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Vehicle insurance (also known as auto insurance, car insurance, or motor insurance) is insurance purchased for cars, trucks, and other vehicles. Its primary use is to provide protection against losses incurred as a result of traffic accidents and against liability that could be incurred in an accident.

In the United States, auto insurance covering liability for injuries and property damage done to others is compulsory in most states, though different states enforce the requirement differently. Penalties for not purchasing auto insurance vary by state, but often involve a substantial fine, license and/or registration suspension or revocation, as well as possible jail time. Usually, the minimum required by law is third party insurance to protect third parties against the financial consequences of loss, damage or injury caused by a vehicle.

Vehicle insurance can cover some or all of the following items:

  • The insured party
  • The insured vehicle
  • Third parties (car and people)
  • Third party, fire and theft
  • In some jurisdictions coverage for injuries to persons riding in the insured vehicle is available without regard to fault in the auto accident (No Fault Auto Insurance)

Different policies specify the circumstances under which each item is covered. For example, a vehicle can be insured against theft, fire damage, or accident damage independently.

Full coverage

"Full coverage" is term name commonly used to referr to the combination of Comprehensive and Collision coverages (Liability is generally also implied.)

Collision coverage provides coverage for an insured's vehicle that is involved in an accident, subject to a deductible. This coverage is designed to provide payments to repair the damaged vehicle, or payment of the cash value of the vehicle if it is not repairable. Collision coverage is optional, however if you plan on financing a car or taking a car loan, the lender will usually insist you carry collision for the finance term or until the insured's car is paid off. Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) or Loss Damage Waiver (LDW) is the term used by rental car companies for collision coverage.

Comprehensive (a.k.a. - Other Than Collision) coverage provides coverage, subject to a deductible, for an insured's vehicle that is damaged by incidents that are not considered Collisions. For example, fire, theft (or attempted theft), vandalism, weather, or impacts with animals are types of Comprehensive losses.

Underinsured coverage, also known as UM/UIM, provides coverage if an at-fault party either does not have insurance, or does not have enough insurance. In effect, the insurance company pays the insured medical bills, then would subrogate from the at fault party. This coverage is often overlooked and very important. In some areas, it is estimated that 1 out of every 3 drivers don't carry insurance. Usually the limits match the liability limits. Some insurance companies do offer UM/UIM in an umbrella policy.

In the United States, the definition of an uninsured/underinsured motorist, and corresponding coverages, are set by state laws.

Loss of use coverage, also known as rental coverage, provides reimbursement for rental expenses associated with having an insured vehicle repaired due to a covered loss.

Loan/lease payoff coverage, also known as GAP coverage or GAP insurance, was established in the early 1980s to provide protection to consumers based upon buying and market trends.

Due to the sharp decline in value immediately following purchase, there is generally a period in which the amount owed on the car loan exceeds the value of the vehicle, which is called "upside-down" or negative equity. Thus, if the vehicle is damaged beyond economical repair at this point, the owner will still owe potentially thousands of dollars on the loan. The escalating price of cars, longer-term auto loans, and the increasing popularity of leasing gave birth to GAP protection.

GAP waivers provide protection for consumers when a "gap" exists between the actual value of their vehicle and the amount of money owed to the bank or leasing company. In many instances, this insurance will also pay the deductible on the primary insurance policy. These policies are often offered at auto dealerships as a comparatively low cost add-on to the car loan that provides coverage for the duration of the loan.

GAP Insurance does not always pay off the full loan value however. These cases include but are not limited to:

  • 1. Any unpaid delinquent payments due at the time of loss;
  • 2. Payment deferrals or extensions (commonly called skips or skip a payment);
  • 3. Refinancing of the vehicle loan after the policy was purchased; or
  • 4. Late fees or other administrative fees assessed after loan commencement.

Therefore, it is important for a policy holder to understand that they may still owe on the loan even though the GAP policy was purchased. Failure to understand this can result in the lender continuing their legal remedies to collect the balance and the potential of damaged credit.

Consumers should be aware that a few states, require lenders of leased cars to include GAP insurance within the cost of the lease itself. This means that the monthly price quoted by the dealer must include GAP insurance, whether it is delineated or not. Nevertheless, unscrupulous dealers sometimes prey on unsuspecting individuals by offering them GAP insurance at an additional price, on top of the monthly payment, without mentioning the State's requirements.

In addition, some vendors and insurance companies offer what is called "Total Loss Coverage." This is similar to ordinary GAP insurance but differs in that instead of paying off the negative equity on a vehicle that is a total loss, the policy provides a certain amount, usually up to $5000, toward the purchase or lease of a new vehicle. Thus, to some extent the distinction makes no difference, i.e., in either case the owner receives a certain sum of money. However, in choosing which type of policy to purchase, the owner should consider whether, in case of a total loss, it is more advantageous for him or her to have the policy pay off the negative equity or provide a down payment on a new vehicle.

Car towing coverage is also known as Roadside Assistance coverage. Traditionally, automobile insurance companies have agreed to only pay for the cost of a tow that is related to an accident that is covered under the automobile policy of insurance. This had left a gap in coverage for tows that are related to mechanical breakdowns, flat tires and gas outages. To fill that void, insurance companies started to offer the car towing coverage, which pays for non-accident related tows.

Personal items in a vehicle that are damaged due to an accident would not be a covered under the auto policy. Any type of property that is not attached to the vehicle should be claimed under a homeowners or renters policy. However, some insurance companies will cover unattached GPS devices intended for automobile use.

Automobile insurance (also well-known as GAP insurance, car insurance, or motor insurance) is insurance bought for cars, trucks, motorcycles, and other road vehicles. Its primary use is to offer financial protection against physical damage and/or bodily injury resulting from traffic collisions and against liability that can also appear there from. The precise conditions of vehicle insurance vary with legal regulations in each region. To a lesser degree automobile insurance may additionally offer financial protection against theft of the automobile and possibly damage to the automobile, sustained from things other than traffic collisions.

The regulations for automobile insurance vary with each of the 50 US states and other territories, with each U.S. state having its own mandatory minimum coverage requirements. Every one of the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia requires drivers to have insurance coverage for both bodily injury and property damage, but the minimum amount of coverage required by law varies by state. For example, minimum bodily injury liability coverage requirements range from $20,000 in Florida to $100,000 in Alaska and Maine, whilst minimum property damage liability requirements range from $5,000 (four states) to $25,000 (16 states)

Vehicle insurance can cover several or all of the following items:

  • The insured party (medical payments)
  • The insured vehicle (physical damage)
  • Third parties (car and people, property damage and bodily injury)
  • Third party, fire and theft
  • In some jurisdictions coverage for injuries to persons riding in the insured automobile is available without regard to fault in the auto accident (No Fault Auto Insurance)
  • The price to rent a vehicle if yours is damaged
  • The cost to tow your vehicle to a repair facility

Different policies specify the conditions under which each item is covered. For example, a vehicle can be insured against theft, fire damage, or accident damage independently.

An excess payment, also known as a deductible, is a fixed contribution that must be paid each time a car is repaired with the charges billed to an automotive insurance policy. In general this payment is made directly to the accident repair "garage" (the term "garage" refers to an establishment where vehicles are serviced and repaired) when the owner collects the vehicle. If one's car is stated to be a "write off" (or "totaled"), then the insurance company will deduct the excess established on the policy from the settlement payment it makes to the owner.

If the accident was the other driver's fault, and this fault is accepted by the third party's insurer, then the vehicle owner may be able to reclaim the additional payment from the other person's insurance company.


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