How to Choose the Right Liability Coverage Levels for your Budget and Lifestyle

Every driver knows car insurance is a non-negotiable must. But “car insurance” can mean a slew of different things, depending on the type of coverage you choose. And a lot of factors—like your budget, lifestyle, and vehicle—can affect your choices. Whether you’re a seasoned pro behind the wheel or a first-time driver just learning the ropes, you’ll want to know the ins and outs of some major coverage types so you can select the perfect plan for you.

How to Choose the Right Liability Coverage Levels for your Budget and Lifestyle

Get To Know The Different Types of Liability Coverage

There are many different types of coverage, but three major terms to know are liability, property damage, and bodily injury:

Liability Coverage:

Liability Coverage is the basic coverage level required for most drivers in the United States. If you cause an accident, your liability coverage will pay for damages to the other party’s vehicle and/or any bodily injuries they sustained (at the levels chosen). Each state has minimum required liability limits, but it might be worth purchasing a policy with higher limits to make sure you’re better protected. Better protection might mean a higher premium, but it can pay off if you end up needing to use it—if the damage caused in an accident exceeds your coverage limits, you could be held responsible for the remainder. There are two types of liability coverage:

  1. Property Damage (PD) Coverage is a specific type of liability coverage that covers damages to things (that don’t belong to you). This type of coverage pays for any type of tangible property, including the other driver’s car, or any other pieces of property that may have been involved in an accident you caused, like a building, pole, garage, etc. Some states require drivers to have a predetermined minimum amount of this coverage.
  2. Bodily Injury (BI) Coverage is required by most states, and it covers damages to people (again—not including you). If you cause an accident, BI coverage will pay for costs related to any injuries or deaths. It covers costs for things like medical treatment, rehabilitation, and funeral costs, as well as costs related to mental or emotional distress that results from bodily injury. If you’re sued for causing an accident, BI coverage may also pay for lawyer’s fees. Depending on the state you live in, you may be required to have a predetermined minimum amount of BI coverage.

One of the most important things to know about any type of liability coverage is what it doesn’t cover. If you cause an accident, PD won’t cover any damages to your vehicle, and BI won’t cover any medical expenses you or your passengers might incur. Liability coverage is solely meant to protect other parties in the event that you cause an accident. The good news is, there are plenty of other types of coverage that can come in handy in these unfortunate events.

How To Tell if You Really Need Property Damage, and Bodily Injury Coverage

Now that you know what these specific coverage types are for, how do you know if they’re right for you? And how much do you really need, anyway? It’s important to consider two big factors when choosing your coverage: your state’s legal requirements and your own financial limitations.

The Legal Stuff

First, let’s start with the legal side of things. No matter which state you’re driving in, liability coverage is most likely a must. It’s mandatory in nearly all states, and even in states where it’s not required, there are financial-responsibility laws that can be met by purchasing it. The state-mandated minimums are generally lower than many people would want ($20,000 to $30,000 for bodily injury to one person, $50,000 for all people hurt in the same accident, and up to $25,000 for accident-related property damage).

The Money Stuff

The next important factor to consider is your budget. The state requirements for liability coverage are pretty modest, so it’s always a good idea to purchase more protection if you can afford it—especially if you own a home and have other assets you want to keep safe in case of a devastating accident and subsequent lawsuit. Do you have a sizable savings account? A valuable vehicle? All those details matter when deciding how much coverage you need.

Different insurance companies have different maximum limits for liability coverage—Metromile offers limits of up to $250,000/$500,000. But don’t worry—opting for more coverage doesn’t mean you’ll be draining your bank account (especially if you’re with Metromile where low-mileage customers save an average of $611 per year); the more liability coverage you buy, the less expensive it is to add additional coverage. The best way to understand how these costs are broken down into a monthly bill is to connect with a licensed agent and receive a customized quote.

When you’re doing the math to figure out your spending limits, don’t forget one other important factor: your deductible.

Your deductible is the out-of-pocket cost you agree to pay before coverage kicks in. You have the ability to choose your deductible amount and liability protection—working with an agent will help you pick the best plan for your unique situation.

Get The Right Amount of Liability Coverage Today

Still have questions? Visit the Metromile Help Center to find answers to some of the most common coverage questions. If you’re in need of a new insurance company that fits your lifestyle and budget, visit metromile.com or call 1.888.242.5204 for a free quote. And if you’re already a customer and ready to learn more about liability coverage, visit the site or call 1.888.311.2909 for more info. Whether you’re new to Metromile or a just expanding your knowledge, there are experts available to guide your way.

Michelle Konstantinovsky is a San Francisco-based journalist/writer/editor and UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism alumna. She’s written extensively on health, body image, entertainment, lifestyle, design, and tech for outlets like Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, Teen Vogue, O: The Oprah Magazine, Seventeen, and a whole lot more. She’s also a contributing editor at Fitbit and the social media director at California Home + Design Magazine. She is an avid admirer of shiny objects, manatees, and preteen entertainment.