Types of Car Insurance: What’s Available & What Do I Need?
Drivers in almost all states are required to maintain minimum levels of auto insurance coverage. But beyond the minimum, your insurer will offer you many car insurance types. What do they cover, and which ones are right for you?
To help you determine the ones you need, we provide an overview of the six major types of auto insurance, plus descriptions of some less common types of coverage. When you’re ready to shop, the WalletHub Car Insurance Quote Generator will guide you to the best possible rates.
Most Common Types of Car Insurance Coverage
State laws vary, and not all of the following coverage options are offered in all states. But the typical auto insurance policy is likely to include most of these types of coverage.
- Liability: If you cause an accident, this two-part coverage — including bodily injury liability and property damage liability — will pay for the other party’s medical bills and vehicle repairs. It will not protect you or your passengers if you are injured or your vehicle is damaged as a result of the wreck. Learn more about liability insurance.
- Collision: This type of coverage will pay to fix or replace your own vehicle after an accident. Coverage extends to damage caused by collision with an object (e.g., a tree or house) or an accident in which no object was involved (e.g., if your car flips). Most states don’t mandate collision coverage, but if you have a loan or a lease, your finance company will probably require it. Collision insurance cannot usually be purchased without comprehensive coverage. Learn more about collision coverage.
- Comprehensive: This protects your vehicle against certain types of damage not caused by an accident, such as theft, a falling object or a natural disaster. Comprehensive insurance is optional unless your lender or lessor requires you to have it. This type of insurance is usually purchased in combination with collision coverage. Learn more about comprehensive coverage.
- Personal Injury Protection (PIP): Often referred to as “no-fault insurance,” personal injury protection covers medical expenses you incur in an accident regardless of fault. Coverage extends to other drivers listed on your policy, members of your household and your passengers. Qualifying expenses can include medical bills as well as those not typically covered by health insurance such as lost income, child care or even a funeral. Only 15 states require PIP. It is optional in many other states but isn’t available everywhere. Learn more about personal injury protection.
- Auto Medical Payments (MedPay): This coverage type is similar to PIP but is more limited in scope. It covers accident-related medical expenses for you, your passengers, your household members and other policyholders. As optional coverage, it supplements health insurance for those who have it and serves as a useful substitute for those who don’t. It can also cover copays and deductibles of other insurance, including health insurance and PIP policies. Learn more about auto medical payments insurance.
- Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage: Some drivers will break the law and drive without auto insurance. Others won’t have adequate coverage. In the event you are injured or your car is damaged in an accident caused by this sort of driver, this coverage can pay for medical bills and car repairs. It is required in about half the states. Learn more about uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
Other Types of Car Insurance Coverage
These types of insurance are less common, but they can be inexpensive additions to your auto policy.
- Guaranteed Auto Protection (Gap): Your vehicle depreciates over time, including the moment you drive it off the lot. In a catastrophic loss, your auto insurer will only pay your car’s actual cash value, which could be less than what you owe on a loan or lease. Gap insurance will pay for the dollar-amount “gap” between the balance of your financing and what your car is worth. Learn more about gap insurance.
- Personal Umbrella Policy (PUP): PUP insurance isn’t car insurance in the strictest sense. It’s an extra level of broad-based liability protection beyond homeowner and auto policies, and it protects assets of $1 million or more in case of a lawsuit. Learn more about personal umbrella coverage.
- Rental Reimbursement: While your car is being repaired under a claim, rental reimbursement will keep you on the road by covering the cost of a rental car. There are limits on how much the insurer will pay per day and per claim, but it’s usually enough to cover a rental for the full amount of time your car is in the shop. Learn more about rental reimbursement insurance.
- Emergency Roadside Assistance: This coverage option will provide assistance if you lock yourself out of your car, need a tow or jump start, get a flat tire or run out of gas. If your car is inoperable, you can get a tow to a nearby garage of your choice, up to a specified distance. Learn more about roadside assistance coverage.
- Mechanical Breakdown Insurance: Mechanical breakdown insurance can cover the costs of repairs to mechanical parts and systems. This coverage is similar to extended warranties and service contracts, but unlike those products, you pay a monthly premium instead of paying a lump sum up front. Learn more about mechanical breakdown insurance.
As you are shopping for car insurance you may come across some other terms, such as:
- Pay-As-You-Drive or Usage-Based Insurance. This is not a different type of insurance coverage; it’s just a new way to pay for insurance like liability, collision and comprehensive coverage. By permitting the insurer to track your mileage and driving habits, you become eligible for discounts. Learn more about usage-based insurance.
- Non-Owner Car Insurance. This is a type of liability insurance for people who do not own their own car. People without a car may need to purchase this insurance to get a suspended driver’s license reinstated. Learn more about non-owner coverage.
- SR-22. An SR-22 is a certification that insurance companies send to the state to confirm that high-risk drivers are carrying the minimum required insurance. Learn more about SR-22 certificates.
How to Choose Auto Coverage
With so many types of insurance available, what combination of car insurance should you get? That depends on your own situation: What kind of car you drive, whether it’s financed, what other insurance you have, among many other considerations.
To help guide your decision, WalletHub has ranked the importance of the various forms of auto insurance, with tips that will help you choose the right types and levels of insurance.
Start at the top of this chart, and, as your budget allows, work your way down from the most to the least important coverages:
|Relative importance||Type||Who Should Get It?||Other Considerations|
|1||Liability Insurance||Anyone who has a car must carry at least the minimum required in his or her state.||If you can afford it, getting more than the minimum coverage buys you peace of mind and protects your assets.|
|2||Personal Injury Protection & MedPay||Even if you’re not worried about your own medical costs, remember that this covers your family and other passengers, too.||If you don't have health insurance, it's even more important to consider PIP or MedPay.|
|3||Collision & Comprehensive||Drivers with a car loan or a lease will be required to carry these kinds of coverage. You also need this protection if you couldn’t afford to cover the cost of a total loss of your car.||You can lower your premiums by choosing a higher deductible, but only if you would be able to come up with the deductible after an accident. This coverage also might not make sense if your car is no longer worth very much.|
|4||Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist||People who have more than the minimum level of liability coverage should consider matching levels of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.||Check with your insurer to see what coverage you would get from collision, PIP or MedPay coverage you already have.|
|5||Gap Insurance||Gap insurance is for anyone who is “upside down” on auto financing, which includes most people who recently purchased a car.||Keep an eye on what your car is worth. When it's more than what you owe, you should cancel your gap policy.|
|6||Personal Umbrella||High net-worth individuals who need more protection than is available from auto & homeowner's insurance can get it from a personal umbrella policy.||An umbrella policy will cover other liabilities, like slander and false arrest.|
|7||Rental reimbursement, roadside assistance, mechanical breakdown||These kinds of coverage are for people who don’t want to bear any out-of-pocket costs, even minor ones.||These policies are affordable, but they also don't cover very much. Are you sure you couldn't handle these expenses on your own?|
Was this article helpful?