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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? 4 key questions

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. 

 

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 your demographic profile 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.

 


 

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.

 

Kristine Lee LinkedIn

Kristine is a licensed insurance agent and one of The Zebra’s in-house content strategists. With a background in copywriting, she covers the ins and outs of the home and car insurance industries. She has contributed to numerous publications focused on the nuances of insurance, including Automoblog, USInsuranceAgents.com, and BestCompany.com.