Our Guide to Car Insurance

Buying car insurance is an important responsibility for all automobile owners. In fact, you are required to carry car insurance when you drive. Some types of coverage help pay for damages to your car, while others pay to repair another driver’s automobile if you are at fault. Certain coverages pay your medical bills after a crash, but other coverages pay the medical expenses of another driver.

For first-time car owners, the prospect of how to get car insurance can be intimidating. What is car insurance, anyway? You may not know what coverages you need, how to find the best insurer, or how to get the best insurance rate. A handy car insurance guide will give you the tools you need to find and purchase just the right policy.

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    In this article

      The basics of car insurance

      What is car insurance?

      Car insurance is an agreement you make with an insurance provider. You pay a monthly, six-month or annual premium and the insurer agrees to pay the cost of repairs or injuries, up to the policy’s limits, following a covered loss. Providers sell several types of car insurance coverage to pay for repairs or replacement of your automobile and the injuries of you and your passengers, as well as coverages that pay the medical expenses and repair costs of another driver when you’re at fault for a collision. Without car insurance, you’d pay huge expenses out of pocket for injury and repair bills.

      What is non-owner car insurance?

      Non-owner car insurance provides coverage when you’re driving a car you don’t own. A non-owner auto insurance policy only includes state-required coverages, such as bodily injury and personal property liability coverages. A non-owner policy may also include medical payments or personal injury protection coverages, as well as uninsured and underinsured motorist coverages, where required by law.

      Typically, drivers who only operate their own vehicles don’t need non-owner car insurance. But you may need the coverage if you:

      • Frequently rent cars and choose not to purchase insurance offered by the rental car agency. However, non-owner car insurance policies don’t cover damage to the rental vehicle.
      • Frequently use hourly-based vehicles from services such as Zipcar. Car-share companies offer members damage protection plans and state-required liability and medical coverages. But if you cause an accident in a manner that the car-sharing company deems a violation of its membership contract, you could be held financially responsible for all injuries and property damage.
      • Frequently use a friend or relative’s vehicle. But, if you’re listed on the auto policy of the car you borrow, you won’t need non-owner auto insurance.
      • You no longer own an automobile but want to avoid a gap in car insurance coverage. Maintaining continuous car insurance coverage is a factor carriers use to set rates. If you sell your car and don’t carry car insurance for a few months or years, you may have to pay a higher premium when you buy another automobile.

      Oftentimes, non-owner car insurance costs a little less than coverage for an automobile you own. The make and model of vehicle you drive plays a role in the rate you pay for car insurance. But if you don’t own an automobile, a non-owner car policy will provide blanket coverage, regardless of the make and model of vehicle you borrow or rent. However, providers will still base your rate on factors such as your age, driving history, gender and location.

      Is car insurance required?

      All states require motorists to carry minimum levels of bodily injury and personal property liability insurance, which pay the medical expenses and auto repair costs of another driver when you cause an accident.

      The amount of coverage you must buy varies by state. When researching your state’s required liability coverages, you’ll likely notice limits expressed in three numbers. Each number represents the amount of a coverage you must buy, in thousands of dollars.

      The first two numbers represent the amount of bodily injury coverage and the last number represents personal property coverage. For example, 25/50/25 means you must have:

      •  $25,000 worth of bodily injury coverage to pay the medical expenses of one injured person.
      • $50,000 worth of bodily injury coverage to pay the medical expenses of more than one injured person.
      • $25,000 worth of personal property liability coverage to repair or replace another driver’s car or to pay for damage to other types of property.

      Some states also require other types of coverages such as medical payments, personal injury protection or uninsured/underinsured motorist coverages.

      [Read: What Is My State’s Minimum Coverage for Car Insurance?]

      State departments of insurance usually detail car insurance requirements on their websites, or you can learn more at AAA and the Insurance Information Institute.

      How much does car insurance cost?

