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Car Insurance Basics. Everything You Need To Know To Save You Time And Money!
This article will give you some basic understanding of how car insurance works and some different rights and options you have when shopping for car insurance. You will also find some common frequently asked questions regarding car insurance.

In most states, you are required to carry auto liability insurance (or post a bond) and provide proof of insurance before you can license your vehicle or renew your driver's license. If you are caught driving without insurance, you may have to pay a large fine and have your driver's license suspended.

Most states require drivers to carry minimum liability coverage. In many cases, the required minimum coverage may not be enough to pay for all the damages that result from an accident and the driver will have to pay the additional expenses out of pocket.

What coverage’s do I need?

In case you're involved in an accident, provides financial protection for you and your family. It pays for the damage and injuries caused by the accident and for repairing or replacing your vehicle if it is damaged or stolen.

Types of Coverage’s

There are many different types of coverage’s for you to choose from.

• Fault or No-Fault - Depends on state law.
• Collision - Pays damages to your own vehicle.
• Comprehensive - Pays for losses from fire, theft, storm, etc.
• Deductible - The amount of a covered loss you agree to pay.
• Bodily Injury - Pays for injury to others when you are at fault.
• Property Damage - Pays for property damage when you are at fault.
• Medical Payments- Pays for your own or your passenger's medical expenses.
• Personal Injury Protection - In no-fault states, this covers a broad assortment of medical expenses.
• Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist - Coverage for you if other driver is not insured or is underinsured.

In addition to basic auto insurance, consider these optional services to provide added protection for your vehicle:

• Emergency roadside assistance and towing service
• Windshield glass repair service
• Car rental reimbursement

What does “full coverage” mean?

The term full coverage generally means that the insurance policy has both liability coverage and coverage for damage to your vehicle. The term full coverage does not mean that everything is covered no matter what happens.

Your policy declaration page lists the coverage’s you have selected.

Will my policy be cancelled if I have an accident?

Generally, being in an accident will not cause your policy to be canceled. However, after the facts of the situation are reviewed, you may be required to pay a higher premium for your policy upon renewal.

Am I covered if I drive someone else's vehicle?

Generally speaking, the insurance goes with the car. For example, if you have an accident while driving someone else's car, the owner's insurance would apply first toward damages. Your would generally apply in the event the owner of the vehicle had no or did not have enough to pay the damages.

If I rent a car, do I have coverage?

Car rental companies charge daily fees for "CDW" coverage (which means their insurance will pay for all damages covered in your rental agreement). Rental car coverage under a private passenger policy varies state by state.

What is Optional/Add-on Equipment coverage?

Under the Comprehensive and Collision portion of your policy, optional equipment (a CD player for example) is covered only if permanently installed in the opening of the dash where the manufacturer would normally install such equipment.

An endorsement is available to provide coverage for optional equipment not permanently installed in the dash and for theft of items such as tapes, discs or other equipment designed for the reproduction of sound.

What can I do to keep my auto premiums down?

A couple quick ways is to simply check to see if you're eligible for any discounts such as claim-free, driver education, auto/home or multi-car.

Ask how much you can save by increasing your deductible.

Why Do Premiums Change?

Ever wonder how insurance companies determine your premium? premiums change for the same reasons that the price of other goods and services you buy change.

The prices of the goods and services that insurance companies buy affect the prices they charge. Costs affecting the ultimate price of are:

• Medical costs to treat injuries
• Auto repair costs
• Costs to adjust claims
• Inflation
• Uninsured drivers (your policy pays when other drivers don't have if you purchase Uninsured Motorist coverage)

Although insurance companies can't directly control these costs, we regularly monitor them to see how they are affecting the costs of the claims we pay. As they change, auto premiums must be adjusted. These costs can affect your premium whether or not you individually have had an accident or claim.

Changes you make to your policy or coverage's may also change the premiums. Adding or removing a driver, buying a new car, moving to a new location or changing how you use your car may influence the cost of your auto insurance.

Where do Risk Assessment Indicators come from?

Risk Assessment Indicators are based on information from consumer credit reports from one of two institutions: Choicepoint or Trans Union, to develop a customer's Risk Assessment Indicator.

Information used may include:
•Length of credit history
•Late payments, collections

What's not included in a Risk Assessment Indicator?

Risk Assessment Indicators do not use the following information:

•Ethnic group
•Marital Status
•Familial Status

Can I improve my indicator and, if so, how?

You can improve your indicator over time by using credit responsibly. A Risk Assessment Indicator is a snapshot of your insurance risk based on information in your credit report. If you need assistance with understanding your credit history or advice on using credit responsibly, you should contact a qualified credit counselor. It's also a good idea to periodically obtain a copy of your credit report from the major credit bureaus to check for any inaccuracies.

What if I don't get the best discount as a result of my indicator?

The Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires that insurers tell you if they take adverse action based upon information contained in your credit report. They will give you the name of the credit bureau that provided the information and advise you of certain rights you have under the FCRA so you can address any errors that might appear on your credit report.

What if the information in my credit report is wrong?

If you find an error in your credit history, you should report the error to the credit bureau. The credit bureau must investigate and respond to your request. Once you are certain that your report has been updated, please contact your agent. He/she will re-order a new Risk Assessment Indicator. Make sure the information in your credit report is correct by reviewing your credit report from each credit bureau at least once a year. Call these numbers to order a copy (a fee may be required):

Choicepoint: (800) 456-6004
Trans Union: (800) 645-1938
Trans Union - Texas: (800) 605-9488
Or go to: to request a free report (you get 1 per year)

About the Author:

Brad Burke is an independent agent with Farmers Insurance in Holland, Michigan. He services the state of Michigan and operates the web site: where he shares information on how to lower car insurance premiums, how to shop car insurance for the best deal, how to get the best coverage for the best rate. He also publishes a monthly newsletter with car insurance trends and updates that can help save money on premiums.

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