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Car Insurance Guides & Advice

SmartFinancial provides information, advice and assistance on all of your tough insurance questions.

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Car Insurance: Basic Terms to Know


If you have a loss that is covered by the terms of your car insurance, you can file an insurance claim with your insurance company for coverage, compensation or for representation if you are liable for damages. For example, if you have an accident, you can file a claim to cover the cost of the damages to your automobile. If your car is stolen, you can file a claim for compensation for the loss. You need to file a claim on whether an accident or loss is your fault or not.


A deductible is the amount you need to pay before your insurance company begins to pay for your damages or loss. You choose the deductible amount when you buy insurance. The lower your deductible, the higher your premiums (payments) will be and vice versa. When choosing a deductible, consider whether or not you can pay the deductible amount if you find yourself at a loss. A high deductible on a newer, more expensive vehicle may result in great savings but ask yourself if you’ll have the emergency fund to pay that high deductible if you have a collision. The savings on an older, less valuable car will not be much if you choose a high deductible, so it’s sensible to keep the deductible low.


An insurance endorsement is an addition to an insurance policy, changing the terms or scope of the original policy. Endorsements are also called riders or floaters. Some common car insurance endorsements include gap insurance, new car replacement, roadside assistance, and car rental insurance.


When you buy a car insurance policy, you are signing a contract specifying what you pay in exchange for specific terms of coverage on your vehicle. Your policy will include your declarations page, which has a basic policy and vehicle information, the amount you agree to pay and your deductible amounts. If you have any, you will also see your endorsements and discounts here. In your policy, you will also find your insuring agreement with terms of overage as well as exclusions and conditions. At the very end of an auto policy, you will find a definitions section, which goes over terms used throughout the policy.


The premium is the amount you agree to pay in exchange for protection from an insurance company. Annual and monthly payments are how most people pay for insurance. Others pay semi-annually or quarterly.


A liability, in general, is an obligation to, or something you owe someone, as a legal financial debt. Liability insurance protects you against legal costs and payouts you would otherwise be responsible to pay out-of-pocket.

Car Insurance Coverage: Simplified

Standard Coverage

Bodily Injury Liability

This form of coverage is required in every state. It covers bodily injuries to a third party in an accident that was deemed your fault.

Property Damage Liability

This form of coverage is required in every state. It covers property damage and loss of use to a third party.

Personal Injury Protection (PIP)

This type of protection is also known as “no-fault insurance” and is required in some states. PIP will cover you if you’ve been injured in an accident, regardless of who’s at fault. Coverages include income continuation, loss of services, funeral expenses and child-care expenses.

Optional Protection & Coverage

Comprehensive Coverage

This coverage pays for damages and loss other than that caused by a collision. It is subject to a deductible.

Collision Coverage

This coverage pays for damages and loss caused by impact with another automobile, object or person. It is subject to a deductible.

Uninsured Motor Vehicle

This coverage pays for medical expenses if you’re injured in an accident caused by someone who doesn’t have liability insurance.

Underinsured Motor Vehicle

This coverage pays for medical expenses if you’re injured in an accident caused by someone whose liability limits are lower than what’s needed.

New Car Replacement

This coverage pays the value of a brand-new vehicle of the same make and model, minus the deductible if your car is declared a total loss.

Roadside Assistance/Towing and Labor Coverage

This coverage helps you get back and driving if you have a roadside breakdown.

Rental Car Coverage

If you rent a car while yours is in the shop, you are eligible for $50 a day up to 30 days, if the damage to the car was a covered loss.

Major Parts Replacement Coverage

Without charge, you can replace major parts like tires, brakes, and batteries regardless of wear and tear and depreciation value at the time of the accident.

Lease/Loan Gap Coverage

This protection covers you if your car is declared a total loss and you owe more on the car than its covered depreciated value.

Rideshare Driver Coverage

If you drive for a rideshare company like Uber or Lyft, this coverage protects you during that period of time when you’re covered by neither your personal auto insurance nor your rideshare company’s insurance.

Accident Forgiveness.

Drivers with a clean policy may be fully forgiven for their first accident without seeing a price increase as a result of the accident.

Original Parts Replacement.

Do you know what replacement parts will be used to repair your vehicle after it’s been in an accident? This coverage guarantees original parts made by the car manufacturer, not a third party.

Factors that Affect Car Insurance Rates

Certain parts of your profile affect your car insurance rates more than others, and every insurer has their own specific formula to decide how much risk you pose. The following are the most heavily weighted factors used to determine car insurance rates:

How Age Affects Car Insurance Costs

Young drivers pay the highest rates for auto insurance. Teens are seen as the riskiest to insure because statistically they drive less cautiously and are involved in more accidents than any other age group. Your rates begin to be more reasonable at age 20 but are still dramatically high until 25 or 26. Age 50 is on the other side of the spectrum and sees a dip in auto insurance rates.

