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How much car insurance do you need? Don't guess

By Des Toups Posted : 08/13/2014

How much car insurance? Don't guessWhen you bought your last car insurance policy, how did you decide how much coverage to buy?

Sure, there are generally accepted guidelines out there. Homeowners need at least $100,000 in bodily injury liability protection, because a large, valuable asset like a house is an easy lawsuit target if you don’t have enough to cover your victim’s hospital bills.

Or maybe you own nothing and have no savings – nothing you could lose. Then you might go for the legal minimum in your state.

There’s a lot of room in between, though, and seeing the choices other drivers in your situation make can be a good guideline when you shop for car insurance yourself. Insurance.com recently analyzed more than 550,000 insurance quotes delivered through its price-comparison tool to find the most common choices made by drivers of similar age, who live in the same state, who drive the same model year of car, or who own their homes.

You can find data for your state in the “What Drivers Like You Buy” tool.

Nationwide, there are clear patterns. Three out of four drivers choose a $500 deductible for collision and comprehensive coverage. A third of drivers under age 25 shop for the lowest legal amount of liability coverage, but only 19 percent of drivers over 55 do.

Nationwide, the most common coverage profile looks like this:

  • Most common bodily injury liability coverage: $50,000 per person ,$100,000 per accident, selected by 46 percent of all drivers.
  • Most common property damage liability coverage: $50,000, selected by 59 percent of all drivers.
  • Collision coverage, selected by 60 percent of all drivers.
  • Comprehensive coverage, selected by 61 percent of all drivers.
  • $500 deductible, selected by 74 percent of drivers who buy comprehensive and collision.
  • Towing and emergency road service, selected by 16 percent of all drivers.
  • Rental reimbursement coverage, selected by 16 percent of all drivers.

3 tips for buying the right amount of coverage

Seeing what other people in your situation are buying is a good place to start, but in the end, you need enough coverage for insurance to serve its intended purpose: Standing between you and financial disaster. As you decide on what coverage to buy, consider these tips:

  • Extra liability coverage beyond the required minimums is generally quite cheap – you’ll pay only a fraction as much for an additional $50,000 as you did for the first $25,000.
  • Raising your deductibles can save you money. Going from a $500 deductible to $1,000 on a 2012 Ford Explorer in Texas, for example, would cut the annual bill for comp and collision from $576 to $470. Saving $100 a year on your car insurance is nice, but only if you have $1,000 to get your car out of hock to the body shop.
  • Before you make big changes in coverage, shop around first. The more you pay for car insurance, the more you are likely to find savings by switching insurers.
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