      In 2017, U.S. car owners paid an average annual car insurance premium of $1,005, according to a National Association of Insurance Commissioners study. But this estimate doesn’t reflect the amount you’ll pay for auto insurance. Insurance carriers base rates on many factors, including your:

      • Age
      • Annual mileage
      • Claims history
      • Coverage history
      • Coverages types and levels
      • Credit history
      • Driving experience
      • Driving record
      • Gender
      • Location
      • Marital status
      • Policy deductible
      • Vehicle’s make and model
      • Vehicle’s use

      Types of car insurance coverage

      Car insurance policies include several types of coverage, which may include:

      • Bodily injury liability: This coverage pays the medical expenses of another driver and his or her passengers when you’re at fault for an accident.
      • Personal property liability: When you cause an accident, your personal property liability coverage will pay to repair or replace the other driver’s automobile. This type of coverage also covers other types of property you might collide with, like a fence or lamppost.
      • Collision: If you’re at fault for an accident, collision coverage will pay to repair or replace your car.
      • Comprehensive: Comprehensive coverage pays for non-collision losses, like storm damage or vandalism. It can also pay to replace stolen vehicles.
      • Medical payments: If you or your passengers sustain injuries in a collision, medical payments coverage can help pay your medical costs.
      • Personal injury protection: Like medical payments coverage, personal injury protection helps pay the medical expenses of you and your passengers following a collision. If you or a passenger dies in a crash, PIP may cover funeral expenses. And, if your injuries require you to miss work, PIP may pay to replace a portion of your lost income.
      • Uninsured and underinsured motorist: Uninsured motorist coverage can pay your medical bills and auto repair costs if an uninsured driver or hit-and-run driver collides with your car. Similarly, underinsured motorist coverage will help pay medical and repair costs if an at-fault driver has insufficient coverage to pay all your expenses.

      [Related: All the Auto Insurance Terms You Need to Know]

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      How to choose the best car insurance company for you

      It’s important to choose the best car insurance company for your specific needs. If you don’t shop around for quotes or pick a carrier with discounts that apply to your situation, you may end up paying more than you have to in premiums. Here’s how to get car insurance that’s right for you:

      1. Shop around for quotes. It doesn’t cost anything to start a car insurance quote with a carrier. Any good car insurance guide will tell you that getting at least three to four car insurance quotes is the best place to start.
      2. Look for discounts. The more discounts you can get, the better. If the car insurance company offers a ton of discounts that apply to you, it’s a good top choice for your new car insurance carrier.
      3. Check out how to file claims. A lot of carriers will have a mobile app that makes it easy to file claims, upload documents, take pictures and track your claim status. If it’s easy to file a claim, it’s an insurance company to consider.
      4. Compare ratings. Look at online reviews, J.D. Power studies and other financial reports of the company. You want to make sure if you need reimbursement for your claim that the company can pay out.
      5. Call and ask about quotes. If one insurance company gives you a rate quote higher than the others, call in and talk to someone about it. In most cases it’ll give you a competitive price if you put the company to the test — don’t just assume what you get in an online quote is the only answer you’ll get.

      National carriers vs. regional carriers

      Buying insurance from a major national insurer will usually get you cheap car insurance quotes, but at the same time, you might be treated like just a number instead of a valued customer. A small insurer that covers your local region will often offer better service and treat you like a truly valuable customer — because for the company, you really are.

      Here is a look at a few average annual premiums for a full coverage policy.

      National CarrierAverage Annual PremiumAverage Monthly Cost
      Allstate$2,457$205
      Farmers$1,534$128
      Geico$1,337$111
      Nationwide$1,379$115
      Progressive$1,915$160
      State Farm$1,903$159
      Travelers$1,953$163
      USAA$1,178$98

      Mutual companies vs. stock companies

      Just like big banks and smaller credit unions, insurers run the gamut from for-profit corporations to mutual companies that are owned by customers instead of a board of investors. Mutual companies are owned by the policyholders; if the company profits over a given fiscal period, it can either add the money to its resource pool or distribute it back to the policyholders in the form of a dividend payment.

      [Read: How to Switch Car Insurance Companies]

      Shareholder-owned companies pay out profits to their investors, and, generally speaking, are under more pressure by investment boards to keep costs down and deliver record profits on a yearly basis.