Alabama Alaska Arizona
Arkansas California Colorado
Connecticut Delaware District of Columbia
Florida Georgia Hawaii
Idaho Illinois Indiana
Iowa Kansas Kentucky
Louisiana Maine Maryland
Massachusetts Michigan Minnesota
Mississippi Missouri Montana
Nebraska Nevada New Hampshire
New Jersey New Mexico New York
North Carolina North Dakota Ohio
Oklahoma Oregon Pennsylvania
Rhode Island South Carolina South Dakota
Tennessee Texas Utah
Vermont Virginia Washington
West Virginia Wisconsin Wyoming

Compare Auto Insurance by Geographical Location

Liability insurance is required in nearly every state. Some states require more coverage. No-fault states, for instance, require Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance. See car insurance rates by location

State Requirements

Each state has different requirements. Some only require liability insurance whereas “no-fault’ states require drivers to carry personal injury protection, also called PIP. Even if the state you live in only requires that you carry liability insurance when leasing or financing a car, the lienholder will most likely require that you also buy collision and comprehensive insurance in case you have an accident.

You can also choose the limits of protection. You’ll see a breakdown of the limits you choose on the declaration page of your policy packet. The limits of coverage will be expressed like this: 20/40/15. What you are covered for in this instance is:

$20,000 for bodily injury liability $40,000 per accident for bodily injury liability $15,000 per accident for property damage liability.

Car Insurance by Vehicle Type

The make/model and year of your car, SUV or truck will greatly impact your auto insurance rate. For one thing, your rate is based on the overall value of the vehicle, so the more expensive your vehicle is the more you pay.

Car Insurance Rates Based on Driving Records

A history of car crashes, a couple of cars stolen and some DUIs will raise your rates. However, if you have no incidents within a given year, your rate may drop.

State High Risk Drivers Safe Drivers*
District of Columbia$153.42$170.57
New Hampshire$106.98$96.85
New Jersey$171.56$169.47
New Mexico$131.38$80.25
New York$186.53$208.35
North Carolina$77.49$56.37
North Dakota$97.47$70.1
Rhode Island$152.44$116.84
South Carolina$113.56$100.32
South Dakota$102.78$80.06
West Virginia$130.52$92.91

US Average Car Insurance Rates by Credit Score

Some states do not use credit scores to determine car insurance rates while others do. According to the Federal Trade Commission’s data, drivers with lower credit scores file more claims than drivers with good credit. In addition, the claims filed by drivers with lower credit scores are usually more expensive.

Credit Rating US avg monthly rate
Excellent $160.43
Good $155.61
Poor $116.6

How Important is Driving Experience?

The number of years you have been driving will affect your rate, so if you avoid filing claims (and accidents), your rate should decrease over time. With experience, drivers make fewer mistakes that lead to collisions and theft.

What is your Garaging Address?

Your location is also a big determining factor for your auto insurance rate. Your zip code tells a car insurance carrier how prone you are to floods, crime, wildfires, and other perils that may cause damage or loss of your vehicle.

Does Gender Affect Car Insurance Price?

Most states still use gender as a determining factor in setting car insurance rates. While most people assume that male teens pay the highest car insurance rates, the truth is that rates vary depending on the carrier. Some carriers charge female teens more while others charge male teens more. The numbers continue to be just as haphazard as the driver gets older. So, gender is a determining factor but not in any consistent, quantifiable way.

Coverage History and Car Insurance Premium

Continuous coverage is one of the most important factors used to determine vehicle insurance rates. If you were licensed without insurance, it’s often assumed that you were driving uninsured, a fact that renders a driver much riskier to insure.

How Claims History Affects Auto Insurance Rates

If you have filed claims or had claims filed against you, you’re likely to have a much higher rate than someone with one or no accidents. At-fault accidents take the biggest hit on your rate.

Vehicle History Factor on Insurance Rates

The number of times a vehicle has traded hands and the type of car ownership also affect insurance rates. In other words, your rates vary according to whether your car is owned, leased or financed.

How Much You Drive

Your annual mileage is a big determining factor for rates. This is because the more you drive the more at-risk you are of getting into an accident. Some carriers offer considerable discounts to people who drive less than 7500 or 5000 miles a year.

Marital Status Influence Car Insurance Costs

Married drivers are seen as lower risk than single ones, mainly because they file fewer claims than a single driver.

How Much Coverage Determines the Insurance Premiums

If you have the minimum state requirement for car insurance, you will pay less than if you add on coverage. State requirements for minimum coverage vary, with some states requiring only liability insurance while others require liability and personal injury protection (PIP).

How Do Deductibles Affect Car Insurance Premiums?

