As a disclaimer I must state that I can only talk in terms of general concepts, and that you should query your insurance agent if you do not fully understand parts of what I am describing. Remember that your insurance agent makes more money if he sells you more policy, so he/she may not be completely objective.
OK let’s get started. The first thing to do if you can is to look into discounts for multiple policies. If you are a homeowner, insuring your home and cars with the same carrier can provide significant discounts. If you have multiple cars then insuring them all with the same carrier is usually cheaper, but not always.
First set of numbers to think about is liability, which is the portion of the insurance typically required by state law. This is the part of the insurance that pays others, not you. To figure out how much liability to need to cover, determine your net worth exclusive of residence and exclusive of things that you already own. Generally your liability should cover twice that amount up to $300,000.00, and if you need more than that then ask for a 1 million dollar umbrella policy which will cover your home and cars as well. On the lower side try to cover $50,000.00 if you can, and make note of minimums in state law. Typically there are three numbers, like 50/100/50. The first is how much would be paid to a single person, the second how much could be paid in total for one event, and the third is how much property damage (typically other people’s vehicles) that can be covered. It is safest to have that last number at $50,000.00, but you may be able to get away with $25,000.00. There are a lot of $50,000.00 and higher vehicles on the road, but most people who drive cars like that will have under-insured coverage.
Next numbers are collision and comprehensive. Collision pay for damage to your vehicle resulting from any collision and comprehensive pays for any damage to your vehicle not as the result of a collision (like a broken windshield). First thing to understand is that the maximum payout on either of these is the blue book value of your car, so as you car decreases in value there comes a point where the coverage no longer makes sense. If your car is worth less than $2000.00 then the payout you would potentially receive from the insurance company may not be worth the premiums. You would think that the premiums for these coverages tend downward because they are covering less value every year (for the same vehicle), but somehow it does not seem to work out that way. There are also deductibles, and generally the higher the deductible, the lower the premium. Check all the rates though, as we have found that sometimes a $250.00 deductible is only a few dollars more expensive than a $500.00 deductible. Many times auto body shops will cut you break on a little of your collision deductible, so we have never needed to go below $500.00 on that. We keep our comprehensive at $250.00 because typically no one helps with it.
Once you have liability, collision and comprehensive, you have the basics for an automobile policy that is just what you need. There are a lot of other coverages available, and there are several of them that you may not need, and some may not need any of them.
1. Uninsured/Under-insured motorists coverage. This is the worst coverage of all, having us pay for all the deadbeats who will not pay for themselves. You only need this coverage really if you are driving a vehicle that is worth a lot more than about $25,000.00. Generally if you are hit by an uninsured motorist, then your collision coverage would kick in and take care of it. If the accident is their fault and they will not cover your deductible, then you can take them to small claims court for that part. Please verify this part with your agent, but if collision will pay, then buying additional coverage that pays again is a duplication, and your insurance company will not pay you twice no matter how many duplicate coverages that you purchase. Try to ditch this coverage if you possibly can. If you have a more expensive vehicle then you do kind of need the coverage in the case of the under-insured motorist, since if they have insurance then their insurance will pay, but if there coverage is not enough then your collision will not come in to play to cover, and you would need under-insured coverage then. See if you can purchase it just for that one vehicle. Some states make you cover all if you cover one.
2. Towing coverage. The agents like to scare you with this one. “What will happen if you need towing?” they ask. Well what will happen is you *might* have to pay for it. In our experience we find that towing is often an included service of the body shop that will fix your car. We have never had towing coverage, and in all that time we have been towed about seven times, we only had to pay once, and it was about $60.00. Save you money on that premium.
3. Rental Car Coverage. Just say no. If you really have to have a rental car then go to a body shop that offers the $10.00 a day rental car. Sometimes they will give you the rental for free as part of the service. We see this one as a waste of premium dollars.
4. Medical insurance. If others are injured in an accident that is your fault then your liability coverage will cover that. The extra medical premium is typically to cover you if you get hurt in an auto accident. This is likely a duplicate coverage if you have health insurance, and remember this one only covers you when in a car, where health insurance always covers you (make sure your health insurance does not exclude accidents). For most this is a duplicate coverage and should be avoided.