Auto Insurance Basics And Recommendations For Everyone

Car wreck

Why you need auto insurance!

Besides the purchase price of a car, one must also calculate the potential maintenance cost, and auto insurance cost. We often focus on the first two costs, but seldom do we realize the auto insurance cost differential until we’ve purchased the car!

I was so happy to negotiate $2,000 off the initial asking price of a $14,000, black on black, BBS wheels equipped 1997 M3 in 2003 that I didn’t realize my auto insurance would jump from just $500 a year to $2,000 a year!

Had I realized my auto insurance would jump so much, I probably would have negotiated even harder, or reconsidered buying a sports car altogether. Always get an auto insurance quote before you purchase a car please!

Having auto insurance is a law you don’t want to break. Accidents happen all the time whether they are your fault or not. If you end up wrecking someone else’s car and injuring a passenger, not having any car insurance could literally wipe you out financially and put you in poverty for the rest of your life! Check for a better auto insurance quote via Esurance online. They provide comparison quotes so you know you’re getting a great deal.

AUTO INSURANCE BASICS

There are three things you want to protect with auto insurance in case of an accident: 1) You and your passengers, 2) Your assets, and 3) Your vehicle. Most people would choose protecting you and your passengers as the most important purpose of auto insurance. I would too. However, it all depends on how wealthy you are.

1) Insurance To Protect Your Financial Resources

Let’s say you are multi-millionaire who employs 10,000 people who depend on your existence to put food on the table. If you go down, so does the company. Protecting your financial assets might be more important than protecting you and your passengers sad to say! If you nod off and accidentally kill several pedestrians on the sidewalk, you can be sure you will be in a legal battle for multi-millions of dollars. You will be all over the news and you won’t be able to focus on running your company.

If you did the same thing and were poor, the victims or family of the deceased can’t squeeze blood from stone. As a result, you care less about protecting your own financial resources since you have little, and care more about protecting the passengers in your car. Of course, if you are the multi-millionaire, then you can afford to care for everything and get the most protection possible.

Bodily Injury Liability: If you hurt someone in an auto accident, the insurance company will pay a certain amount.  In my case, I elected for $300,000/$500,000 per person/per accident.

Property Damage Liability: If you damage someone else’s property in an auto accident, the insurance co will pay a certain amount. My insurance company pays $100,000 per accident to property.

2) Insurance To Protect You And Your Passengers

You can be the most careful driver in the world, but that is only half of the equation. If someone else is careless, they can easily crash into you and cause damage. Even though auto insurance is mandatory for all drivers, many drivers still do not have auto insurance! As a result, your insurance needs to protect you from others.

Uninsured Motorists Bodily Injury: If an uninsured or underinsured driver injures you or your passengers. I elected $300,000/$500,000 per person/per accident.

Medical Payments: Covers you or your passengers. If someone runs into you, or you run into someone else and have an injured passenger, you want to be able to provide financial coverage for any medical expenses they may incur. Hopefully, your passengers will not sue you if you don’t have such coverage, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. I have $100,000 per person.

Extended Benefits: Wage earner disability benefits, essential services disability benefits, death benefits. If an auto accident causes so much physical or mental pain that you cannot return to work, your extended benefits beyond your company’s short term disability benefits will kick in if you do not have long term disability insurance. I pay $5.10 for minor distribution of all three. I have my life insurance and disability insurance from work to cover 100%.

3) Insurance To Protect Your Vehicle

One of the most wonderful things about driving a 12 year old vehicle is that it doesn’t cost much to replace. Moose, my SUV is probably worth no more than $3,500 anymore. If I was to get in a car accident, the cost to fix whatever part of Moose will probably cost at least $1,000. At this point, it’s better to just donate him to charity and consider buying another vehicle. As a result, I do not have comprehensive insurance.

Comprehensive: Covers damage caused by something other than another vehicle such as hail, theft, and collision with Bobo the bear. If you have a shiny new $50,000 BMW, you should get comprehensive insurance because you’ll want to fix it in an accident and you won’t want to pay thousands of dollars to do so. The more expensive your car and the more dependent on your car, the more you should consider getting comprehensive insurance.

