Knowing Your Auto Insurance Coverage

December 20, 2009


Purchasing the right amount of auto insurance at an affordable price can be complex. There are three major factors that impact your cost of insurance - the coverage you purchase, your driver characteristics, and the discounts for which you qualify. Here is an overview on how those may affect your premiums, as well as some tips on how to choose and understand your coverage:

1. Coverage - Full vs. Liability Only

There are two primary types of coverage: Comprehensive & Collision (also called "Physical Damage") which covers your vehicle for damage or theft; and Liability, which covers injuries you cause to other people or damage to other property. Depending on the vehicle you're insuring, you can choose to buy full coverage or just Liability (in most states liability coverage is mandatory). For example, you may want to buy Liability-only coverage if the vehicle is older than 10 years and has little market value. You could save as much as 50 percent on your premium by not buying Physical Damage coverage on that vehicle.

2. Limits & Coverage Options

A common question is how much Liability Coverage a person needs. Of course, that depends on the person and their assets. Lawsuits are a real part of our society, and not having enough Liability coverage not only jeopardizes your current assets, but your future earnings as well. You should talk to your sales representative about the appropriate amount of Liability coverage for you, but the general rule of thumb is: "buy as much as you can reasonably afford."

If you have Comprehensive & Collision coverage on your vehicle, you should consider the highest deductible you can reasonably afford. The higher the deductible you choose, the greater the premium savings. The most commonly chosen deductible is typically between $250 - $500.

3. Discounts

There are many types of insurance discounts - make sure you ask your sales representative if you are taking advantage of what's available to you. For example, as a member of American Medical Association, you are eligible for additional member discounts on your auto and homeowners insurance from Liberty Mutual, which can be as high as 20 percent depending on the state in which you live.

Your driving record is a major factor in determining not only your insurability, but also the cost you will pay. For instance, safe drivers can typically expect to save as much as 20 percent annually depending on the state in which they live.

Many insurers offer an "accident forgiveness" plan, which prevents increases in insurance premiums after a collision, for customers who are accident-free for five years. Although most insurers typically offer this benefit to their customers of at least five years, Liberty Mutual's "Exceptional 5" accident forgiveness program is available immediately to eligible new customers.

Installing an alarm system, having your car VIN-etched (professionally etching your vehicle identification number discretely onto your car windows makes it easier for police to trace and less attractive to thieves) or using other anti-theft devices may also lead to an additional discount depending on the state in which you live.

Finally, driving less can also lower your insurance costs. People with short commutes or who use public transit can typically lower their premiums by as much as 15 percent depending on the state in which they live. Owners of specialty or "classic" cars may also take advantage of this discount since these cars are typically driven less frequently.

4. Duplication of Coverage

Check to see if you're buying outside coverage or services that might be more affordable through your insurer. For example, see if your insurance policy includes roadside assistance before joining an auto club. Liberty Mutual customers who have purchased Towing and Labor coverage can have their towing costs covered and, if a tow isn't necessary, Liberty Mutual will still pay for roadside assistance.

You should consult with your insurance sales representative to see if you need first-party medical coverage (which covers injuries to you) because it is possible that your health insurance plan might already cover these expenses.

As a member of the American Medical Association (AMA), you are eligible for a discount on your auto, homeowners and renters insurance through the convenience of electronic fund transfer or direct billing at home with Liberty Mutual's Group Savings Plus®program. For a consultative review of your insurance needs, please click here

This content is provided for educational purposes only. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of AMA Insurance Agency, Inc.


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