for a rental car while yours is in the shop being repaired as the result of an accident. You choose a daily rental reimbursement limit, and the duration is typically set.
Roadside Assistance & Towing
This is optional coverage to purchase. If you think you’re likely to need towing services frequently, we recommend you purchase this line of coverage from a company that specializes in that instead. Multiple towing claims may adversely impact your car insurance premiums, however, this is great coverage to have in those unexpected cases you need help, and especially after you have been involved in an accident.
GAP / Auto Loan Coverage
If you are taking out a loan to purchase a brand new car, talk with us about this coverage before automatically buying it from the dealership, as it’s typically more expensive to purchase through the dealership than it is through your insurance company. This coverage may pay the difference between the balance of a lease or loan due on a vehicle, and what the insurance company pays if the car is considered a total loss.
As we all know, the value of a new car drops the minute you drive it off the dealer’s lot. If the car is totaled early on in the life of the loan, there’s a good chance you could find yourself owing more on the loan than you receive from the insurance company since the car insurance is paid out on an Actual Cash Value (ACV) basis, which takes into account depreciation and other factors.
Please consider purchasing a Personal Umbrella to go over the top of your auto insurance in case of a horrible accident! Protect your assets and current and future livelihood.
Kristie English, M.Ed.
Principal / Agent
If I get into an accident while driving my friend’s car, who pays for the damages?
Your friend’s auto insurance policy, assuming they have coverage, will be responsible for the damages, and that accident will go on their accident history report. Any traffic ticket associated with the accident would go on your personal Motor Vehicle Report (MVR) since you were the driver.
When you lend your car to someone, you’re essentially lending your insurance. If that friend is uninsured, or has a non-standard auto insurance policy that excludes other drivers from operating the vehicle, the injured person could then go after you for the damages. If you do not have an auto insurance policy yourself, perhaps because you don’t own a car, you could then be personally liable.
We're here to help you understand your auto insurance options.
Call us at (833) BIG-TREE / (425) 673-7948, or use our online form to request a quote.