Collision: Covers damage to your vehicle caused by impact with an object other than an animal. Gray area here, given this is what comprehensive is for. I declined coverage.

Uninsured Motorists Property Damage: If an uninsured driver damages your vehicle. If an uninsured motorist damages Moose, I will just ask him to pay for everything, otherwise, I will introduce him to my cousin Viktor, who will break his legs for non-payment.

Towing & Labor: Provides emergency roadside assistance such as towing, flat tire, jump start, and delivery of gas. This service is a life saver! I’ve run out of gas, had an older car not start before for some reason, blew out my tire, left my lights on, and each time needed roadside assistance. Takes no more than 45 minutes to get everything fixed. I recommend everybody get towing & labor. I pay only $5.88 and I can’t believe it’s not at least $100 every 6 months.

AUTO INSURANCE RECOMMENDATIONS BY FINANCIAL SITUATION

Given everybody should have auto insurance, it is now up to you to taylor your auto insurance coverage to your needs. Here are four common scenarios and what type of insurance I recommend for each.

1997 BMW M3

My BMW M3 from way back that caused my insurance to sky rocket

* You drive a fancy car which you probably can’t afford. Let’s say you are 28 years old, no family, and drive a new 2013 BMW 335i that costs $57,000. The problem is you only make $60,000 a year and therefore can’t really afford the car if you follow my 1/10th rule of car buying (pay no more than 1/10th your gross annual income for a car). Since you can’t afford the car and only really the payments, you probably can’t afford any major repairs. My recommendation is to bite the bullet and get comprehensive auto insurance, collision, towing & labor, and uninsured motorist and property damage insurance. Since your car is literally making you poorer every month, you don’t need to get as much property and bodily injury liability insurance ironically. Your car is already a massive financial liability. You don’t want to make it an even greater liability without comprehensive coverage.

Estimated cost: $200-$300 a month depending on driving record and liability amounts.

* You drive a nice car and are rich. Let’s say you drive a 2013 Honda Accord that costs $38,000. You also make about $400,000 a year, have $3 million in assets, a wife, two daughters in high school, and paid cash for your Accord. You care most about insuring your passengers and your financial assets in case you are deemed negligent. The last thing you want is someone to sue you for $3 million dollars and put your family at risk. College is expensive! Hence, I would consider as much bodily injury and property liability insurance as possible. You should probably get comprehensive insurance with a higher deductible of around $1,000 given you have the assets. With a higher deductible, your monthly premiums are less. It is worth it to also get roadside assistance, collision, property damage, and uninsured motorist insurance. You should also consider an umbrella policy to cover you beyond your auto insurance.

Estimated cost: $50-$150 a month depending on driving record and liability amounts.

* You drive a beater, but can afford more. This is my situation where I drive a $3,500 dollar 12 year old SUV, but can afford something newer. I don’t own a nicer vehicle because I don’t sell my children and I’m pretty frugal, especially now that I’m retired. I do not have comprehensive insurance because if I bash Moose by mistake, I’ll just buy another car. If someone else bashes Moose, I’ll be mad, but at least his/her insurance will pay to replace Moose. My main concern is about getting sued if I’m at fault given I’ve got a good accumulation of assets in CDs, savings, private investments, stocks, bonds, and real estate. HenceI elected for $300,000/$500,000 per person/per accident for bodily insurance liability. I’m assuming $300,000 per person is enough and hope it never comes to it. I have a multi-million dollar umbrella policy.

Estimated cost: I pay about $45 a month.

* You drive a beater and are poor. Let’s say you have a non working spouse, no children, and drive a 1993 Honda Civic worth $1,000, make $28,000 a year and have a total of $500 in net worth. I recommend you just get liability insurance with the lowest monthly premiums, and lowest liability payouts possible. The most anybody will be able to get from you is $500, which is not worth the hassle for most people. Spending $10 more a month in auto insurance is painful, hence your goal is to keep costs low, be a safe driver, and don’t get into any accidents. Remember, if someone else is found liable in your car accident, it is up to them to pay you, not the other way around.