      Understanding your car insurance policy

      Read the policy carefully

      Once you’ve picked out a few potential insurance companies, you’ll want to spend some time researching their policies so you can choose the best one. Don’t assume all insurance policies are the same — you’ll want to make sure the insurance policy isn’t setting you up for a potentially difficult and costly claims experience in the future.

      So for anyone who wants to be completely covered, remember, if you blindly sign up for a not-so-consumer-friendly policy, when it comes time to get reimbursed for your wrecked vehicle, you may have two choices:

      • Accepting a settlement for thousands less than your car’s value, or
      • Attempting to sue your insurance company to recover the difference

      Instead of pursuing an arduous and costly lawsuit over months, maybe years, or getting short-changed by a few grand, wouldn’t you rather just spend a boring afternoon reading through your policies?

      Most major insurers offer competitive pricing on premiums, but some offer better and more consumer-friendly policies than others. Chances are you can find an insurer that offers low rates and a policy with good terms and conditions. You won’t want to buy insurance from a company that writes policy that almost exclusively favors themselves. Some policies contain language like “The Insurance Company reserves the right to hire its own expert to assess the value of your damaged property. Such an assessment will be binding.” That might be a slight exaggeration, but only slightly.

      [More: Understanding Your Car Insurance Declaration Page]

      You would much rather have a policy that contains friendlier language and “Arbitration Clauses.” These clauses stipulate that if or when a dispute arises about the value of an item (typically the customer’s car), the customer and the insurer can each independently hire their own experts, and the experts will convene to establish an agreed-upon value. Such a measure is likely to produce a reasonable agreement, while also costing thousands less than hiring attorneys and going to court.

      This is just one example of what to look for in a good insurance policy. To look for other examples and know with confidence whether a given policy is worth buying, here are some tips on how to go about reading and identifying a good insurance policy.

      • Plan ahead. You might have to ask for a copy of an insurer’s policy a few days or a week in advance, as some of them only provide hard copies and only distribute them by mail, which can take several days. Make sure to also ask for your state’s riders, substitutions, exclusions, and other supplemental policy documents, since the various laws governing insurance in each state will cause insurers to add state-specific additions to their policies. Most salespeople or agents won’t automatically include this stuff unless you specifically ask for it.
      • Know where to look. You’re looking for a litmus test, so in most cases you don’t need to read the whole policy to know whether the insurer has a “consumer-friendly” policy or not – a few key sections should tell you enough.
        • Skim through the policy’s index, and find the sections on “Collision” and “Personal Injury” coverage. Within these sections, find subsections with headings like “Insuring Agreement, “Limit of Liability,” “Payment for Loss,” “Damages We (the insurance company) Will Pay For,” and “Determining Amount of Loss.”
        • Look for a paragraph or subsection that describes how the company will determine the “amount of loss” or how they will assess your car’s value.
      • What you’ll find: Make sure to read through the policy’s supplemental documents that pertain to your state. Search for any phrases that appear to skew things heavily in the insurer’s favor, like language that adds too many clauses and exclusions. Typically, though, you’ll get a sense of whether a company is “consumer-friendly” or not by reading through the main sections of its policy.

      Compare a few policies and you’ll see how some companies use their language to skew things heavily in their favor. Sometimes it’s as simple as identifying policies that are written in a plain, easy-to-follow manner; as if a reasonable person wrote it instead of a think-tank full of lawyers and adjusters.

      So remember to favor readable policies. You should be wary of any writing that’s dragged down by complex language and opaque phrasing. If “payment for loss” is qualified and described with too many caveats, conditions and only-if-the-insurance-company-says-so-type phrasing, you might want to move on to the next policy.

      Understanding your own risk in car insurance

      Your car and driving habits

      According to the Insurance Information Institute, a variety of demographic factors impact the price of your insurance premiums, including age, gender, education level, income, credit score, driving habits, where you park, where you live, what type of vehicle you drive and driving history. Every insurer on the market assesses these factors to determine the risk you pose of causing an accident or opening a claim.

      [More: Why Does My Credit Score Affect My Car Insurance?]

