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Part of owning a vehicle is having an insurance policy in place. In almost all states, drivers are required to carry auto insurance to cover various aspects of owning a car. This helps to not only protect you, the driver of the car, but also the other drivers sharing the road with you. Insurance is essential should you ever be involved in an accident, and without a good insurance policy in place you may not be able to pay for vehicle repairs and medical expenses, among other things. Insurance also covers for other mishaps including natural disasters, vandalism or theft.

There are several types of insurance to consider, and one policy may include several types of coverage. Here's an easy breakdown of your options to help you get a better idea of the type of auto insurance policy you may need:

Insurance Types to Consider:

Liability Cover

49 states have a legal minimum level of bodily injury and property damage liability coverage requirement - with penalties for drivers who do not comply.

Liability cover protects an insured driver for any property damage or injury they may have caused.

Should you cause any property damage, for example crash into someone's wall, liability cover will pay for all the repairs and/or injuries sustained by a third party.

Personal Injury Protection (PIP)

Only 14 states require Personal Injury Protection (PIP) or medical payments (MedPay). It is highly recommended, however, that drivers opt for this type of coverage.

PIP covers the policyholder and/or vehicle passenger(s) for injuries sustained in the event of accident, regardless of who caused it.

This policy pays out for medical expenses, loss of income, funeral costs, and other types of permanent damages. If you already have a good medical and disability policy, you may not require PIP and can opt for the minimum requirement by the state.

Underinsured and Uninsured Motorist Cover

Only 14 states require uninsured motorist (UM) and underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage, but with roughly 1 in 8 drivers not insured, it's highly recommended to have this type of insurance.

UM/UIM comes into effect when you are involved in an accident caused by an uninsured driver.

UM will cover your medical bill while UIM covers you when your medical expenses exceed the other driver's liability coverage limits. Uninsured motorist property damage (UMPD) is only available in a handful of states, and pays for the damage to your vehicle caused by an uninsured driver, a hit-and-run driver, or an insured driver whose liability limit is inadequate.

Collision Coverage

Collision cover is not a requirement in most states, but it may be required by your lender.

This policy will pay out for any damages to your vehicle if you were in a collision with another car, or with objects such as trees, street lights, telephone poles, or guard rails.

Should an uninsured driver cause the accident and you don't have UMPD, collision cover will help you pay for the repairs on your vehicle.

Comprehensive Cover

Comprehensive coverage only applies in certain circumstances and is not required by every state.

Although it is optional, it may be required by your lender and it is still recommended for many drivers.

If your vehicle has been damaged due to collisions, natural disasters, theft, or vandalism, you will be protected under comprehensive insurance cover.

If you own an older vehicle model, comprehensive cover may not make sense, so be sure to check the value of your car.

Towing and Roadside Assistance

Towing and roadside assistance can come in very handy in the event of an emergency breakdown.

This policy will cover you for roadside assistance when your car breaks down as well as cover the cost of a tow-in and rental while you are waiting for repairs.

This policy does not cover replacement parts, however, and it's usually capped or limited.

Gap Cover

Once you buy a new car, its value drops almost instantly. This leads to a period whereby the loan amount actually exceeds the value of the car.

In the event of an accident during this time(when your car is a total loss), GAP insurance will pay out the difference between the actual value of the vehicle versus the total loan amount still outstanding.

Without this, you might end up paying for a car you're not even using.

What Affects Auto Insurance Rates

There are several factors that insurance companies will look at to determinate the rate of your coverage. It's important to be upfront about your details because insurance companies will need to access some of your private information that could affect your monthly premiums. Here are the main factors to consider:

Your Age

With age comes experience, and insurers believe that, the older you are, the more time you've spent behind the wheel of your car. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, teenagers are 3 times more likely to be involved in an accident when compared to drivers over the age of 20. Therefore, younger drivers are more likely to see higher premiums. It is not until they turn 25 before there is a drop in the cost. Drivers over the age of 50 enjoy the best rates.

Your Driving Record

Your insurer will want to calculate the likelihood of an accident by checking your Motor Vehicle Report (MVR). Once they access your C.L.U.E. report, they will be able to investigate your claims over the last seven years. Accidents, speeding tickets, and other infractions will surely increase your premiums. If you have a clean driving record, you have a much better chance of lowered monthly premiums.

Your Gender & Marital Status

Statistically, males are more likely to be involved in an accident. Young women, therefore, generally qualify for lower rates. This difference diminishes with age, however, and married couples are also less likely to be involved in a accident.

Your Location

If you live in an urban area with densely packed traffic and a higher possibility of theft, your insurance will probably be higher when compared to living in rural areas. Insurance will, therefore, vary widely by state and by ZIP code. Parking your car in the safety of a garage will also bring in lower premiums.

Your Annual Mileage

The more time your car spends on the road, the higher your chance of making a claim. If you are only driving short distances, however, you may qualify for a low-mileage discount on your auto insurance. The mileage cap typically falls between 7,500 and 15,000 miles per year.

Type of Vehicle You Drive

Certain cars demand higher insurance premiums. Insurance companies look at how often a particular model might be stolen, targeted by radar, or even pulled over. Other factors to consider include the total value of the car, the cost to repair or replace it, as well as the additional anti-theft and safety features it may have, including airbags, car alarms, anti-lock brakes and more.

Gaps in Your Insurance Cover

If you have gaps in cover, insurers will deem you riskier to insure compared to drivers who have no lapses in their coverage. Even if it was just for a short time, a gap in your auto insurance cover may lead to higher premiums.

Compare Companies to Find the
Best Service and Rate

When you are shopping around for your auto insurance, it's important to compare several estimates from different companies. This will help you to not only see what type of policy options they may have, but also the type of service they offer you. Also remember, the state's minimum requirements for auto insurance coverage are often too low for most drivers. Before you settle on any type of insurance, be sure to carefully consider all your assets and options when you talk to your potential auto insurance broker.