Estimated cost: $30-$50 a month depending on driving record and liability amounts.

The right amount of insurance is different for everybody. Make sure you understand the various different options you have and weight the cost of coverage with the cost of your monthly premiums. For those of you who have a good amount of assets to protect, I suggest you read my article on what is an umbrella policy and how it works.

Recommendations For Protecting Your Assets And Saving Money

* Check for lower auto insurance rates. Esurance is the leading online market place to help you find the most affordable and reliable auto insurance. They get you comparison quotes from their network to make sure you’re getting the best deal. You can easily purchase auto insurance straight from their website if you like what you see. Check for a better auto insurance quote via Esurance today. Don’t waste money on more expensive, cut rate auto insurance if you don’t have to!

* Check your credit score: Take a moment to check your free TransUnion credit score through GoFreeCredit.com, a company I trust. 30% of all credit records have errors which can derail your homebuying process. I had a $8 late payment from two years ago which slammed my credit score by 100 points! The kick in the pants is that it went undetected for so long until my last mortgage refinance with a bricks and mortar bank. A credit score check also makes sure you aren’t a victim of identity theft. Furthermore, know that the average credit score for rejected mortgage loans is 729!

Regards,

Sam

Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship.

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Comments

  1. says

    This is a great list! It is soooooooooo important to have uninsured/underinsured motorist. A few years ago, a lady rear ended me while I was pregnant. She did have insurance but had a low limit policy. I ended up with two teeth knocked out and damage to several other teeth and $17K in dental work. Luckily, I had underinsured motorist and my insurance kicked in for the remainder and to pay me the “pain and suffering” that her insurance should have covered. The good news is that now I have shiny new perfect porcelain veneer movie star teeth and my baby is ok.

    • says

      Wow, I’m so happy that you and the baby are alright. Getting proper coverage is something we have to review every so often to make sure we’re getting value. Paying cheap premiums, but having minimum coverage can be a recipe for financial and medical disaster. I’m glad you guys got coverage to fill in the other driver’s insurance gap.

      • says

        Oh, me too!

        Being in a car wreck at 4 months pregnant truly sucked. Then I had to wait until after I had my baby until I could start my dental work. Since I had two teeth knocked out, I had to wear a denture like thing with 2 fake teeth on it. Then once I had my baby (luckily she was perfect!), I began a year long process of getting dental implants and porcelain veneers. This meant about 6 dental surgeries wich my gums and mouth cut completely open, gum grafts, bone grafts, etc.

        If I had not had underinsured motorist coverage, I would have only gotten about $8,000 in pain and suffering for all of that. Luckily, my insurance kicked in and picked up where hers left off. My teeth are now beautiful and my baby is perfect ( now 16 months) but it was one nightmarish ride.

    • says

      Yikes, I’m glad you are OK too! $17,000 for dental work is a crap load!

      So what became of the underinsured motorist? Just said sorry and moved on? I presume her insurance premiums went up huge.

      Speaking of veneers, do they hurt? I know they look good, and a dentist has asked me if I want to get them done, but I declined after discover they have to shave down my tooth to put them on.

      • says

        Nothing happened to the underinsured motorist. From what I understand, my insurance company did an “asset check” on her to determine if she is worth suing to get some of their money back. Apparently she didn’t have enough assets to go after to she basically got off the hook. She DID have insurance and was not violating the law. BUT I think that there is a scary lesson there. If you do have minimum coverage and get in an expensive wreck you can be sued even if you had insurance. So low coverage insurance may be cheap but it could potentially wipe you out financially if you get sued.

        No, I LOVE my veneers. Two of my teeth are actually dental implants and the rest are just porcelain crowns ad veneers. My dental implants are actually drilled into my skull since the “root structure of those teeth were ruined during the car wreck.

        My teeth looked great before the wreck but since I had to get new ones I-of course- got perfect shiny movie star teeth. And why not? They all had to be replaced. Honestly, my teeth look amazing. The teeth shaving part didnt hurt much at all. Of course- I didn’t have much of a choice. I HAD to go through it to be a normal person again. I don’t know what decision I would have made if it was completely optional.

        • says

          This is why so many folks opt to be uninsured or have no insurance. There’s no punishment, especially if you don’t have much in the first place!

          Gosh… dental implants getting drilled into your skull really gives me the chills. But, I’m very glad you’ve got great looking teeth!

      • says

        Now try to imagine having the roots of your front teeth scraped out with a drill, while 5 months pregnant and unable to take any pain medicine. Then imagine having bone grafts put in and your gums sewn shut while only being able to take Tylenol. Then imagine having 5 or 6 other surgeries – some with conscious sedation and some with just local anesethetic. Each time they had to open and close my gums and each time I had a bleeding bloody mouth for weeks afterward. In fact, I spent a good deal of my maternity leave with a huge swollen face aand chipmunk cheeks. As if recovering from having a baby wasn’t hard enough!

        The worst part was the gum grafting- where they cut some gums from the top of my mouth and sewed it to the front. It was almost like something out of Dee Snider’s Strangeland except it was real and the pain was inescapable.

        Typically I wouldn’t be someone who wants “pain and suffering” for anything….but after all that I went through I deserve every penny I got and more. This truly made me realize the importance of being properly insured.

  2. says

    WHOA- You have Property Damage liability limits of $100,000?

    That’s it?

    You live in SF.

    $100,000 cars whiz past like the wafting of the ocean breeze.
    Space is tight as well, so an accident with 3 $40,000 cars sure isn’t out of the possibility.
    Incomes are pretty high in SF too, what if you hit a well to do business man, or my boy David Lee from your fair city’s basketball team. Not only will his property be worth a pretty penny, but you can bet he gets GREAT medical care.

    Up you limits so a claim doesn’t go up your assets.

      • says

        The umbrella policy is key. You most likely have the minimum limits on the auto, that the insurance company is comfortable writing an umbrella over.

        The article sounds like you might suggest having $100k property damage liability limits, or their accompanying low bodily injury limits.

        I’m glad that is not the case.

        • says

          As I write in the article, everybody’s financial situation is different and there is no set rule. This is not the Internet insurance police. What works for you doesn’t necessarily work for me or others.

  3. Todd says

    One thing you forgot to mention in the article is the impact of having an umbrella policy to cover you at a low rate on top of your auto insurance. It provides extra liability insurance.

  4. Joshua says

    Uninsured motorist bodily injury – I choose to keep this low because health insurance would cover me and I don’t drive passengers around. I also drop medical payments for this reason. Am I missing anything here?

    Interesting you chose to drop collision but keep comprehensive. I would think it’s more likely a car that is driven is much more likely to be involved in an incident with another vehicle than animals, hail, etc.

    Do you carry an umbrella policy? You have quite a lot of assets and liability for an accident that is not minor or involves multiple vehicles could easily exceed those limits. A $1 or $2MM policy runs me $150-220 an covers most non-business and non-intentional acts.

    • says

      Joshua, what about pain and suffering? If you are hit by another motorist and have extensive medical needs, you will be out of luck if you don’t have underinsured/uninsured coverage. Also, I assume that your health insurance has a deductible. Do you really want to pay your deductible if the accident is not your fault?

      Rethink the whole uninsured/underinsured. I had to go through over a year of painful dental surgeries and without uninsured/underinsured I would have gotten very little.

  5. Niran says

    Sam, Its the medical payments is 100,000 or 10,000 ? My insurance Geico has max up to 10,000. Another question is what’s your opinion on umbrella insurance ? Do you have one ?

    • says

      Read my first comment above. I was rear ended and my dental bills alone were $17,000! You definitely need more than 10K in medical coverage, but that is just my opinion and based on my situation.

