Gap insurance is insurance that may be required if you lease or finance a car. Gap insurance covers the difference between what your car is worth and what you owe on your auto loan should your car be a total loss in an incident. For example, let’s say you have a car loan with a balance of $20,000, but your car is only worth $15,000. If it’s totaled in an accident, your insurance will only pay out $15,000 and you will owe $5,000 to settle your loan. If you have gap insurance, that policy will pay the $5,000 to settle your loan balance.
A lot goes into an auto insurance rate quote, including your ZIP code, coverage levels, marital status, annual mileage, driving history and vehicle make, year and model. In most states, your gender and credit history are also used to determine rates. And again, the reason auto insurance comparison shopping is so important is because rates between companies are different for each person, too.
In general, insurance coverage for an insured driving someone else’s vehicle is the coverage he carries for his own vehicle. The driver’s personal coverage will apply in most cases when driving a vehicle he does not own. This includes any uninsured motorist coverage he carries and the medical portions of his policy. The driver’s property damage coverage might carry over while driving another’s car as well, depending on the policy language, the respective limits of the two policies involved, and the facts. If a person drives his own vehicle without insurance, he should not expect that he is covered when driving someone else’s vehicle.
When you apply for auto insurance in Texas, providers are legally required to offer $2,500 in Personal Injury Protection coverage (PIP). This type of coverage is mandated in so-called “no-fault” states, but it’s optional in Texas (although you do have to refuse it in writing). If you select it, 100% of the coverage amount will be available for your medical bills following an accident, regardless of who was at fault. While you may be covered under your own health insurance for those costs, PIP has the added benefit of covering up to 80% of your lost income if you’re unable to work following an accident. It’s a nice protection, but keep in mind that $2,500 won’t go that far in such a case. While most companies will let you raise the limit, it’s one of the costlier options to add, so if you’re on a budget, you’ll have to weigh its value against things like comprehensive and UM/UIM coverage.
Med Pay and bodily injury insurance are two other types of coverage that usually follow the person, not the car. Med Pay coverage pays for any injuries that an insured or his passengers may incur in an accident, regardless of who is at fault. Such coverage usually follows the driver. It is based on people, not the vehicle. In fact, such coverage sometimes covers the insured when he is walking or biking. This coverage also usually follows the driver when he rents a car, because the rental vehicle is a substitute for the insured’s own vehicle. However, Med Pay coverage sometimes follows the car. If the passengers in a vehicle don’t have coverage of their own, Med Pay and PIP coverage can extend to their injuries.
When the policy of the vehicle owner and the policy of the permissive user have different limits, the matter becomes even more complicated. If the damages caused by the permissive user’s negligence exceed the owner’s liability limits, the policy of the permissive user might be tapped as secondary coverage, but usually only where the permissive user’s liability limits are higher than the owner’s liability limits.
I was with Liberty Mutual for about 15 years and was very satisfied with their prices and service, although I never filed a claim. When I retired and moved from California to Florida, my auto rate went up a ridiculous amount, to almost $10,000 a year even though I had no accidents and one minor moving violation in the last ten years. On top of that, Liberty Mutual screwed up my umbrella policy and told me it was “unenforceable,” whatever that means, but I had to pay for the policy anyway up to the time I canceled and switched to Progressive, which cost about one third the cost of Liberty Mutual for an identical policy. Even good companies change over time.
Liability auto insurance protects you from that worst case scenario by providing a cushion between your assets and the amount you’re on the hook for. For this reason, choosing the right auto liability limits is the most important part of your car insurance quote comparison. NerdWallet typically recommends having at least as much liability coverage as your net worth.
Next, take a good hard look at your driving record and credit report, and clean both up if they’re not in good shape. Moving violations, citations for driving under the influence, accidents, and a low credit score all tell car insurance companies you’re at higher risk of being in an accident, making a claim, and costing them money. Some car insurance companies will give you a discount if you can prove you’re a safe driver by installing a tracking device in your car, which can lead to lower rates over time (however, if the tracker shows you routinely drive in an unsafe manner, your rates might go up). A few years without a citation or an accident, as well as a steadily improving credit score, can help you save on car insurance.
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Bad auto insurance comes in many forms. With bad car insurance, premiums are higher than they should be, or the company offers low premiums but minimal coverage. Some car insurance companies have poor customer service and don’t effectively communicate the status of your auto insurance claim. Others require you to use only repair shops that they approve of, and those shops can be inconvenient to access, forcing you to travel across town for repairs or wait weeks for an appointment. Still other auto insurance companies don’t have a comprehensive network of adjusters, so you have to wait longer for your claim to be processed so you can get the repairs you need. In a worst-case scenario, a car insurance company may not have the financial resources to pay claims, leaving its customers high and dry.
There are certainly insurance carriers and policies that will not cover any driver not specifically named in the policy. Other relevant facts include where the “other driver” resides and if they are related to the insured. In general, if someone is living in the insured’s household and regularly drives the insured’s vehicle, many insurance carriers expect you to have that person named on the policy. They will need to undergo the same underwriting and qualification process as any other policyholder.
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