Auto Insurance Basics
Think of your auto insurance policy as six separate policies. Some types of coverage are required by state law, depending on where you live. Others are optional. Consider each one and ask yourself how much you need. Each type of coverage has its own premium. Add them up and you've got the price of your auto insurance policy. Subtract the ones you may not need and you gain some control over the cost.
Bodily injury liability (BI) coverage covers you if you cause an accident in which someone else is hurt or killed. State laws differ as to how much you are required to carry. Many financial experts recommend carrying at least $100,000 per person and $300,000 per occurrence commonly expressed as "100/300." Consider what assets you have to protect and what you can afford when deciding how much to purchase.
Property damage liability (PD) coverage covers you when you damage someone else's property. Usually it's someone else's car, but it could apply to buildings, utility poles, garage doors, and other physical property. State laws determine the minimum you must purchase.
Collision coverage covers damage to your car if you run into another car, a brick wall, a fire hydrant, or other object. This coverage is not required by law, though your bank may require it if you have an auto loan. You may choose a deductible on this coverage—what you must first pay out of pocket for a claim before the insurance kicks in.
Comprehensive coverage covers you in case your car is stolen or damaged in ways that don't involve a collision. Covered risks include hail, fire, theft, flood, earthquake, explosion, falling objects, and encounters with wildlife, such as deer. Comprehensive is optional coverage, though your bank may require it if you have an auto loan. You may choose a deductible on this coverage.
Uninsured/Underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage covers medical and other expenses when you are hit by a driver without adequate auto insurance. Whether this coverage is mandatory or optional depends on your state laws. You can purchase additional coverage to pay for damage to your car if hit by an uninsured motorist, but many people instead just purchase collision and comprehensive.
Medical payments coverage (Med Pay, or MPC) acts as primary coverage for medical expenses you and your passengers incur if injured in a motor vehicle accident, regardless of fault. States have different laws regarding this coverage.