How to Make Sure You Have Enough Auto Insurance Coverage

Rising medical, auto repair and vehicle costs now mean drivers could be underinsured. Here's how to be sure you're fully covered.
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Written by Drew Gula
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Edited by Lacie Glover
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Inflation and supply chain problems continue to impact Americans. Auto insurance rates have risen as a result, along with the prices of new and used cars, medical care and even car maintenance.

State-required car insurance limits haven’t followed suit, however, and even drivers with higher limits may not be protected. But if you’re driving around with only the minimum amount of car insurance required, then you’re probably underinsured.

Here are four ways to make sure you have enough coverage before a potential car accident puts you at risk.

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Think twice about minimum coverage

Almost every state requires drivers to carry a minimum amount of liability insurance, which pays for injuries and property damage you cause in an accident. While minimum coverage is typically the cheapest policy you can get, your state’s minimum-required limits likely aren’t high enough to cover the full cost of injuries or property damage caused by an accident.

For example, the average bodily injury liability claim in 2020 included more than $24,000 in medical bills, according to the Insurance Information Institute's analysis of data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. And medical costs have only increased since that study, with some reaching up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Many states require a minimum of $25,000 in bodily injury liability, but even doubling that amount may not be enough. “If you only have $50,000 [...] that’s still not a lot of money to go to the hospital,” says Kevin Boggs, an agency owner with Goosehead Insurance in Bloomingdale, Illinois.

Cover your net worth

You’ll be held financially responsible for costs from an accident you cause, whether or not you have sufficient insurance coverage. If your liability limits aren’t high enough, then you’ll have to pay out of pocket.

NerdWallet recommends getting enough liability insurance to cover your net worth. Your net worth can be calculated by adding up all of your assets, including investment and retirement accounts, and subtracting any debt you owe.

Get uninsured motorist coverage

You should also protect yourself against the risks of being hit by a driver who doesn't have enough car insurance to pay for your medical bills and property damage — or doesn't have any car insurance at all.

About 1 in every 7 drivers is uninsured, according to a 2022 report from the Insurance Research Council. You can protect yourself from these drivers by including uninsured motorist and underinsured motorist coverage on your policy. These coverage types pay for your own medical bills and damage to your car if you’re hit by a driver without car insurance or with very minimal liability limits that don’t cover all of your expenses.

While some states require these coverages, they’re optional in many others. But you shouldn’t skip them just to save money. “Declining underinsured motorist or uninsured motorist coverage is the biggest insurance mistake people make,” said Golnoush Goharzad, a personal injury lawyer in Irvine, California, in an email.

Consider full coverage

To pay for damage to your car, consider full coverage, which includes comprehensive and collision insurance in addition to liability insurance.

Collision insurance pays for damage to your vehicle, even if you’re the at-fault driver or the victim of a hit-and-run. Meanwhile, comprehensive insurance pays for damage caused by things like inclement weather or wild animals. It can even help you replace a stolen vehicle. Both coverage types pay out up to the current market value of your car, minus your deductible, which is the amount of money you’re responsible for.

How to save without cutting coverage

Here are some tips to save on a policy without reducing or dropping coverage:

  • Ask about discounts. Don't assume you're getting every discount you qualify for; speak with your insurer or agent to see if there are additional savings available.

  • Increase your deductibles. Insurers will lower your premium if you raise your deductibles, but be prepared to pay the higher amount in the event you need to file a claim.

  • Bundle your policy. Many insurance companies offer a discount if you combine multiple insurance policies with them, such as car and homeowners insurance.

  • Shop around. Comparing car insurance is the best way to get the cheapest policy. You should shop around once a year, and compare quotes from at least three different companies every time.

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