Accidents can happen – even to the best drivers. Insurance can help cover repairs to your own vehicle and medical costs. But insurance is your firewall against economic disaster should you cause an accident and there is property damage or injuries to other people. With today’s high medical costs, increasingly expensive car repair costs and high litigation expenses, even a seemingly minor accident could cause a major financial hardship for you. Insurance is not an option. It’s an absolute necessity.
What is Insurance?
Insurance is an agreement between you and your insurance company in which you pay the insurance company a certain amount of money and, in return, the company will protect you from major financial losses due to an accident for a given period of time. The amount that you pay is called the premium, and it could actually be less than the cost of an insurance claim.
What kind of insurance coverage should I get?
This depends on a number of factors. Certainly, you want to get liability coverage to protect yourself against claims in case you cause an accident. However, if your car is older, you might not want to get collision insurance since you might pay more for the premiums than the car is worth.
On the other hand, if your car is new or is a used one that is being financed, the lending institution will probably insist on collision insurance and comprehensive coverage. Below is a listing of the different kinds of coverages a policy may contain and what they do.
Body injury liability - pays medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering of other people injured in an accident that you caused. It also covers the cost of litigation if you should be sued.
Property damage liability - pays for other people’s property damaged in an accident for which you are responsible.
Medical payments - pays medical costs if you or your passengers are injured in an accident. There are usually limits specified in the policy.
Uninsured/Underinsured motorists - pays your medical bills and certain other expenses if you’re injured in an accident caused by someone who has no insurance or inadequate insurance to cover the costs. In some states, it will also cover damage to your property.
Collision - pays for damage to an insured vehicle in an accident involving another vehicle or some other object.
Comprehensive - pays for damage to your car not caused by an accident, like theft or vandalism.
How do I get insurance?
You can contact a direct writer either through the mail, over the phone or on the Internet. A direct writer sells insurance directly to its customers through salaried employees. Your other options include going to an independent agent who sells insurance for several different insurance companies. Or you can contact an exclusive agent, one who is under contract to a particular insurance company to sell only that company’s policies.
How can I bring down the cost of my insurance?
- Drive safely. Nothing drives up the cost of insurance more than a history of accidents and moving violations.
- Pick your car carefully. High-performance cars are tempting, but not only are they expensive to operate, they’re expensive to insure. Pick a car with a good safety record that’s less expensive to repair and that’s not on the car thieves’ most-wanted list.
- Increase your deductible. The deductible is the amount of a claim that you pay. Usually, it’s $100, $250 or $500. The larger the deductible, the lower your premium.
- Maintain a B average for a "good student" discount.
- Attend a driver’s education course.
Finally, there’s one thing over which you have no control that will lower your premium. Since young people, particularly males, have more accidents than older people, your premiums will be higher. But as you grow older, and if your driving record remains good, you should see your premiums decline.
Reprinted with permission by GEICO (www.geico.com).