Driving is risky business. Every year, nearly 3 million people are injured in car accidents and 6 percent of policyholders with collision coverage have a collision claim. Another 3 percent have comprehensive claims, which includes accidents involving animals and glass breakage.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, in 2015, the average auto liability claim for bodily injury was over $17,000. This represents injuries to other people as opposed to your own injuries. About 5 percent of bodily injury claims top $100,000. Whether $17,000 or over $100,000 or somewhere in between, most of us don’t have that kind of loose change under the couch cushions.
Do you have the right auto insurance coverage to protect your assets?
Get an Auto Insurance Quote in Your State
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The Best Car Insurance in 2020:
- Best Overall for Car Insurance: Allstate
- Most Affordable Auto Insurance: Progressive
- Best for Low-Milage Drivers: Root
- Best for Military Personnel: USAA
- Best for Multiple Cars: AAA
- Best for Bundling: State Farm
Main Types of Auto Insurance Coverage
Insurance is governed at the state level, so while many basic coverages will be similar, there are some different approaches on coverage options, depending on the state in which you reside. Most of these differences are in the liability coverage options and in the medical coverage options. First, let’s discuss the core coverage areas.
|Type||Description||Required by state*||Required by lenders*||What it covers||What it doesn’t cover||Deductible information|
|Full||Combination of collision, comprehensive, and liability coverage||No||Yes||Everything covered by collision, comprehensive and liability||Car rental, gap insurance, Medical payments coverage, uninsured motorist||Depends on your combination of insurance|
|Collision||Protects your own property in the case of a collision||No||Yes||Repairs caused by an impact with another car and repairs due to a collisions with a stationary object||Damage to any other vehicle, injured pets, Medical payments coverage, other damages not due to a collision||Reimburses actual cash value (ACV) for your car minus your chosen deductible|
|Comprehensive||Covers non-accident related repairs||No||Yes||Damages caused by broken glass, falling objects, fires, impacts with animals, theft, and vandalism||Damage to other people’s personal property or expenses from their bodily harm||N/A|
|Liability||Covers damage to another person’s property and injuries||Yes||Yes||Varies, but generally costs incurred by another person’s bodily injury and their||Your own damage to your personal property or your own bodily harm||Coverage limits vary per person covered and their coverage limits|
|Medical Coverage||Two main options, depending on state: MedPay and Personal Injury Protection (PIP)||Yes||N/A||May cover a combination of funeral, medical, lost wages, and dental care expenses||Restrictions vary widely per policy||Health insurance will be used first, this is used as a secondary payment|
|Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Bodily Injury & Property Damage Coverage||Protects you from uninsured or underinsured drivers||In some states||In some states||You and your passenger(s)’s medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering||N/A||May or may not have a deductible, depending on your policy|
*Varies by state and provider. Check your state laws and insurance provider’s requirements for specific information.
What is Not Covered by Auto Insurance?
Even the best car insurance policy won’t cover everything. Some insurers offer options to fill some of the gaps. Other gaps will likely never be covered.
Illegal or criminal activity: You’ll find some exclusions in your policy which explain that damage caused while engaged in illegal or criminal acts will not be covered.
Rental cars: The coverages you have on your policy will extend to rental cars, but usually not if used for business, and usually not longer than 30 days. Additionally, if the rental car is damaged, you will not be covered for “loss of use” when the rental company can’t rent the car to someone else because it is being repaired, or for “diminution”, which is the loss of value for the rental car even after it is repaired.
Also, be aware that if you don’t have collision or comprehensive coverage on your own policy, the rental car will not have those coverages either, unless you purchase separate insurance from the rental car agency.
Rideshare or commercial use: Your auto policy covers you when you’re not “on the job” with a rideshare company, but coverage becomes fuzzy if you are “available” to take a customer or “in transit” to pick up a customer, or even if you just dropped one-off. Once you have a passenger, the rideshare company’s insurance takes over. The basic premise is that a personal auto insurance policy is for the personal use of your vehicle.
Your personal property: Personal property (laptops, phones, etc.) damaged in an accident or stolen from your automobile won’t be covered by your auto insurance policy. However, if you have a homeowners or renters insurance policy, you may be able to place a claim with that policy, subject to your deductible.