      The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also reports that within each vehicle category, different models pose higher or lower costs of repairs, depending on the varying prices of parts between manufacturers. Typically, German cars have the most expensive parts and are often slightly more expensive to insure than their Japanese and American counterparts. If you’re shopping for your next car, review the NHTSA report to see which models pose lower costs of repairs, and you’ll likely get better insurance rates by choosing from those models.

      When you obtain rate quotes from various insurers, most will ask you to answer detailed questions about these categories. It’s best to answer as honestly as possible, but where you’re unsure, you’ll likely get a better rate quote if you fall on the conservative side. Will you be driving more or less than 3,000 miles per year? Will you use your vehicle primarily for pleasure, weekend-only driving or daily commutes? Do you plan to keep it in your garage or park it on the street? The answers to these questions will affect your rates. If and when you do end up filing a claim, your insurer will document your car’s mileage, see if it compares with what you’ve reported, and adjust your rates accordingly.

      [Related: The Most Expensive Cars to Insure in 2020]

      While your insurance company might check up on you and adjust your rates based on your driving habits, you should check up on your insurer if your demographic changes. Ask for a rate review or shop around for better rates if you just completed a college degree, stopped using your vehicle for regular commuting purposes, recently moved into a residence with garage parking or moved to a new neighborhood.

      No-fault states

      When you’re in an automobile accident, the police officer who responds to the scene will write a report. Each driver’s insurer will use this report, along with witness statements, to determine which party was “at fault” for the accident. In many cases, the at-fault driver is responsible for paying the medical and repair costs of the other driver.

      Some states have passed “no-fault” laws to reduce lawsuits. In a no-fault system, each party’s insurance company must cover its policyholder’s injury costs, regardless of fault, up to the limits of the insured’s policy. Most no-fault states require all drivers to purchase personal injury protection coverage. PIP coverage – also called no-fault insurance – may cover several types of expenses, including:

      • Funeral expenses: If you die in an accident, your PIP coverage can help your loved ones pay funeral and burial costs.
      • Lost wages: If you’re unable to work while recuperating from injuries sustained in a covered accident, PIP may replace some of your lost wages.
      • Medical expenses: PIP can help pay various medical expenses, like ambulance and emergency room bills, nursing services, prescription drugs and surgery.
      • Services: When injuries from an auto accident prevent you from performing tasks such as house cleaning and yard work, your PIP coverage may help pay professional service providers to handle them for you.

      PIP limits and benefits vary by state. Michigan car owners can choose from six levels of coverage, ranging from $50,000 to $250,000. Some Michigan drivers covered by Medicare Parts A and B can opt out of PIP coverage. New York’s no-fault law mandates up to $50,000 in basic PIP coverage for all benefits. However, New Yorkers can apply for additional PIP coverage if they exceed this limit.

      No-fault states that require PIP coverage include:

      • Arkansas
      • Delaware
      • Florida
      • Hawaii
      • Kansas
      • Kentucky
      • Maryland
      • Massachusetts
      • Michigan
      • Minnesota
      • New Jersey
      • New York
      • North Dakota
      • Oregon
      • Pennsylvania
      • Texas
      • Utah

      Although not required by law, you can purchase PIP coverage in:

      • District of Columbia
      • New Hampshire
      • South Dakota
      • Virginia
      • Washington

      PIP doesn’t cover any property damages. Assigning fault to a party for auto repair costs lies with the insurance companies of each party involved in the accident. It’s sometimes difficult to determine fault. Oftentimes, insurance companies split the financial responsibility between the parties. For instance, if a speeding driver hits a car that makes an illegal turn, the drivers’ insurers may decide that each driver was equally at fault. Assigning fault will determine which party’s insurer will pay the claim, and at what percentage. In a 50/50 scenario, both insurers will take responsibility for their policyholders’ claims. But keep in mind that insurers will pay a claim within the limits of a policy.

