Types of Car Insurance

Fact-checked with HomeInsurance.com

5 min read

If you’re looking for car insurance, it can quickly feel like your head is spinning. Between all the different car insurance types and the minimum amount of insurance you are required to have by state, it can be a lot to take in. Read on to learn more about the types of car insurance.

The most common types of car insurance

Most states require drivers to have bodily injury liability insurance and property damage liability insurance. In addition, some states can also require you to purchase personal injury protection (PIP) or uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. Additional coverages that you can add on to your policies include comprehensive and collision insurance, residual bodily injury liability coverage and medical payments. It’s important to research the coverage required in your state before purchasing your car insurance policy. Information on required car coverage by state can be found on the Insurance Information Institute’s website.

Liability insurance

“Liability” means that you are legally responsible for something. In the case of car insurance, that refers to a car accident that is your fault as determined by law. There are two types of liability in any car accident: bodily damage and damage to property.

Bodily injury liability

If you’re at fault of an accident, bodily injury liability will cover injuries to the other party, including their medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering. The coverage also extends to anyone else who is driving your car.

Property damage liability

This covers any damage that you might cause to another person’s property as the result of a collision. It typically covers cars, but it can cover other items like fences, buildings, mailboxes or lamp posts. Property damage liability does not cover damage to your property. In that case, you’d want to add collision coverage, which is not mandated by the state, to help cover those costs. Minimum property damage liability coverage is generally from $10-25K per accident; your insurance agent can tell you the minimum in your state.

Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage

This coverage is for you if the other person is liable but doesn’t have the liability coverage that they are supposed to have to pay for expenses related to an accident. If you, your designated driver or a member of your family gets hit by an underinsured or uninsured motorist, this type of insurance pays for damages. Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage policies can also cover the policyholder while they are a pedestrian and hit-and-run accidents. This insurance may pay for both your medical costs and your property damage, or you might have to purchase separate coverage for each of those.

Vehicle coverage

In addition to the required liability insurance, you may want to consider optional coverage types for your vehicle, especially if it is newer or more valuable. This coverage is not mandated by law. It’s up to you and your agent to determine how much you want to spend and the amount of coverage you’d like to get.

Collision

When your vehicle gets damaged in a collision, this is the coverage that pays for fixing the car. It can even cover damage from potholes. Collision coverage does not cover you for mechanical failure or the normal aging of your car. If, for example, your transmission blows out, you could not use your collision insurance to get it fixed. If your car is older and not worth much, you may want to skip this cost to save money.

Comprehensive

This coverage is for any type of damage not related to a collision. For instance, it can cover damage resulting from fires, missiles, earthquakes, floods, vandalism, hitting a deer, falling objects or explosions and glass breakage. If your car is newer, more expensive or leased, you may want to consider adding comprehensive, along with collision, to your policy to ensure that you’re not left with empty pockets if something goes wrong.

Other optional coverage

Medical payments coverage (MPC)

This is coverage for the treatment of injuries for you or others in your vehicle. It can cover medical payments, lost wages and funeral costs. In some cases, medical payments coverage may cover you if you are a pedestrian hit by a car. Before you sign up for this time of coverage, check your health insurance policy to be sure it’s not covered there.

Personal injury protection (PIP)

PIP covers you, your family and anyone riding in your car for injuries no matter who is at fault in the accident if you live in a no-fault state where there is no need to determine who caused the accident to receive payment for injury. It may cover medical and rehabilitation expenses, work loss benefits or funeral expenses.

Excess medical payments

This type of coverage pays for medical costs that exceeds PIP benefits.

Residual bodily injury liability coverage

This is another type of coverage frequently found in no-fault states. It protects you, your family and others in your car if you are sued because of injuries or death caused to others. No-fault states often allow such lawsuits if the injuries are serious enough.

Gap Insurance

The III defines gap insurance as, “In the event of an accident in which you’ve badly damaged or totaled your car, gap insurance covers the difference between what a vehicle is currently worth (which your standard insurance will pay) and the amount you actually owe on it.”
Vehicles decrease in value the second you take them off the lot after you purchase or lease them. If you put down a small deposit on the car, it’s possible for the loan amount to be more than the market value of the vehicle. In simple terms, gap insurance covers the difference between a car’s reduced worth and the amount of the loan.

The III states that you may want to get gap insurance if: you made less than a 20 percent down payment, you financed the car for 60 months or more, you leased the vehicle, you bought a car that depreciates faster than other vehicles on average or you carried over negative equity from an old car loan to the new car loan.

For more information, visit the Insurance Information Institute’s (III) guide to the major types of car insurance.

How to find the best coverage for me

Each state has a specific set minimum amount of car insurance that they require people to carry. You can refer to the chart laid out by the NAIC to find more about your state’s minimum coverage amounts.

Those minimums are indicated by three numbers, 25/50/10, which refers to liability insurance. These are maximums relating to how much gets paid out. The 25 in this case means that $25,000 is the maximum that may be paid for one person’s bodily injury per accident. The second number relates to the maximum payout per accident. The third covers property damage maximum payments.

Your insurance doesn’t have to match the state minimum. If you want to feel more protected, you can buy more expensive policy types that pay out more in the event of damage. For instance, if you have an expensive car, you may need more coverage than the minimum to cover full damages.

Shop around to compare different coverage types and the rates you could get with each provider. All agents will know the most current minimum auto insurance coverage types you need for your state. Also, you can discuss with agents how much coverage you might need on top of the minimums. You can choose additional coverage and insurance types based on your lifestyle, the value of your possessions, local health care costs and your peace of mind.