Who is covered by my auto insurance—and under what circumstances?
Your auto policy will cover you and other family members on your policy, whether driving your car or someone else’s car (with their permission). Your policy also provides coverage if someone who is not on your policy is driving your car with your consent.
Your personal auto policy only covers personal driving, whether you’re commuting to work, running errands or taking a trip. It will not provide coverage if you use your car for commercial purposes—for instance, if you deliver pizzas.
Personal auto insurance will also not provide coverage if you use your car to provide transportation to others through a ride-sharing service such as Uber or Lyft. Some auto insurers, however, are now offering supplemental insurance products (at additional cost) that extend coverage for vehicle owners providing ride-sharing services.
Is auto insurance coverage mandatory?
Auto insurance requirements vary from state to state. If you’re financing a car, your lender may also have its own requirements. Nearly every state requires car owners to carry:
- Bodily injury liability – which covers costs associated with injuries or death that you or another driver causes while driving your car.
- Property damage liability – which reimburses others for damage that you or another driver operating your car causes to another vehicle or other property, such as a fence, building or utility pole.
In addition, many states require that you carry:
- Medical payments or personal injury protection (PIP), which provides reimbursement for medical expenses for injuries to you or your passengers. It will also cover lost wages and other related expenses.
- Uninsured motorist coverage reimburses you when an accident is caused by a driver who does not have auto insurance—or in the case of a hit-and-run. You can also purchase under insured motorist coverage, which will cover costs when another driver lacks adequate coverage to pay the costs of a serious accident.
Even if PIP and uninsured motorist coverage are optional in your state, consider adding them to your policy for greater financial protection.
What other types of auto insurance coverage are typical?
While most basic, legally mandated auto insurance covers the damage your car causes, it does notcover damage to your own car. To cover your own car, you should consider these optional coverages:
- Collision reimburses you for damage to your car that occurs as a result of a collision with another vehicle or other object—e.g., a tree or guardrail—when you’re at fault. While collision coverage will not reimburse you for mechanical failure or normal wear-and-tear on your car, it will cover damage from potholes or from rolling your car.
- Comprehensive provides coverage against theft and damage caused by an incident other than a collision, such as fire, flood, vandalism, hail, falling rocks or trees and other hazards—even getting hit by an asteroid!
- Glass Coverage provides coverage from windshield damage, which is common. Some auto policies include no-deductible glass coverage, which also includes side windows, rear windows and glass sunroofs. Or you can buy supplemental glass coverage.
Collision and comprehensive only cover the market value of your car, not what you paid for it—and new cars depreciate quickly. If your car is totaled or stolen, there may be a “gap” between what you owe on the vehicle and your insurance coverage. To cover this, you may want to look into purchasing gap insurance to pay the difference. Note that for leased vehicles, gap coverage is usually rolled into your lease payments.
Next steps: Check out this handy infographic on the types of required and optional drivers insurance coverages.
A comprehensive car insurance plan covers:
1. Loss or Damage Due to Natural Calamities:
Events outside of your control, such as lightning, earthquake, flood, typhoon, hurricane, storm, cyclone, landslide, etc.
2. Loss or Damage Due to Man-Made Calamities:
Man-made disasters like burglary, theft, riot, strike, terrorist activity, and any damage caused in transit via road, rail, or water.
How Auto Insurance Works
In exchange for paying a premium, the insurance company agrees to pay your losses as outlined in your policy. Coverages include:
- Property – damage to or theft of your car
- Liability – legal responsibility to others for bodily injury or property damage
- Medical – costs of treating injuries, rehabilitation, and sometimes, lost wages and funeral expenses
Policies are priced individually to let you customize coverage amounts to suit your exact needs and budget. Policy terms are usually six- or 12-month timeframes and are renewable. An insurer will notify a customer when it’s time to renew the policy and pay another premium.
Regardless of whether they mandate having a minimum amount of auto insurance, nearly every state requires car owners to carry bodily injury liability, which covers costs associated with injuries or death that you or another driver causes while driving your car. They may also require property damage liability, which reimburses others for damage that you or another driver operating your car causes to another vehicle or other property.
A number of states go a step further, mandating car owners carry medical payments or personal injury protection (PIP), which reimburses medical expenses for injuries sustained by you or your passengers. It will also cover lost wages and other related expenses.
Uninsured motorist coverage reimburses you when an accident is caused by a driver who does not have auto insurance.
Who Does Auto Insurance Coverage Protect?
An auto insurance policy will cover you and other family members on the policy, whether driving your car or someone else’s car (with their permission). Your policy also provides coverage to someone who is not on your policy and is driving your car with your consent.
Personal auto insurance only covers personal driving. It will not provide coverage if you use your car for commercial purposes—such as making deliveries. Neither will it provide coverage if you use your car to work for ride-sharing services such as Uber or Lyft. Some auto insurers now offer supplemental insurance products (at additional cost) that extend coverage for vehicle owners that provide ride-sharing services.
The Bottom Line
While other types of insurance such as health and homeowner’s may seem more important, if you own an automobile, regardless of whether your state requires auto insurance, having an insurance policy can save you a lot of money and aggravation in the long run.