      States that don’t have no-fault laws are often called “at-fault” states. In these states, the degree to which a driver is deemed at fault will apply to property damage and bodily injury settlements. If one driver is deemed 100% at fault for an accident, his or her insurance company would have the responsibility of covering the claims of the other party and their policyholder. Again, insurers won’t pay more than a policy’s limits. If your policy doesn’t provide enough coverage to pay for all damages and injuries, you’ll have to pay out of pocket.

      Additional coverage

      Specialty-line insurance is offered by most major insurers for a variety of reasons. The most common types include:

      • Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UM or UIM): This type of coverage applies when a driver with no insurance coverage causes an accident, and in most policies it covers “phantom” or hit-and-run drivers. Not having it could force you to file such a claim on your collision coverage, which could raise your rates.
      • “GAP” Coverage for Loans: If you have a loan on your car, this coverage is a must. Most companies refer to it as Guaranteed Auto Protection, and it covers the difference — the “gap” — between the amount you owe on your loan and the value of your vehicle. Imagine you’ve just bought a brand new $20,000 vehicle. After you’ve put 2,000 miles on it in the first six months, the car has devalued to about $18,000, but you still likely owe at least $19,000 on the loan. If your car is destroyed, without this coverage your insurer will only pay you the $18,000 and you’ll be left to pay off the extra $1,000 out of pocket. GAP coverage will require the insurer to pay whatever amount is left owing on the loan, and it’s almost always worth the money just in case.
      • Custom or Specialty Equipment Coverage: In most insurance policies, this type of coverage generally applies to aftermarket radios, GPS units, and upgrades or modifications that are attached to the vehicle. Think of it as coverage for things that would be desirable for thieves to steal out of your car, like a nice stereo system or custom wheels. Without it, your insurer will only cover the cost of the vehicle’s stock equipment and features. You should call your insurance agent or salesperson for details in these areas.

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        Getting the right coverage for the right price

        Bundling discounts

        Most insurers offer “multiple-line discounts” that save you money on all coverage when buying home or renter’s insurance along with your car, motorcycle coverage, life insurance or other types from the same company. If you have multiple assets and need various types of insurance, ask your insurer what sort of discounts they will offer if you bundle multiple types of coverage.

        High deductibles mean lower premiums

        Another way to save money while maintaining coverage for your own mistakes is to sign up for high deductibles. Instead of $250 or $500, you might pay $1,000 or more when your car needs a repair, but you’ll also pay lower rates.

        Monthly billing vs. annual billing

        Most insurers offer the option to pay for six months or a year’s worth of coverage all at once or paid on a monthly basis. You’ll often get a discounted price for paying all at once instead of paying monthly.

        Ask about more discounts

        Many insurers offer various discounts for students, good drivers with clean records, lower rates for families or for people with advanced education degrees. According to the Insurance Information Institute, discounts may be offered for factors like anti-theft devices, defensive driving courses, good credit record, low annual mileage, being a long-time customer, insuring multiple vehicles, no accidents in three years, no moving violations in three years and being a student with good grades, among others. After you’ve gotten your quotes online, spend a few minutes on the phone with a representative to get the details on possible discounts they haven’t mentioned yet.

        Minimum coverage vs. full coverage

        It’s best to have some form of personal injury protection or medical coverage in the event of a car crash, even if you only want to pay for bare minimum coverage. And even if you’re the safest driver on the road, another driver without insurance could cause a collision. If you sustained injuries without having coverage for treatment, you would be forced to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket for treatment and attempt to sue them later for reimbursement. You can earn money back, but it’s much harder to earn back your health without proper treatment immediately following an accident.

        Before just blindly signing up for the minimum-required insurance coverage, check with a few insurers to determine how much more you would be paying to insure your car against your own mistakes, and to add some personal injury protection. If you use your car to commute to and from work or otherwise spend a lot of time behind the wheel, the extra $10, $50, or even $100 per month for insurance coverage might be worth the peace of mind.

        If you’re going to risk going without full insurance coverage and plan to set aside an emergency fund instead, plan to save enough to replace your car in half that time. So if your car is worth about $3,000, switch to liability-only coverage and set aside about $85 per month towards your emergency vehicle fund. For most drivers, this amount will come close to (or less than) the rate difference between full coverage and liability-only.

