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Auto Insurance 101

By Chris Tolamalu

Auto insurance, as the term suggests, is insurance that you can purchase for your vehicle (cars, trucks, SUVs, motorcycles, etc.). It provides protection against losses incurred as a result of vehicle accidents. While the product seems simple, there are many different types of auto insurance policies available for purchase. Depending on the policy that you choose, your coverage levels and types will vary. Broadly speaking, these are the types of auto insurance programs on the market today:

Coverage:

• ‘Comprehensive coverage’ (Comp) – This kind of insurance insures your vehicle against the cost of purchasing a new vehicle if it is stolen or destroyed in a fire.

• ‘Collision coverage’ (Coll) – This kind of insurance insures your vehicle against the cost of repairing the vehicle following an accident or the cost of purchasing a new vehicle if it is damaged in an accident beyond economic repair.

Protection:

• Personal Injury Protection (PIP) - This insures against the cost of medical expenses and lost wages related to the use, ownership or maintenance of a motor vehicle. This insurance is mandatory in some U.S. states.

• Medical Payments (MP) - insures against the cost of medical expenses for bodily injury sustained in an accident beyond any expenses that may be covered by PIP.

• Legal liability claims against the driver or owner of the vehicle following the vehicle causing damage or injury to a third party.

While ‘Liability insurance’ covers only legal liability, ‘comprehensive insurance’ covers PIP, MP, as well as legal liability. In the United States, liability insurance covers claims against the policyholder and any other operator of the insured’s vehicle. If, however, any other operators live at the same address, they must specifically be covered on the policy. For rented vehicles, most rental car companies offer insurance to cover damage to the rental vehicle.

While comprehensive insurance covers most aspects of damage which can affect the car itself or the driver, there is one risk associated with buying a new car is not covered even by comprehensive insurance – once the car is bought, there is a sharp decline in its value. During this period (immediately after a car is bought), in which the remaining car payments exceed the value of the vehicle and thus the compensation the insurer will pay for a ‘totaled’ (destroyed, or written-off) vehicle, customers may consider purchasing ‘GAP insurance’. GAP insurance was established in the early 1980's to provide protection to consumers based on buying and market trends.

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