Car insurance 101: A basic guide to coverage

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What is auto insurance?

What does car insurance cover?

CoverageProtects against…Like if…
Bodily injury liabilityInjury you cause with your carYou rear-end another driver and the impact gives them whiplash
Property damage liabilityProperty damage you cause with your carYou run a stoplight and cause an accident with another car, smashing their passenger-side door
Personal injury protectionMedical expenses for you and your passengers after an accident (required in some states)You live in a “no-fault state” and are injured in a car accident
Uninsured/underinsured motoristDamage caused by a driver who doesn’t have insurance, or whose insurance doesn’t fully cover repair costsYou’re t-boned by an uninsured driver and your car requires expensive repairs
ComprehensiveDamage not caused by a collisionAn icy tree branch falls onto your car’s roof, smashing it and cracking the windshield
CollisionDamage caused by a collision, no matter who was at faultYou backed into a telephone pole and cracked your rear bumper

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What does car insurance cover?

How much does car insurance cost?

Here’s what helps determine your car insurance rates:


Your car

The make and model of car you drive will affect your insurance rates. Luxury cars with expensive parts cost more to insure than a budget daily driver, and cars with certain safety features get you a lower rate

Your coverage

More types of coverage and higher limits means more protection, but it also means higher premiums.

Your credit score

Drivers with poor credit scores may have more trouble finding affordable coverage than drivers with stellar coverage.

Your driving history

Recent accidents and driving violations will raise a red flag on your profile, while having a squeaky clean record can earn you extra savings.

Your address

Accident rates, density and repair costs in your neighborhood will all go into calculating your premiums.

Your age

Younger, less experienced drivers (under 25) are more likely to get in accidents and file claims, so they often pay the most for car insurance.

Read more in our Learn Center

How much does car insurance cost?

Best car insurance companies

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Best car insurance companies

How to buy car insurance

Gather your info


Before you buy a policy you’ll need to know the make, model and VIN number for every vehicle you’re insuring, as well as the full names, birthday and driver’s license numbers for every driver on the policy.

Choose coverage amounts


Know what types of coverage and how much of each you’ll need before you start shopping. Most car insurance policies have the same basic components, but higher limits mean more protection … and higher premiums.

Compare quotes online


Getting quotes from different car insurance companies is an easy process, but you should compare more than just cost. Independent reviews can also help you figure out if you’re getting quality coverage.

Pick a policy


Once you settle on a policy, you can buy it and set it to go into effect as soon as you need, whether it’s a month away or a day away.

Cancel your old coverage


Wait until after you’ve purchased a new policy before you cancel your old one, and make sure they start and end on the same day so you don’t have a gap in coverage.

Ready for the next step?

We've got a comprehensive guide to car insurance car insurance quotes.

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