      • says

        I think it depends a LOT on what state you are in. We have Med Pay benefits of 10K, and PIP for another $5K, and I think those are the limits. With PIP there are grumblings in the state of reducing the PIP limit even further because it’s made it too easy for fraudulent claims.

        I have mixed feelings on it because I was rear ended in a relatively minor accident, have disc damage in my back almost two years later, have exhausted all my insurance benefits and am having to go after the other driver with a lawyer to pay for the care I’ll likely need for a while. I needed those benefits and don’t believe any of my claim was fraudulent or medically unnecessary.

  6. says

    I can tell you first hand that having an uninsured motorist clause on your insurance is important because I had to use it to pay for medical bills a few years ago. Even though everyone is suppose to have insurance by law in the US, not everyone does.

  7. says

    I am option 2 & 3 at the bottom. Both cars are worth $1,000, but we do have some assets. We have liability only because my cars are worthless, but we could just replace them with another cheap car if need be. I’m at 50/100 (Damage, PiP), so if I hit someone, it should cover damages/medical.

    I did put fire/theft/towing on my policy for like $1 a month, and we’ve use the towing a few times. Saved us about $200 each time. Also, I hope someone steals my car so I can get a new one ;)

    And nice Beamer. I would love an E46, but alas, no funds and I need to make more money to afford the insurance bump. I do have my eye on the 335i as well….maybe in 5 years…

  8. says

    I like your advice on getting an auto insurance quote before purchasing a new car. I would have never thought of that. In the past I’ve never noticed much of a difference from car to car, but I’ll for sure check into that in the future.

    I drive a 10 year old Volvo. Not a beater, it’s actually in pretty nice shape – but its getting to the point that I need to name it. Since Moose it taken, I’ll have to think of something else. Any ideas?

  9. says

    There are additional benefits to insurance. When I had a bicycle accident 11 years ago, the uninsured motorist portion covered me. You see the idiot who opened their car door was uninsured.

      • says

        The only penalty that I am aware of is my insurance company will get a judgment against the uninsured driver for the money ($15K) expended. There should be additional penalties such as impounding vehicle , fine, etc. I have no idea if that occurs.

  10. says

    Yes you are correct that auto insurance is required by the law if you have car. Insurance is very essential for financial planning and it will protect you from being financially responsible for car accident that might be happened.

    Car owners may consider comprehensive policy for their car insurance that will offer a range of optional extras like legal & financial obligation. They can cut also their premiums by asking special discount or consolidating their policies with one insurer like StateFarm, Nationwide, eSurance, and AllState.

    Lastly, as car owner and family man I also consider protection from uninsured and reckless drivers.

  11. says

    I was in an accident that was my fault when I younger so I can appreciate how important car insurance is. It’s ridiculous how even the smallest parts on a car can cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars to fix. Plus with the thousands of car accidents happening all year long, it’s just way too risky not to have car insurance.

    • says

      More the reason to have a beater car! It gives me much pleasure knowing that I don’t have to worry about all the nicks from door dings and scrapes. Also, the game of chicken is much more rewarding as well!

  12. says

    It always amazes me when I hear about people letting their insurance lapse. I sell real estate in Oldham County, KY, and I work with a few insurance agents as referral sources for my clients. You wouldn’t believe some of the stories they tell me about the number of people in our area driving around without insurance. Crazy…

  13. says

    Excellent auto insurance details here, Sam! I carry several million dollars of Umbrella. I think Umbrella indicates a major problem we have in our culture. It is to sue anyone who has some assets for silly reasons.

  14. Charlotte says

    I’ll tell my sister to read your article because her car was bumped by a truck at the rear side last week so it’s really damaged. I don’t have enough knowledge as well so I searched the internet about this.

  15. Ryan C says

    Very nice site and very informative. Many people go with just the minimum coverage never thinking about what would happen if they are involved in an “at fault” accident and the injuries or property damage exceed their coverage. Or even worse, if they kill someone and what the financial outcome could be.

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