Deliberate damage: If you set fire to your car, the insurance company won’t pay to repair or replace your car. However, if someone else does those things to your car as an act of vandalism, you are covered if you have comprehensive coverage, subject to your deductible.
Riots, civil commotion, war, or acts of terrorism: These things may seem far-fetched, and you’re much more likely to have a common fender-bender, but your insurance policy probably excludes all of these risks – if any of them do happen.
Spotlight on Auto Insurance Medical Coverage
As mentioned earlier, the medical coverage for your auto insurance policy is an area that’s important to discuss. There are some potential pitfalls if your policy isn’t structured with your finances in mind.
For example, if you live in a state that uses Personal Injury Protection to provide medical coverage on your auto insurance policy, you’ll have choices of coverage as low as $15,000 in some states. A lower amount of PIP coverage will help to keep premiums lower. An agent or producer might also suggest a higher deductible for your PIP, also to keep costs down.
Deductibles for PIP can go as high as $2500. This combination of a high deductible and lower coverage amount can keep costs low and everything is wonderful in the world – until you get injured by an automobile.
In the example above, here’s what happens if you are injured:
You’ll have to pay $2,500 for your deductible. Your PIP coverage will cover up to $15,000 in medical expenses. However, in many cases, there is a copay of 20 percent up to the first $5,000 (after your deductible).
|PIP Coverage||Copay Amount|
|$5,000 – $2,500||$2,500 subject to Copay|
|$2,500 x 20%||$500 Copay|
Now your out of pocket expense is up to $3,000.
After your chosen $15,000 limit is reached, your coverage rolls over to your existing health insurance if you have health insurance. You’ll likely pay another deductible (and Copay) with your health insurance company. Let’s assume that the deductible is only $500.
Now your out of pocket expense is up to $3,500.
Depending on your individual finances, the savings available through lower coverage limits and higher deductibles may be tempting, but also may not be worth the financial risk. Ask your agent for quotes with different coverage limits, if available, and different deductibles so you can make a better-informed decision.
What Affects Auto Insurance Rates?
Insurance is the transfer of risk from an individual to a pool of individuals. To make the math work, insurance companies need to understand the risk you represent relative to the pool.
Credit: Insurance companies have found a correlation between credit ratings and the risk of a claim – for all major insurance types.
Driving History: Including tickets, accidents, DUI incidents, and reckless or careless driving violations. It’s common for insurers to weigh accidents in the past 5 years and tickets or violations in the past 3 years.
Location: Where you live is a bigger deal than you might think. Urban areas have more cars on the roads to bump into – and more distractions.
Type of Car: The repair or replacement costs may be higher with certain makes or models. Some types of cars are more likely to be stolen or scrapped for parts. Also, the safety features or crash ratings of a particular type of car affect rates.
Miles Driven: Every mile driven is a mile in which you could be involved in an accident. Some insurers offer a discount for low mileage drivers. If your mileage use is well above the average of about 15,000 miles per year, some insurers will charge more.
Experience: They say experience is the best teacher, and if we don’t have much experience driving, insurance companies may charge more. Some insurers won’t even write a policy for a driver with less than three years of driving experience.
Gender: On average, males will pay more than females, especially if they’re younger.
Age: Younger drivers will pay more than older drivers. Different insurers begin to give price breaks at different ages. Some begin at age 21. Others begin at age 25, or even 30. Some insurers will also charge more for drivers over the age of 70.
Length of Coverage and Limits: If you have had state minimum coverage limits or have gaps in your coverage history, or have been with your current insurer for a short period, this can cost you in form of higher premiums.
Home Ownership: Insurance companies generally give lower rates to homeowners because they have found a correlation between homeownership and reduced risk. You can also bundle your homeowner’s insurance.
Recent Claim Trends: It’s not unusual for an insurer to raise rates in a state following an event that creates a surge in claims, like a large storm.
Geographic Location: In some cases, these differences can be due to state rules that mandate certain types or levels of coverage. In other cases, an area can be more expensive because the roads are more heavily congested. Weather events can also be another driving force that affects rates by region. Hail, wind, and storms can cause damage to cars, cause accidents, and create surges in claims.
