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Learn more about what goes into the most basic component of car insurance.
Liability insurance coverage protects other drivers from bodily injury or property damage you might cause in an at-fault accident. It is the most basic form of auto insurance and does not cover you or your vehicle in an accident. It is required by nearly every state in order to legally drive and register your vehicle.
|50/||$50,000 in bodily injury liability coverage per person|
|100/||$100,000 in bodily injury coverage per incident|
|50||$50,000 in property damage liability per incident|
The amount of liability coverage you carry depends on your personal preference and the laws in your state. Because car insurance is regulated at the state level, each state sets minimum policy limits for liability coverage.
In this article, we’ll discuss the basic components of liability insurance and how much it costs:
Bodily injury liability is a type of car insurance that covers injuries caused by an at-fault driver. Alongside physical injuries, bodily injury liability covers pain and suffering, loss of income, and other expenses for which you may be deemed liable after a vehicle collision. Bodily injury liability insurance is a mandatory coverage in every state except Florida and New Hampshire and helps to cover:
Property damage liability coverage pays for damage to another person's property or any loss-of-use costs for which you're found liable. Property damage liability coverage helps to cover expenses like:
Liability coverage can also cover your legal fees if you are sued because of an accident. If you were to lose your case, your liability coverage would be likely to assist in the settlement up to your coverage limits. Any amount beyond your coverage limit must be paid for out of pocket.
Within any facet of car insurance, how much you pay for liability insurance will vary. For a 30-year-old male driving a 2016 Honda Civic with no accidents, the average cost of a 50/100/50 liability policy is $121 per month.
Average monthly premium
State Minimum Liability Only
State Minimum with 500 Comp-Coll
50/100/50 BI-PD with 500 Comp-Coll
100/300/100 BI-PD with 500 Comp-Coll
Learn more about the overall average cost of car insurance.
Using the methodology outlined here, we compared rates for liability-only auto insurance by coverage levels.
USAA is the cheapest across the board for liability-only car insurance at all coverage levels. If you do not qualify for USAA, GEICO is the second-cheapest option. Depending on your individual driving profile, your premium could vary. Use our rates as estimates and begin your search for liability insurance with USAA and GEICO.
Although carrying high liability limits costs more, it can save you money in the long run. Not only will exceeding your limits leave you responsible for any additional costs, but a history of low coverage is also considered a risky driving factor by insurance companies. Any time your insurance company views you as a potentially risky client, you can expect a higher premium as a result.
Next, we'll examine how your rate will change if you opt for collision and comprehensive coverage on top of your required liability insurance. The addition of these physical coverages is what makes a policy full coverage. The driver profile used for the following analysis has a $1,000 deductible.
|Insurance company||State minimum liability w/ comp-coll||50/100/50 BI-PD liability w/ comp-coll||100/300/100 BI-PD liability w/ comp-coll|
USAA and GEICO are the cheapest insurance companies for full coverage insurance.
On average, expect your rate to increase by about 56% if you add comprehensive and collision coverages to your policy. Liability-only policies tend to be the cheapest for a reason — they don't protect you or your vehicle if you're involved in a collision.
Our sample driver profile may not perfectly match your personalized pricing. Submit your zip code below to compare car insurance quotes side-by-side and ensure you get the best insurance at the lowest price.
Most large auto insurance companies in America offer a variety of liability insurance coverage options. These commonly include:
The big omission of liability insurance is it does not cover any damage or bodily to you or your vehicle. Physical coverage to your vehicle, aka comprehensive and collision coverage, are separate coverage you can elect to add to your car insurance policy.
What is not covered by liability insurance?
Different policies and companies can structure their liability limits differently. A per-occurrence limit is the most your policy will pay after one occurrence. For example, if you have a per-occurrence limit of $50,000, that is all you will receive after an at-fault accident for the other driver’s bodily injury and property damage.
A split limit policy is more common and is what we described above. You will have separate amounts of coverage for your property damage and bodily injury. Generally, a split limit policy is more recommended that a per occurrence policy.
Each state has its own mandatory liability insurance minimums. While we’ve listed the minimum amounts of liability insurance required by state at the end of this section, it's often a good idea to carry more than the minimum. We generally recommend limits above 50/100/50 — especially if you have financial assets.
Although you might save a few bucks by dropping coverage, it's not recommended to maintain a low level of liability car insurance coverage because:
Because some states have very low property damage liability limits, you end up being responsible for any damage not covered by your insurance. Let's say you’re a California resident who totals another driver's 2019 Ford F150 — listed at $28,155 — in an at-fault accident. In California, mandatory minimum liability car insurance covers $5,000. You would be responsible for the remaining $23,155. Depending on your financial situation, this could be a tricky hole to climb out of without sufficient levels of property damage liability coverage.
Carrying your state’s minimum liability coverage not only leaves you on the hook for any damages leftover from a claim but also stands out as a red flag for insurers. If you elect to carry high liability limits, you shoulder some of the insurance company's financial responsibility and risk. If you carry the bare minimum of property damage and bodily injury liability car insurance, you pass more risk along to the insurer — leading to more expensive premiums, in many cases.
6-mo. with state-minimum BI limits
6-mo. with 50/100 BI limits
6-mo. with 100/300 BI limits
To avoid higher insurance rates, consider keeping your liability coverage at 100/300/100, if possible, and find out more about how much car insurance coverage you need.
Explore the table below to learn how much liability insurance you need in your state.
The Zebra is not an insurance company. We’re an independent, unbiased partner for consumers, on a mission to help you compare insurance options apples-to-apples, so you can make a truly informed decision. We’re proud because: