Whether you’re buying your first car or fifth, car insurance is non-negotiable. Besides protecting you, your car insurance will also protect anyone else who is involved in a collision with you. But the world or car insurance can be murky, and it can be difficult to understand the nuances of different providers and coverage plans.
To save you some time, we’ve compiled a list of 8 questions to ask yourself before you buy car insurance (or switch car insurance!). Once you’ve answered these 8 questions, you’ll be well on your way to making a smarter and more well-informed decision about the car insurance policy that’s right for you!
1. What kind of coverage do I need? To start, you will need the minimum coverage required by law in your state. Since this varies by state, check out a list here to see what kind of coverage is required in your state of residence. Most states only require liability insurance, which covers the costs of anyone who gets injured or killed in a car accident caused by you, plus damage to their vehicle, property damage, and legal fees. However, some states require additional coverage beyond liability insurance. Even if you live in a state that doesn’t require it by law, here are some other coverage plans typically offered by car insurance companies:
- Collision: This kind of plan covers damages to your car in the event of an accident, regardless of who caused the damage. You will still need to front the money for the deductible, however, most people who have newer cars tend to go for this option because the amount you will receive back is based on the value of the car, and the payout will be much higher on a newer vehicle.
- Comprehensive: This type of plan covers all damages to your car, including non-collision related damage. With a comprehensive insurance policy, your vehicle is covered if there are damages due to fire, vandalism, acts of nature, and theft. With this type of policy, however, comes a price tag. As with the collision coverage, most people with newer vehicles and/or leased vehicles tend to purchase this type of policy because the deductible vs. payout ratio is greater! Be sure to check the value of your car every year to reevaluate if comprehensive or collision coverage is the right decision for you.
- Uninsured and underinsured motorist protection: This coverage option is less expensive than collision or comprehensive and covers the cost of your car repairs if an uninsured or underinsured driver hits you. With this option, there’s no deductible, but there’s also a limit on how much you’ll be able to collect (usually about $3,500).
- Personal injury protection: This plan is pretty self-explanatory – it’s right there in the name! This type of plan covers medical bills and loss of wages to you or your passengers if someone hits you. If you’re injured while riding as a passenger in someone else’s car, it will cover the expenses related to that as well.
2. How much do I drive? The answer to this question is very important, because you could very well be overpaying where you don’t need to. If you’re a city-dweller who mostly takes public transportation, or even if you just have a second car that you don’t drive very often, signing up for a policy with Metromile could save you big bucks. Metromile’s policy is pay-per-mile, so the less you drive, the less you pay. Simple as that!
3. What’s my risk assessment? This is not meant to be a scary question, we promise. A “risk assessment” is simply how the annual rate that you will pay is determined by the insurance company – as in, how likely it will be that you’ll file a claim based on many data points gathered. Have you gotten a lot of speeding tickets, been in a few fender benders, or live in an area where car theft is prevalent? Your risk assessment will be higher and you’ll pay more. Be sure to do your research and shop around to see which company will give you the best rate based on your risk assessment.
4. Who will be covered with the policy? Every insurance company and state handles this a bit differently, so be sure to understand what your coverage will look like before making any decisions. Try to think through every possible scenario, i.e. a friend borrows your car and hits someone, your 16 year old (who is still learning to drive) gets in an accident, etc. Who will be covered? Will your insurance company pay for the damages? Knowing the answer to this question ahead of time will save you the headache of looking for the answer after the fact.
5. What will my deductible be? This might be the most important question of all, and one that you have the most control over. With most policies, you can choose your deductible amount: the higher the deductible, the lower your monthly payment will be. Common deductible amounts are $0, $100, $500, $750, $1,000, and $1,500. If you are involved in an accident and file a claim with your insurance company, your deductible is the amount you will need to pay out of pocket before the insurance company will pay the rest of the bill. Choosing a plan with a high deductible may be a wise decision, because your yearly bill (also known as your premium) will be lower and you many never get in a car accident. However, be sure that you don’t set your deductible so high that you won’t be able to pay it if you do get in an accident and need to file a claim.
6. Do they have 24-hour claims service? Getting into an accident is stressful enough, and knowing that you can only contact your insurance company during business hours only adds to the stress of the situation. Be sure to look for insurance carriers that provide a 24 hour claims service to their customers, like Metromile! Even if it’s just a fender bender, knowing your insurance company has your back 24/7 can provide a great amount of peace of mind.
7. Will I be using my car for work? Nowadays, many more people are using their cars for work. With the prevalence of ride sharing apps like Uber and Lyft, anyone with a car and a driver’s license can make money. If this sounds like you, it’s important to know that commercial auto insurance is a necessity. A personal auto insurance policy will not cover you if you transport paying passengers through ride sharing apps, if you’re delivering pizzas, performing a courier service, etc.
8. Is my car financed or leased? It’s important to note that if you still owe money on your car, or you are expected to keep your lease in like-new condition, you’ll likely be required to insure the car for its full value – and possibly for any gap between what you owe and the car’s market value. Collision and comprehensive will cover any damages that may occur to your car, and gap insurance will cover the rest.
Finding the right car insurance policy can be tough, but Metromile wants to help. As always, we’ll be here if you have any questions along the way – we have your back! We hope these questions will help guide you in the right direction. Be sure to get a quote with Metromile while you’re on your search – we may end up being the perfect car insurance provider for you!
Julianne Cronin is a Bay Area freelance writer, content creator, and founder/editor of the women’s lifestyle site, The Wink. You can find her working on her capsule wardrobe, collecting cacti, and trying out the latest beauty products on Instagram.