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How to calculate how much car insurance coverage you need

You might be curious about what kind of car insurance policy to buy — and the car insurance rates you'll end up paying — when seeking a new policy or considering switching car insurance providers. Before purchasing, you should know an average car insurance policy can consist of six common coverage types:

Comprehensive and collision coverages are not mandatory in any state, but most states offer room to build a policy that suits your financial situation and driving needs.



Comprehensive and collision coverage

Both of these coverages protect your vehicle from physical damage. Your collision coverage protects your vehicle if you collide with another car or fixed object whereas your comprehensive coverage protects your vehicle from weather-related incidents, animals, or vandalism.

These coverages are not required by state law but can be required if you’re leasing or financing a vehicle. Both are also subject to a deductible — what you pay prior to your insurance company reimbursing you for any damage.

Learn more about comprehensive and collision coverage.

Underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage

Some drivers only carry the minimum liability coverage, which might not protect you or in your vehicle in full, if you were to be the victim of an at-fault collision. To prepare for this scenario, underinsured coverage will pay your damages in the event the driver does have insurance, but the damages would exceed the liability limits of their policy. Uninsured motorist kicks in for events such as a "hit-and-run" — when you're in a non-at-fault accident and the other driver is uninsured.

Underinsured and uninsured can be further broken down into two more specific coverages:

  1. Uninsured property damage insurance coverage: protects your vehicle from physical damage in a car accident, while clarifying to your insurance company that the accident was not your fault and therefore will prevent your insurance rates and deductible from rising.
  2. Uninsured bodily injury insurance coverage: covers your medical bills and other fees if you sustain any bodily injury in the event of a car wreck. This, unlike uninsured property damage insurance, does not have a deductible. 

Learn more about uninsured and underinsured coverage.

Auto liability coverage

The liability portion of your car insurance is the only state-mandated coverage. It protects other drivers from bodily injury or property damage you might cause in an at-fault accident. It is comprised of two distinct coverage types: bodily injury and property damage protection.

Each state has a minimum limit you must exceed or meet. Below is an example of how these coverages will appear on your policy:

50 /100 / 50
$50,000 in bodily injury coverage per person$100,000 in bodily injury coverage per incident$50,000 in property damage per incident

Learn more about auto liability coverage.

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How are car insurance premiums calculated?

In short, an insurance company looks at your complete driving profile to determine what kind of client you will be for them. Your driving profile is made up of several factors. Some you can control, like making sure you have a good driving record or driving a car that is less expensive to insure. But for everything else, it can get a little complicated. So think of this as your guide to all the insurance questions you meant to ask but never got around to.


In this section, we break down insurance rates by:
  1. Your driving profile
  2. How old you are
  3. Your location
  4. Your insurance history
  5. Your car



What is my driving profile?


The amount you pay for insurance is based on a variety of factors. These considerations, which include your location, age, gender, marital status, credit score, your auto insurance and driving history, along with the vehicle you drive, constitute the bedrock of your car insurance rate. The less risk you appear to present to an insurance company, the lower your premium will be.

For more information on how auto insurance rates are calculated, see our in-depth guide.




How does who you are impact your rate?


To an insurance company, who you are is determined by your age, gender, credit score, marital status, homeownership, and of course the vehicle you drive. This information, correspondingly, will determine what kind of client you will be to your insurance company. Meaning, they use this information to determine what you will pay for your auto insurance: your premium. If you're a driver with a low credit score (below 524) or have a lengthy driving record, expect your premium to be higher for what an insurance company views as a risky client.



How does location factor into car insurance rate calculations?


Although you might not know it, your insurance is regulated by your state and priced based on the ZIP code in which you reside. If your state requires your basic minimum coverage to be high, you'll probably face higher costs, as you will be required to meet this requirement. This is one reason car insurance in Michigan is so expensive. Because Michigan is a no-fault state with lofty PIP insurance requirements, residents are forced to pay more for auto insurance than drivers in other states. At a more granular ZIP code level, if there are a lot of bad drivers in your area, your rate could be higher than average because of what your insurance company sees as increased potential for accidents and a greater probability of claims payouts.



What about your insurance record?


Insurance companies not only want to see that you have an insurance history, but that you have a good history. Unless you’re a brand new driver, a lack of an insurance history is a red flag to an insurance company. Moreover, it's also the same if you have a long history of only having the bare minimum of coverage. This is because insurance companies see drivers with a long history of high insurance limits as financially responsible and therefore a lower risk than a driver without a positive insurance history.



Car insurance calculations — by vehicle make and model


To put it simply, your insurance company assumes a portion of financial responsibility for your vehicle when you sign your policy. On average, vehicles with high MSRP (manufacturer's suggested retail price) such as Mercedes-Benz models or BMWs are more expensive to insure in than something like a Honda CR-V. This is due to these luxury vehicles' more expensive parts.

If you own a high-performance vehicle, expect your premium to reflect the added potential expense faced by an insurance company.



How The Zebra can help you calculate your car insurance rates


At The Zebra, we strive to help you find the auto insurance policy that fits you. Our goal is to match you with the best insurance coverage in your area: an auto policy that suits both your financial situation and your coverage needs.

The Zebra offers more options than your average insurance agent, which can come in handy if you’re seeking insurance savings. The more insurance companies you research, the more you save and the better coverage you find.If you want to find the best coverage for your money, look no further than The Zebra's car insurance calculator. Let us help you out — by using our auto insurance calculator, you can compare rates from leading companies in order to make sure you're getting the best rate. And you don't even have to leave your couch.


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Recent Questions:

Car insurance calculator

Should I get full coverage from a less well-known insurer?

Whether or not the company is a "mainstream" provider doesn't mean that you would have a bad claims experience. There are several companies out there that have been around for several years and just don't advertise like other companies.

If I cancel my insurance mid-month, will I get my money back?

Most companies, including Progressive, usually bill you ahead of time. Meaning, if you pay your bill on the 1st for the 1st-31st and cancel on the 10th, you would get the remaining days of the months of premium back.

How can I get auto insurance as a foreign driver?

You can use our insurance calculator here in order to find insurance. Your status as a foreign driver does not impact this as long as you have your license.

How do I get insurance after buying from private seller in CA?

In order to legally drive and register the vehicle, you will need to get insurance - so, yes, you will need to get insurance "on the spot" if you chose to buy it. You can compare prices with us here or call us at 888-444-8949 to get a quote today.