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How Car Insurance Works

Understanding Your Auto Insurance Needs

Just because your state requires a minimum amount of insurance doesn't mean that's exactly what you should purchase. In fact, most motorists purchase more coverage than their state requires so that they are covered for a variety of problems -- not simply a fender bender. In order to better determine your auto insurance needs, consider these five guidelines:

Know Your State Laws

Remember that forty-seven states require that you purchase liability insurance. Liability insurance is what pays for bodily injury and property damage that you cause another driver. Fifteen states including Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey also require that you buy Personal Injury Protection (PIP). This coverage pays for your medical expenses and lost wages in the event of an auto accident. Your insurance minimum will most likely be determined by state law, but many people are encouraged to purchase more than is required.

Know Your Options

There are a lot of car insurance options; but knowing what you most likely will need is the key to making sure you are appropriately covered. Do you want coverage for a rental car if your car is damaged? Do you want an extended warranty to pay for parts and labor if your car breaks down? If your car is leased, you will probably need gap insurance which pays for the difference between what your insurer pays and what you owe on your lease if the car is completely totaled.

Know How Much Money You Want to Spend

If you know your state laws and have examined your personal needs, now you can put together the different pieces of auto insurance coverage in one total policy. The first piece of the policy is almost always liability insurance. If you only have minimum liability coverage and you injure someone, their attorney can go after your personal assets. So, you need to know your assets and what you can afford to lose in the event of an accident. Many insurers feel that minimum liability is a gamble. In fact, that is why it is often only a little more money for more protection. After all, if you do get into an accident, it is much better for the insurance company to be responsible than for you to be personally responsible. Remember to run through various scenarios such as if I totaled someone else's car, will my insurance cover it? How much will I have to pay out of my own pocket? The answers to these types of questions will determine what coverage makes you feel most confident should an accident happen.

Know Your Vehicle

If your car was totaled, would you be able to afford to replace it? If not, you will want comprehensive and collision coverage. The decision to buy this coverage is usually based on the value of your car. Guidelines usually suggest that if your car is worth less than $2,000, it won't be worth it to buy comprehensive and collision. If you own a $50,000 car though, it would most certainly be worth it to pay an extra $200 annually or so to insure that your car will be replaced if you get in a serious accident.

Know About Your Other Insurance

Many people don't realize that other types of insurance including health insurance and homeowners insurance may pay for damages due to an auto accident. For instance, if you have comprehensive health coverage, you probably won't need more than the minimum required Personal Injury Protection (PIP). Make sure you know what insurance coverage you already have so that you don't purchase unnecessary coverage.

The best way to figure out your own auto insurance needs is to examine potential policies and know how much you are willing to gamble. For instance, it may not be worth it to you to purchase collision insurance if your car is not incredibly valuable and would therefore cost less to fix than to keep insured. Auto insurance is simply about how much you are willing to pay out of your own pocket versus how much you want the insurance company to cover. Once you decide this, you're all set to purchase your auto insurance policy.