How to Read Your Declarations Page

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By Scott W. Johnson

Learn more about Scott on NerdWallet’s Ask an Advisor

The first step in saving money on insurance is understanding your coverage. The “dec” page can help you do that.

There are many crazy abbreviations in the insurance world, and helping consumers understand them is part of an insurance agent or broker’s job. I hear it all the time: “What is a dec page?” You must excuse insurance professionals for trimming common terms to save time. “Dec” is short for declarations page.

Declarations page overview

IRMI defines a declarations page as “The front page (or pages) of a policy that specifies the named insured, address, policy period, location of premises, policy limits and other key information that varies from insured to insured. The declarations page is also known as the information page.”

Insurance companies use the dec page to list the different levels of insurance you have. This is separate from an “evidence of insurance” document, which you keep in your glove compartment or wallet and show to the DMV or police as proof of coverage.

Insurance brokers and agents may also use your declarations page to quote an automotive policy with a competitor. It contains most, but not all, of the basic information concerning a driver and his automobile. Together with your motor vehicle report and some personal information, insurance agents or brokers have the information they need to give you numbers.

Dec page breakdown

So how should you read your declarations page? It can be rather easy to understand, once you get the basics of it. Your declarations page includes:

  • The name of your insurance company — typically with some sort of company letterhead and perhaps a company logo.
  • Your policy number. This is the number you’ll need when you call your insurer for questions or claims.
  • Your name and mailing address.
  • The date and time the policy went into effect. You should be able to tell if it’s a typical six-month policy or the increasingly common 12-month policy.
  • Vehicle type and VIN, or Vehicle Identification Number. If you have an old vehicle this may not be included. The VIN is the way the DMV, automotive makers and some regulatory agencies track a vehicle apart from a license plate.
  • A coverages section, which denotes exactly which coverages are on which vehicle. Coverage can include liability bodily injury, liability property damage, medical payments, uninsured motorist, and comprehensive and collision deductible amounts.

Note that insurance companies differ, so it’s possible yours may not offer a particular coverage I mention. You may also see coverage for things like glass deductible buy-back, towing and labor or vehicle rental, among other products that some insurers offer.

If you see coverages that you don’t understand, you should contact your agent or broker for an explanation. There’s no sense in having additional coverage if you don’t understand it and are not apt to use it.

Other things that may be listed on your declarations page include:

  • The name of the insuring agent (there may be multiple insuring agents listed)
  • Coverage required by your state
  • References to excluding and including documents
  • Mileage amounts
  • General vehicle costs
  • Affinity groups
  • Use of the vehicle
  • Your total premium

Most of these are of little importance to the average consumer, but are of greater importance to people like me, an insurance broker.