How much liability car insurance should I buy?

By Insurance.com Posted : 10/01/2011

Each state has mandatory coverages (such as bodily injury and property damage liability coverage or personal injury protection coverage) as well as optional coverages (such as comprehensive, collision, and medical payments coverage).

When deciding how much bodily injury liability coverage to buy, it's important to understand that this coverage protects your personal assets - your savings, your property and even your future earnings - if you cause an accident and are held legally liable for injuries to other people. This coverage will also pay for legal defense costs if you are sued. Similarly, property damage liability coverage pays for damage to property, such as another car, a mailbox or a streetlight, that results from the accident you caused. Legal defense costs are also covered if you are sued.

One way to think about how much to buy is to think about what you'd lose if you had to pay for an accident - without insurance:

No house, no dependents and not much in the bank? The state minimum limits of liability might be enough, unless you're in a state with really low minimums, like Louisiana ($10,000 per person/$20,000 per accident), Ohio ($12,500 per person/$25,000 per accident), or Arizona, California, New Jersey or Pennsylvania ($15,000 per person/$30,000 per accident). We believe these limits are too low. We recommend buying at least $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident coverage. Also, remember that even if you don't have assets currently, you could put your future assets and earnings at risk if you don't have enough insurance.

Starter house, a family and modest savings? You'll want to buy at least $50,000 per person/$100,000 per accident liability coverage. It may not cost much to increase to even higher limits ($100,000 per person/$300,000 per accident), which will protect you as your assets grow.

Bigger house, teen drivers, investments or other properties? Buy the highest limits available from your carrier, usually $250,000 per person/$500,000 per accident or $500,000 CSL (Combined Single Limit). And, if you have significant personal assets, consider buying an umbrella policy to protect you if an accident exceeds the limits on your auto policy.

A trip to the emergency room and a short hospital stay may cost thousands of dollars - potentially tens of thousands. So, when you're buying car insurance, you're buying peace of mind - for the event you hope never happens.

When you start a quote, it helps to look at your current policy - but don't worry, we'll provide online help to guide your choices if you don't know what limits or deductibles you have today. And, once you get a quote, you can change your selections to see how the price will change with different limits or deductibles. You can also call one of our knowledgeable and friendly licensed agents, who will be happy to speak with you about your options.

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