        If your car is worth around $8,000 or $12,000, continue with your full coverage, and in the meantime set aside roughly $50 per month for an emergency car fund for the next several years. By the time your car has decreased in value to $5,000 or $6,000 (likely about four or five years from now) you’ll be halfway to having enough stocked up to replace it at a moment’s notice in the event of an accident. Once you’ve saved more than half your car’s value, switch to liability-only coverage and keep contributing to your emergency car fund while enjoying low premiums. Use the money for regular mechanical maintenance to keep your car in good shape and on the road longer to extend your savings.

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          How to file a car insurance claim after an accident

          Filing and navigating a claim is a complex process, and getting it right can keep you safe from hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars of financial risk — not to mention the time you might spend fixing a scenario that gets out of control.

          [Read: How to File a Car Insurance Claim]

          Filing a claim in the event of a car accident

          1. Call the police. Never assume that an accident is too small to warrant a police report. Always call the police to make sure the right questions are asked and the at-fault driver provides proof of insurance.
          2. Don’t admit fault. Insurance adjusters and police will investigate and get to the bottom of it — no need for you to open your mouth early if you’re shaken up and unsure of everything that just happened.
          3. Exchange information. If you are a victim in a collision, and the other driver’s insurance company underpays your claim or outright denies payment, you might have to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver to get reimbursed, and you need to know exactly who they are. Make sure you exchange name, address, contact information, license plate number, driver’s license number, insurance company name and policy number.
          4. Take photos. Take dozens of photos showing all aspects of the scene, close-ups as well as wide-angle shots, to fully depict what happened.

          Navigating your car insurance claim

          Several useful guides can be found online with detailed steps on how to navigate medical and insurance claims. Here’s a handful of car insurance guide basics in navigating your car insurance claim.

          You can use your own coverage

          You can use your own policy to pay for damages caused by another driver. Most people are worried their rates will go up if they do this, but if you weren’t at-fault for the accident, your rates should not be affected. This is a great option because you’ll often get better customer service and save more time by working with your own company, especially if it knows it can recover payments from the other driver and their insurance policy later on.

          Ask the right questions

          What is getting covered? Is anything getting left out? If so, why? Ask the claims adjuster, body shop staff, rental car clerk and doctor’s office staff about things like brand-new replacement parts for your car, rental coverage, out-of-pocket medical expenses and similar items that you might otherwise assume are being fully covered. The last thing you need is to get a bill in the mail a week after the fact.

          Get it in writing

          Ask for every communication via email and/or written letter and you’ll have a record of their commitments and promises.

          Negotiating settlements

          Let’s not kid ourselves: The main point of concern for an insurance adjuster is not how much your claim is actually worth, but how much you are willing to accept. Many adjusters will take steps to offer you conservative settlement amounts, even with the knowledge that your claim may be worth more money. It’s up to you to navigate this territory to make sure you’re not receiving an unfair settlement.

          You never want to give away your position or tell an insurance adjuster how much you’re willing to accept until you’ve done your research and consulted with experts and/or attorneys — this could seriously hurt your chances for a settlement later on, because you may not realize that your claim is legitimately worth thousands more while you’re only asking them to pay a few hundred dollars.

          [Related: Should I Submit a Claim or Pay Out of Pocket?]

          Furthermore, never accept a settlement in the same conversation as the offer is made — give yourself at least a day to consider it, do your own research and consult with experts and attorneys before accepting a settlement for anything. Also keep in mind that the first offer will often be somewhat less than they can actually pay, and that with some smart presentation of facts, negotiation tactics or by hiring an attorney, you will likely be able to increase their offer.

          To keep expenses low, many insurers will attempt to undervalue your claim by at least a few hundred (or thousand) dollars and convince you that it makes sense. Watch out for adjusters who try to explain their reasoning or convince you too much while attempting to offer you small settlements — this sort of behavior can indicate they are able to pay more, but are attempting to get you to accept less early on.

