All but two states require drivers to have car insurance. That said, there is no one country-wide rule when it comes to how much car insurance you have to have. Each state has a different minimum amount of car insurance that drivers must obtain in order to legally drive on public roads. In other words, how much auto insurance coverage you legally need depends on the state you live in.
Some states only require liability insurance, which covers bodily injury (BI) and property damage (PD) you do to someone else. Other states might require extra medical coverage or what’s often known as personal injury protection (PIP), which covers health care bills you or your passengers incur. And some states might require uninsured and/or underinsured motorist insurance, but then in other states this type of coverage could be optional.
If you’re confused, there's good news: You really only have to worry about the requirements where you live, so you can jump to your home state and make sure your coverage fits the mandatory minimums.
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Car insurance requirements vary, but nearly all states require drivers to have some amount of liability coverage. Other components of car insurance are required in some states and not in others, but it’s important to familiarize yourself with the types of coverage that make up a car insurance policy. Below we broke down the basic components of what’s typically referred to as a “full coverage” car insurance policy:
|Coverage Type||What It Does|
|Bodily injury liability||The part of your liability coverage that pays for medical bills if you've injured someone in an accident|
|Property damage liability||The other part of liability coverage, covers the cost of property damage you've caused in an accident|
|Personal injury protection||Covers medical expenses for you or your passengers after an accident|
|Uninsured/underinsured motorist||Covers the costs if you're in an accident caused by a driver with little or no car insurance|
|Comprehensive||Covers damage to your car that happens when you're not driving|
|Collision||Covers damage to your car after a car accident, no matter who was at fault|
Like we mentioned above, comprehensive and collision coverage are optional in every state, yet this type of coverage offers valuable protection for your vehicle, which isn’t covered by your liability coverage. Comprehensive coverage covers damage that happens to your car when you’re not driving, like from falling objects, or weather damage, like hail. Comprehensive coverage also pays to replace your car if it’s stolen. And collision coverage covers damage from collisions no matter who was at fault.
You need to meet the minimum amount of car insurance requirement based on the state you live in, meaning your permanent address. If you move out of state, you might need to add additional car insurance coverage to your policy based on your new state’s requirements.
Notes: California also helps low-income drivers who otherwise would not procure car insurance get a policy through the California Automobile Assigned Risk Plan. The minimum liability limits for one of these policies is 15/30/5.
Notes: Indiana specifies insurers include UM/UMI at $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident unless it is expressly rejected in writing.
Notes: Michigan requires drivers to carry PIP coverage, though the exact amount required depends on the type and amount of health insurance coverage they have. Michigan also requires property protection insurance (PPI), with a minimum limit of $1 million in property damage coverage. PPI can cover damages regardless of who caused the accident, as Michigan is a no fault state.
Notes: Insurers have to offer uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage but it can be declined by the driver in writing.
Notes: New Hampshire doesn’t mandate drivers carry car insurance. However, motorists are still responsible for paying for bodily injury and property damages if they cause a car accident. (The easiest way to do this? Insurance.) And, if you do choose to buy car insurance in New Hampshire, you must meet the minimums above. If you can’t afford to buy car insurance, you may get coverage through the New Hampshire Automobile Insurance Plan.
Notes: New Jersey mandates motorists carry Basic or Standard policy. The Basic Policy, a result of the Automobile Insurance Cost Reduction Act, costs less but provides limited coverage (with no bodily injury liability available).
Notes: New York also requires motorists carry wrongful death coverage, with minimum limits of $50,000 for one death per accident and $100,000 for multiple deaths per accident.
Note: Uninsured motorist property damage coverage is optional in Rhode Island
Notes: Utah drivers can choose a single bodily injury + property damage coverage option of $80,000.
Notes: In lieu of car insurance, you can pay the Virginia DMV a fee of $500 to drive uninsured. This will not protect you financially, and if you cause a car accident, you are financially responsible for all bodily injuries and property damage that you cause.
The consequences of driving under insured or driving uninsured vary from state to state. If you get pulled over, or get into a car accident, and you don’t have your state’s required amount of car insurance, there are a few things that could happen.
Information in this article is sourced from the Insurance Information Institute, individual state insurance and DMV offices.
Colin Lalley is the Associate Director of SEO Content at Policygenius in New York City. His writing on insurance and personal finance has appeared on Betterment, Inc, Credit Sesame, and the Council for Disability Awareness. Colin has a degree in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Kara McGinley is an insurance editor at Policygenius, specializing in home, auto and renters insurance. She previously worked as a freelance writer and copywriter, and has been writing about insurance since 2019. Kara is an expert at making complicated topics like property insurance simple to understand. Her work can be found in Teen Vogue, The Culture Crush, and more.
Kara has a B.A. in English from East Carolina University.
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