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” 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:
Any unpaid delinquent payments due at the time of loss;
Payment deferrals or extensions (commonly called skips or skip a payment);
Refinancing of the vehicle loan after the policy was purchased; or
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.
Boat Insurance provides protection against physical damage losses to the boat, machinery and equipment. This is referred to as Hull Insurance. While the boat insurance industry does not use the terms comprehensive and collision, if you are familiar with these terms for automobile insurance, this would be the equivalent coverage. Each boat insurance company will have a different definition of Hull Insurance. One of the insurance companies that we represent defines it as “accidental, direct physical loss or damage to the boat and equipment as well as salvage charges.” Hull Insurance is broad and may include spars, sails, machinery, furniture, dinghies/tenders, outboard motors, fittings and other equipment normally required for the operation or maintenance of the vessel.
Boat insurance provides physical damage coverage to repair your boat if it’s accidentally damaged or destroyed by a covered peril such as collision, fire, theft, windstorm, lightning or vandalism. This coverage is broad, and provides coverage for the boat, including its machinery and auxiliary equipment, outboard motors, boat trailer and personal property.
A Boat Insurance policy can provide physical damage coverage on an Actual Cash Value (ACV) or an Agreed Amount Value basis. Both types of boat insurance policies offer important coverages for your boat but there are significant differences.
Actual Cash Value policies pay for Replacement Costs less depreciation at the time of the loss. In the event of a total loss, used boat pricing guides and other resources are used to determine the approximate market value of your vessel. A partial loss is settled by taking the total cost of the repair less a percentage for depreciation.
Agreed Amount Value policies mean you and the insurance company have agreed on the value of your vessel and in the event of a total loss you will be paid that amount. Agreed Amount Value policies also replace old items for new in the event of a partial loss without any deduction for depreciation. Most Agreed Amount Value policies require actual cash value on certain damaged property such as sails, protective covers, batteries, dinghies, trailers and aged outboard motors, lower drive units or outdrives.
Physical Damage coverage is usually subject to a deductible. The boat and motor usually have the same deductible with additional deductibles for the trailer and personal effects. The deductible is the amount you are willing to pay in case of a loss. The higher the deductible, the lower your insurance premium. Boat policy deductibles are usually calculated as a percentage of your coverage (1%, 2%, 3% of the vessel value) or can be on flat amounts of $250 or $500.
A good boat insurance policy should also offer Personal Effects coverage to provide protection for those items not intended for the normal operation of your boat, such as portable TVs, cellular or portable phones, stereos, radios and cameras.