“Auto insurance” is an everyday term that lacks a singular meaning. Before picking a policy, you need to understand what each type of protection covers, as there are different types of car insurance and coverage, from bodily injury and property damage to comprehensive and collision coverage.
The amount of coverage you get will determine your car insurance rates, as will your driving experience and other factors. For example, people who want full coverage will get more expensive car insurance quotes from all car insurance companies, as adding supplemental insurance costs more, whether they’re first-time drivers or not.
There are different insurance elements that cover repairs to your own car, personal medical bills, the damage and injuries you cause to others, or an assortment of extra expenses separately. We’ll go into specifics for each area, starting with policies that protect you from legal liability.
Liability insurance covers damage you cause to others. This coverage is required by almost every state, so it’s an excellent place to start with your policy. Liability coverage usually has two parts: bodily injury and property damage.
- Bodily injury: This pays for injuries suffered by others in an accident you’ve caused. Bodily injury coverage generally covers passengers in any vehicle (excluding your own), other drivers, and even pedestrians — physical harm suffered by anyone other than yourself or your passengers, essentially. This insurance is required in 48 states (all except New Hampshire, Florida, New Jersey, and Virginia).
- Property damage: Property damage coverage helps pay for the costs of non-bodily destruction resulting from an accident you caused. It includes repairs to other autos, damage to property, or losses of personal belongings, but it doesn’t cover any harm to your own car or possessions. This insurance is required in 47 states (all except New Hampshire and Virginia, the two states that don’t require car insurance, though opting out in Virginia requires a $500 annual fee).
Liability limits are defined in policies by three numbers, referenced in this format: Per-person injury limit/Per-accident injury maximum/Property damage coverage.
The most common state minimums are 25/50/10 policies, meaning coverage up to $25,000 in medical bills for each victim in an accident, with a cap of $50,000 for all injuries sustained in a single crash, along with $10,000 total to cover property damage.
These limits vary by state: Alaska and Maine require 50/100/25 policies, while California, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania only demand 15/30/5 coverage. Check your local laws in our comprehensive auto insurance guide.