By taking a moment to learn five basic definitions, you can feel more confident when talking with your agent. It's likely that more confidence will prompt you to ask more questions, and with that added knowledge comes added negotiating power, better coverage, and lower rates. So let's start translating a few car insurance terms.
1. Liability - Bodily Injury and Property Damage (BI/PD)
This coverage provides protection if you are at-fault in an accident that causes injury to people or damage to property. Property damage includes physical damage to other vehicles as well as other property, such as a building, sign, etc. Most states require a minimum limit of BI/PD coverage. Higher limits are usually available and always recommended - it's wise to consider the worst case scenario. If you are in an at-fault accident and total a very expensive car, yet have low liability limits on your insurance, you'll be responsible to pay out-of-pocket for the damage.
2. Collision Coverage
This coverage pays for damage to your car caused by an at-fault collision. This could be a collision with another vehicle or other property, such as a building or sign. This coverage includes a deductible and may be required by a lender for a financed vehicle. This insurance also applies to hit and runs and uninsured motorist coverage but keep in mind you'll have to pay your deductible to repair your car in either case.
3. Comprehensive - (Also referred to as Other-Than-Collision or "OTC")
This coverage pays for damage to your car for reasons other than a collision. This includes theft, fire, vandalism, windstorm, etc. This coverage includes a deductible. Collision coverage and Other-Than-Collision coverage are collectively known as "Physical Damage" coverage. Comprehensive coverage may be required by the bank that finances your vehicle.
4. Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UM)
In a perfect world, everyone would have high limits of auto insurance and this coverage would be unnecessary. Unfortunately, this is not the case. UM coverage kicks in if you are in an accident with an uninsured driver. Limits are similar to limits of liability and some states require at least a minimum limit of UM.
5. Medical Payments Coverage
This coverage pays reasonable medical expenses incurred by you or a passenger(s) in an accident. The limit is per person and is usually a dollar amount (e.g. $5,000). Different states have different specifics on this coverage so talk to an insurance agent in your area.
Following an accident, these five coverages work together to get you back to where you were before the accident. Some of the five may be mandatory, depending on where you live. Others, while not required, should be carefully considered since their contribution to your claim may be essential.
OK, now that you have a firm understanding of the basics, you're ready to go forth and buy car insurance!