What is your car insurance actually insuring? Although you’re buying a single insurance policy covering a specific vehicle, a number of components make up the final cost. To ensure you are properly insured, it is important to understand what protections each coverage provides as well as which coverages are required vs. optional.

  • Bodily injury liability: If you injure someone in a car accident, this coverage pays his or her medical expenses and any damages for which you are found liable.
  • Property damage liability: Covers claims for property that your car damages in an accident. Because liability coverage protects the other party, it is required in all but three states.
  • Medical payments: Pays for injuries to yourself and to occupants of your car. This is optional in some states. In “no-fault” states, personal injury protection replaces medical payments as part of the basic coverage.
  • Uninsured motorist protection: Covers injuries caused to you or the occupants of your car by uninsured or hit-and-run drivers. “Under-insured” coverage also is available, to cover claims you may make against a driver who has inadequate insurance. In some states, as many as 30 percent of drivers are uninsured.
  • Collision coverage: Covers damage to your car up to its book value. Collision coverage carries a deductible, which is the amount per claim you have to pay before the insurance takes effect. The lower the deductible, the higher the premium. While it is legally optional, a lending institution or leasing company usually requires collision coverage.
  • Comprehensive (physical damage): Covers damage to your car from theft, vandalism, fire, wind, flood, and other non-accident causes. Comprehensive also carries a deductible.