After a claim is filed and processed, you are required to pay a deductible amount before coverage takes effect. You set a deductible rate when you first get insured. Usually, you choose from the following: $250, $500 or $1,000. The less you pay for a deductible, the higher your premiums will be and vice versa. To lower your premiums, you can raise your deductible.

How to Compare Auto Insurance

If you prefer to start your car insurance quote online, you can use an insurance comparison-shopping engine, like SmartFinancial, to get many free cheap car insurance quotes, which will accurately reflect the prices offered in your area and based on your information.

Once you start the process on, you’ll answer some questions, which will determine how accurate your online car insurance quote will be. Usually, when you’re given the official quote, the information will be on hand and in your records so it does you no good to lie. In fact, if you’re caught lying, your car insurance rates may go up because you’ll be seen as a potentially high-risk driver. an insurance comparison engine like SmartFinancial’s can give you an accurate quote in 5 minutes unless you have multiple cars and multiple drivers, which would tack on another couple of minutes.

SmartFinancial Compares Rates with the Following Insurance Companies

SmartFinancial only partners with the top carriers in the country. Some of these insurance companies work in every state, others do not. Learn more about each carrier below.

List of Car Insurance Companies

American National P&C American National P
Dairyland Auto 1 Month Concord Group
Countryway Insurance North Carolina Farm Bureau
Buckeye Insurance Group Bear River
MMG Insurance Company Pekin Insurance
Virginia Farm Bureau Utica National Ins Group
NatGen PPA Co-Operative Ins Companies
Clearcover General Casualty
National General RAD Ohio Mutual Ins Group
IMT Insurance Company Ameriprise Group
Partners Mutual Insurance Co Indiana Farmers Mutual Ins
Farm Bureau of ID Group Farm Bureau Mutual (IA Group)
Farmers Mutual of Nebraska Kentucky Farm Bureau
EMC Insurance West Bend Mutual
Mississippi Farm Bureau New Jersey Manufacturers
USAA Oregon Mutual
Peerless Insurance Company GAINSCO Auto Insurance
Capital Insurance Group Commerce Group Inc
Texas Farm Bureau Group MO Farm Bureau Services
Safety Group Nodak Mutual
Unigard Tennessee Farmers
Direct Auto Plymouth Rock Assurance
Auto-Owners Insurance Co Titan
United Farm Bureau of IN Group Patriot Group
Grinnell Mutual Verti Insurance
Western Reserve Erie
Rural Mutual Insurance Umialik Insurance
Norfolk and Dedham Group Penn National
Mutual Of Enumclaw Southern Farm Bureau
Western National Georgia Farm Bureau
North Star Columbia Insurance Group
Rockford Mutual Insurance Country
Union Mutual Fire Group State Farm
Oklahoma Farmers Union ACCC Insurance Company
Plymouth Rock Hastings Mutual Insurance Co
American Family Cincinnati Insurance
Cameron Mutual Group ACE American Pool
Celina Insurance Group Arbella Insurance Group
Travelers First Chicago Insurance
Grange Westfield
California Capital Dairyland Auto 6 Month
Mercury Insurance Pure Companies Grp
Kemper Auto Premier Colorado Farm Bureau Mutual
Acuity National General Value
National General SAFECO
Auto Club Atlantic States Insurance
National Grange Mutual Vermont Mutual
ALFA National Farmers Union P&C
CSAA Motorists Mutual
Farm Bureau Ins of MI NatGen Value
Quincy Mutual Jupiter Auto Insurance
21st Century National Farmers Union P
Hartford Grange Mutual
Nationwide GMAC Insurance Group
Shelter Kemper Auto Premium
Oklahoma Farm Bureau Alliance United
Frankenmuth Mutual MEEMIC Insurance Company
Mercury Hallmark Insurance Group
Kemper Premium Chubb
Dairyland Dairyland Realtime
Infinity Special Allied
State Auto Dairyland Scored
Workmen's Auto Iowa Mutual
Allstate Pioneer State Mutual Ins Co
Republic Indemnity Direct General Insurance
Esurance Mercury Insurance Company
Electric Kemper Auto
Southern Ins Co of Virginia Victoria
American Independent Ins Co Donegal Mutual Insurance Co
Safeway Automobile Club of Missouri
Safe Auto Metropolitan
Farmers Permanent General
Sentry Liberty Mutual
Unitrin Wolverine Mutual
Auto Club Group Bristol West
New York Central Mutual Fire Encompass
Kemper Auto | Infinity Tower Insurance Company of New York
United Automobile Ins Group Home State Ins Group
Allmerica Dairyland Auto
Maryland Auto Insurance Fund AIG
Hanover Loya Insurance
Central Mutual Insurance Co Preferred Mutual
General Agents Group
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