          For most property-only claims, and for very small medical claims where you recover in a short period of time and an attorney won’t be needed, you should be able to negotiate a good settlement on your own. Here are some simple tips to keep in mind:

          • Communicate everything in writing.
          • If the insurance company has made an offer that’s less than fair, send them a written letter or an email demanding they pay a certain amount, and include facts, photos, evidence and your reasoning as to why you think that’s fair.
          • Again, don’t give away your whole argument all at once, since too much explaining or rationalizing can make you seem desperate.
          • Finally, be sure to demand about 25% more than you hope to get in the end — they’ll likely raise their offer if you lower yours, so leave room for negotiating.

          Escalate if needed

          If your negotiation tactics aren’t working, ask to speak with the adjuster’s manager, or their manager’s manager, and so on. In many cases, elevating the claim to senior-level adjusters will increase the amount of their offer.

          If you find yourself getting the runaround, or if the adjuster tells you plainly that they “will not” or “cannot” pay more for your claim, your next option might only be to take legal action. Contact a few attorneys in your area to discuss your claim to see if it will be worth pursuing with legal action. In many cases, personal injury attorneys can help you navigate a claim and do the bulk of the administration and management, which will save you time in handling the claim. Additionally, most attorneys will take a case on a contingency basis, meaning they don’t charge you for their time and only get paid if a settlement is generated.

          If you are the victim of an accident, any legal action you take will be against the at-fault driver, and their insurer will be obligated to hire an attorney to defend them. In the event that the insurance company has offered an amount fairly close to your desired settlement, it may be worth it to notify them that you intend to hire an attorney, and give them one last chance to increase their offer.

          If you are at fault but your insurance company is offering you an unfair settlement or treating you unfairly, you may be able to pursue legal action against them. As noted before, contact an attorney to discuss your claim and your options further.

          Ongoing car insurance maintenance

          Shop car insurance quotes frequently

          Shop around every few years — or ask your current company for a rate review. If you provide it with a quote from another insurer, it might just lower your rates, while keeping intact any discounts you may have earned for being a long-time customer. Keep in mind that most insurers raise customers’ rates by a little bit each year, so in a few years you might land a great introductory rate with another company, or at least use a competitor’s quote to get your company’s rates back down.

          Read updated policies

          Most companies revise their policies at least every few years to adapt to new laws, regulations, or precedents set by cases and claims that have gone to trial. When a copy of your updated policy shows up in the mail every six months or year, take a couple of hours to read through it. Not only will you maintain your working knowledge of your insurance company, you’ll stay on top of any crucial developments in your company’s methodology that you may want to avoid, or recommend to friends!

          Don’t let your coverage lapse

          One of the most common mistakes drivers make is allowing their insurance to lapse, forgetting to renew coverage, or failing to make a payment on time and voiding their coverage.

          [More: How Does a Lapse in Coverage Affect My Car Insurance?]

          If you buy a new vehicle, also make sure to declare it to your insurance company immediately so it knows that it must be added to your coverage, and likewise remove any vehicles that you’ve sold or don’t drive any more. Setup automatic online billing and other fail-safes to ensure you don’t find yourself in a tough spot with no insurance coverage.

          Car insurance FAQs

          Yes, car insurance is extremely important for all drivers to have. In fact, almost every state requires drivers to have a minimum level of car insurance on their vehicle. Having car insurance protects you from paying out-of-pocket in the event that you’re in a car accident and your car (other person’s car) is damaged or totaled.

          Most insurance providers allow customers to get a car insurance quote online, choose their level of coverage and pay for their policy, all at the same time. If you need car insurance quickly, doing it online is usually the best way. However, keep in mind that it’s always recommended to shop around and get multiple quotes before selecting an insurance provider.

          Although car insurance can be expensive, most insurance companies offer a variety of discounts and ways to save on monthly premiums. Most of the major car insurance companies provide discounts for safe drivers, insuring a new vehicle, bundling insurance policies, having certain safety features on your vehicle, paying your policy in full and more. As you’re shopping around for providers, make sure to check out their discounts to find a company that can save you the most money.

          Last updated August 19, 2020 – Updated editorial guide.

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