The Best Car Insurance
Benzinga has done ample research and here’s our list of best auto insurance providers in the nation.
1. Best Overall for Car Insurance: Allstate
Do you have more than 1 vehicle you want to protect? You need to strike a balance between enhanced coverage and affordable rates. Allstate offers a number of bundled discounts that you can use to save when you insure more than 1 vehicle.
Allstate even offers replacement value coverage, which will give you the actual replacement value of your car if you total your vehicle. This can be a very important coverage if multiple adults in your home each rely on a vehicle and you can’t afford to take time off to save for repairs.
2. Most Affordable Car Insurance: Progressive
Progressive is a great option because it offers coverage for everyone at affordable rates. Progressive also offers a wide range of additional discounts you can take advantage of to lower your premium even further.
You can get a discount for having good grades if you’re a student and you can even get a discount for owning a home — even if your home isn’t insured with Progressive. You can use Progressive’s Name-Your-Price tool to choose a premium and deductible you can afford if you’re on a limited monthly budget.
3. Best for Low-Mileage Drivers: Root
Here’s how Root’s user-based insurance system works: First, you’ll download the Root app on your phone. You’ll scan your driver’s license and sign up for an account. From there, you’ll begin a “test drive” period and Root will monitor your driving habits. Simply bring your phone along with you when you hit the road and the app will automatically collect data.
Your test-drive period will last for 3 to 4 weeks, after which you’ll get your quote. It’s a system based on the idea that drivers who put fewer miles on their car are less likely to file an insurance claim and pay less for coverage. This can result in cheap car insurance policies for the best drivers.
4. Best for Military Families: USAA
You may be able to get a special car insurance policy through USAA if you’ve served in the military or you have a close family member who’s served. USAA policies are affordable, comprehensive and only available to members of the armed forces, veterans and their family members.
Though not everyone qualifies for a policy, rates are low and you can get a free quote after you enter some of your basic information. Like other auto insurance providers, USAA also offers a range of discounts that you can take advantage of to lower your rate even more.
5. Best for Multiple Cars: AAA
AAA is a top choice for drivers. It’s affordable and offers multiple benefits, especially if you have more than 1 driver. AAA’s online quote tool is marked at an average of $1,101.04 for a 1-year policy, with discounts if you have multiple drivers, anti-theft and safety devices, have taken a defensive driving class, are a good student and more.
AAA also offers new car forgiveness and accident forgiveness. Save $10 with Auto-renewal enrollment & add a New Member for 50% off with AAA! All memberships include Road & Battery Service, Exclusive Discounts from our partners and more!
6. Best for Bundling: State Farm
Benzinga’s State Farm review crowned it one of the most affordable car insurance providers because of its bundling options. State Farm also includes one of the most generous discount programs with dozens of ways to save. State Farm has a way that every driver can save, from bringing home good grades as a student driver to combining your auto policy with your homeowners insurance.
Final Thoughts on the Best Car Insurance
Many companies treat insurance as a commodity, commonly available and with little difference in features or options. Amica and our Special Mention pick, USAA, both recognize that customers are buying service, not just insurance.
Insurance rates are individualized, so it’s important for consumers to shop around. One company might treat you better than another in regard to price. But also consider service and policy options, and have a conversation with your agent about coverage types and limits.
An insurance policy sits there silently waiting for a claim. When a claim happens, we want to know that our policy is structured properly to protect us financially and that the service we’ve paid for will be there when we need it most.
Frequently Asked Questions
1) Q: Is there any way I can lower my insurance premiums?
2) Q: How do I ensure that I’m properly covered?
The best thing you can do is talk to your insurance carrier or agent and be honest about your car and driving history. If you have made any modifications to your vehicle, let your insurance company know so that you will be covered in the event of a loss. It’s a good idea to maintain more than the state minimum coverage — you want to replace your car for the full value if you have to.
3) Q: What kind of discounts are usually available?
The most common discounts available are multi-policy and auto-pay, but every company is different. Other discounts that are widely available are loyalty, good student and anti-theft device discounts.