Stacked vs unstacked car insurance

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What is stacked insurance? In short, it all revolves around uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage and maximizing the most out of these coverages if a claim were to occur. If you suspect you live in an area where many people are driving without the proper amount of liability protection, or no coverage at all, it may be worth your while to consider stacking your coverage.

However, to stack your uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, you must live in a state where stacking is available.

What is stacked car insurance?

Stacked insurance is a way to increase your uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage by combining (or stacking) the limits from each vehicle you own. If you do this, you’ll get a greater amount of financial protection if you get into an accident with a driver who only has your state’s minimum liability coverage (or none at all).

There are two ways to stack your protection— insuring all of your cars on one policy or combining policies.

Stacked car insurance on one policy

While not all states allow drivers to combine uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, many states do. To effectively stack car insurance in one policy, you would need to have at least two vehicles on the same policy. In the insurance world, this is referred to as vertical stacking.

For example, let’s say the policy has $25,000 for uninsured motorist bodily injury protection. If you stack your coverage and are insuring two vehicles on your policy, your uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage would extend up to $50,000 per accident. If you had three vehicles on your policy, it would be up to $75,000 for this coverage per accident.

A way to remember stacking in this scenario is that stacking is your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage limit multiplied by the number of vehicles on your policy. This calculated amount would generally be your new, stacked coverage limit.

Stacked car insurance on multiple policies

Some states also allow the stacking of uninsured and underinsured motorist protection for vehicles that are a part of the same household if your name is on both policies (note: this is called horizontal stacking in the industry). For example, if you own and insure a car, and your spouse does the same thing for themself, you may be able to combine your coverage if 1) you get into an accident with an uninsured/underinsured driver, and 2) your name is on both policies even if you aren’t the primary policyholder for the other policy.

For example, suppose you have $25,000 in uninsured motorist coverage, and your spouse also has the same amount of coverage. In that case, you may be able to have $50,000 worth of coverage after an accident involving an uninsured driver.

What is unstacked car insurance?

Unstacked car insurance is the opposite of stacked car insurance— meaning your uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage limits are not combined even if you insure multiple vehicles or live with another driver who insures their vehicle. If your car insurance is unstacked, then you would receive up to the uninsured and underinsured coverage limits listed on your policy’s declarations page.

Though stacking may sound like something everyone should do if given the option, there is a disadvantage to stacking car insurance: you pay a higher auto insurance premium. This is because your insurer will be liable for a higher claims payout if you get into an accident.

The advantage to stacking car insurance is simple: you receive more money if you’re in an accident with an uninsured/underinsured driver.

What states allow car insurance stacking?

The following states allow both single policy and multiple policy stacking:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Indiana
  • Kentucky
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

States that only allow multiple policy stacking:

  • Delaware
  • Georgia
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah

If your state has a high amount of uninsured motorists, it may be worth your while to consider stacking your coverage if possible.

Frequently asked questions

Is stacked or unstacked insurance better?

It depends on each driver. Are you looking for the maximum amount of coverage, or are you looking for coverage at the cheapest price? You’ll likely save money by leaving your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage unstacked, but you’ll get the maximum amount of coverage by stacking.

What is the average cost of stacking?

The average cost of insurance varies on many factors, and stacking is a relatively small variable amidst an ocean of possibilities. A better question might be, how much insurance do you need? For many people, it boils down to balancing protecting their assets and saving money.

Written by
Lauren Ward
Insurance Contributor
Lauren Ward has nearly 10 years of experience in writing for insurance domains such as Bankrate, The Simple Dollar, and Reviews.com. She covers auto, homeowners, and life insurance, as well other topics in the personal finance industry.
Edited by
Senior Insurance Editor