When Should You Downgrade Your Car Insurance?

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If you’re budgeting and trying to decide where you can save more money, you may have wondered if you should downgrade your car insurance. Doing so may give you less protection for accidents you may encounter on the road, however, you could be paying for more coverage than you need for no reason.

To make matters more complicated, many people bundle different types of car insurance together. And each type of insurance—such as comprehensive and collision—offers different protections to the driver.

When should you drop or keep collision insurance? What about comprehensive? And what’s the difference between comprehensive and collision? These are all important questions that should be answered before making any changes to your existing coverage.

When deciding whether to downgrade your insurance, you should analyze your own needs, your personal driving record, your overall budget and the amount of risk you want to avoid while driving. Take a look at the different types of car insurance available to you and the questions you need to ask yourself before downgrading your car insurance.

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Questions to ask

  • What’s the minimum car insurance required by my state?
  • Do I need comprehensive or collision insurance?
  • How much can I afford on a deductible?
  • How much can I afford on a premium?
  • How much can I afford on out-of-pocket car repairs?
  • How much is my car worth?

Types of Car Insurance and Basic Terminology

Most states require that you carry at least liability insurance on your car as a minimum, so we’ll assume that in all cases you’ll continue to carry liability coverage. Liability coverage takes care of any costs or damage you may do to other people and property during the course of driving, including both bodily injury to others and property damage. These insurances are usually pretty cheap – the only thing you might want to be concerned about is that your coverage limit is quite high.

What we’re mostly concerned about is comprehensive and collision insurance. We’ll go over both of these insurance types in the next section—but in a nutshell, Collision insurance covers damage to your car when your car hits or is hit by another object, while comprehensive insurance covers losses resulting from incidents other than collision – floods, damage caused by external forces, and so on.

For more specific details on these definitions, check out The Simple Dollar’s useful car insurance guide.

For each type of insurance, you’ll have a deductible, which is the portion of any bill that you will be responsible for. So, if you have a $1,000 deductible and you’re facing $2,500 in damages, you’ll pay $1,000 and the insurance company will pay $1,500. You also have a premium, which is the amount you have to pay the insurance company to maintain the insurance.

While not technically a type of car insurance, some people choose accident insurance as a supplement to their auto policy. Accident insurance is a type of coverage that pays out when the policyholder is injured, similar to disability insurance.

Is accident insurance worth it? That greatly depends on the individual. If you think an accident is likely in your line of work, then it might be a good route to pursue.

Collision vs. comprehensive

Collision and comprehensive are two separate kinds of car insurance. They each cover different kinds of accidents and damages, so understanding the difference between comprehensive and collision is the first step toward making any decision regarding a change in coverage.

What is collision insurance?

Collision insurance means that damage sustained to your vehicle during the collision with another vehicle is covered. Collision policies differ, and some cover collisions with other obstacles besides vehicles, such as trees or buildings. Some policies may cover repairs, while others cover the replacement cost of the vehicle.

When to drop collision insurance

Perhaps you have a strong emergency fund. With liability insurance, you would have to use your savings or emergency fund to pay for any repairs or even a new car if yours is totaled. In this case, it may be a good savings technique to downgrade your collision insurance as long as you would be able to retain at least half of your savings after paying for a new car or repairs. So when to drop collision insurance largely depends on your emergency fund.

When not to drop collision insurance

If the savings in your bank account is already tight, or even non-existent, it’s probably not a good idea to drop collision insurance from your vehicle. If you would have a hard time covering the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle in the event of a collision, it’s best to keep the collision insurance in place.

When you ask yourself, “do I need collision insurance?”, the answer should always depend on what will happen to you financially in the event of a collision.

What is comprehensive insurance?

Comprehensive insurance means that damage sustained to your vehicle during a non-collision accident is covered. However, which non-collision accidents are covered differs by policy. Common accidents covered by comprehensive insurance include natural disasters and theft or vandalism.

When to drop comprehensive insurance

Is your car in the last leg of its life? Downgrading your comprehensive insurance, for the time being, maybe a good option to help you save money. In this case, if you were to get in an accident that required car repairs, you could choose to buy a new car instead of spending any more money on the old one. In this case, you would also need some savings to purchase a new car, and we recommend switching back to comprehensive insurance once you’ve acquired a new car.

When to not drop comprehensive insurance

If you’ve recently purchased a brand new car, chances are your budget is slim while you’re still making car payments. If you were to transfer your car insurance so that it only covers liability, you will need to pay out-of-pocket for any non-collision damages that occur to your car. In this case, it would be risky to downgrade your comprehensive insurance unless you had enough cash on hand to completely repair or replace your car.

Should you downgrade your insurance?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a clear and straightforward answer to this question, and it’s because of that lack of clarity that people tend to over-insure – and personal finance writers can get away with simple statements like “eliminate your insurance and raise your deductible to save cash!”

First, should you raise your deductible? From our perspective, your deductible amount should always be directly related to your emergency fund. A single car incident shouldn’t be able to entirely deplete your emergency fund. In fact, we often encourage people to have an emergency fund at least twice as large as your deductible.

Given that, you can quickly figure out how much deductible you need based on your emergency fund. If you have an enormous emergency fund, for example, you may not even need comprehensive or collision insurance at all, as you have enough cash to pay for the repairs or the replacement yourself out of pocket.

The way I see it, if you have enough emergency funds that you could pay for an entire replacement car in cash and only reduce your fund by half or less, you don’t need collision or comprehensive insurance. Liability insurance should be all you need. But, of course, most people aren’t in that situation, as it demands a much larger cash emergency fund than most people have access to.

Similarly, at what point should you entirely cut collision coverage and comprehensive insurance on an older car? It’s not an easy question to answer.

For example, take a pickup pickup truck that is more than a decade old and is approaching the 200,000 mile mark. It has a low Blue Book value at this point, and the owner feels uncomfortable driving it any significant distance at all. The family intends to replace it by early next summer.

In this case, it may make sense for the owners to drop down to just liability coverage on the vehicle. This would save several hundred dollars, and if something severe went wrong with it again, the family would sell it.

Ask yourself this honest question: if a significant repair needed to be done to your current vehicle, would that be the final push you need to replace it? If that’s the case, do you need collision or comprehensive coverage on that vehicle at all?

How to downgrade your insurance

To downgrade your insurance, simply contact your current car insurance provider and explain to them your situation. The representative may push back on you, but at the end of the day, it’s your decision. As long as you know you’ve made a good decision, you’ll be able to lower your insurance and annual premium costs.

Keep in mind that lowering your insurance will likely raise your deductible, so this means you’ll need to ensure you have enough savings to cover the new deductible and any additional repair costs should you get into an accident without comprehensive or collision insurance.

After downgrading your car insurance, it’s a good idea to look at the next insurance statement to ensure that the downgrade went through correctly and everything looks right.

Bottom line

Between these two perspectives, you may find that comprehensive and collision insurance aren’t worth it to you. But you may find yourself also feeling unprotected without that insurance. Insurance does have a psychological benefit beyond any direct financial benefits – you can be confident in knowing that even if something bad happens, you’re covered.

If your signs are pointing away from needing collision and comprehensive insurance, but your gut is telling you it’s a bad idea, we recommend raising your deductible. That way, you’ve got the security of the insurance while saving money as well. This may be the best option of all for people with used cars and a nice hefty emergency fund but find that comprehensive and collision insurance makes them feel better about their car.

Remember that accident insurance is always an option too. If you want greater peace of mind but don’t want to go through the hassle of changing around your car insurance coverage, accident insurance is a path worth exploring.