No matter where we turn, it feels like there’s always low prices on car insurance being advertised. Over the television and radio airwaves, online, and even in our mailbox, we can’t escape the plucky mascots that tell us you need to buy car insurance. You can’t afford not to!
Unfortunately, those same commercials and smiling mascots don’t help you sort fact from fiction. Car insurance myths not only cost you money, but they could also hurt you if you need to file a claim. If you haven’t gone shopping for car insurance for a while, you need to read these tips:
Myth #1: You Only Need the State Minimum Requirement for Car Insurance
There are plenty of companies that offer you the state minimum requirement to save on car insurance premiums. While that keeps things legal, it only minimally protects other drivers and property owners from the damage you may cause while driving. This is a major car insurance myth.
According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), your state minimum insurance isn’t enough to cover you. While this policy will certainly offer coverage if you hit and injure another driver (or crash into a fence), it won’t pay for your car repair or the cash value of your car if it’s totaled.
If you’re driving around with only the state minimum requirement for car insurance, you could be left without a car after an accident.
Myth #2: Your Auto Insurance Won’t Cover a Rental Car
Another auto insurance myth is that your personal car insurance won’t cover a rental car. If you have comprehensive coverage and collision insurance, it may cover your rental car if it’s damaged for a covered reason. The Insurance Information Institute notes that the most common covered reasons may include broken windshields, fallen objects onto cars, fire, and vandalism.
But before you turn down a collision damage waiver, be sure you have comprehensive coverage as part of your insurance policy. If something goes wrong, your auto insurance can act as primary coverage to pay for insured damages.
Myth #3: You Need to Buy Additional Car Insurance for a Rental Car
Whenever you rent a car, your rental company will often try to pressure you into paying for the collision damage waiver (CDW for short). Although the salesman might say that you will be liable for anything that happens to the car without their rental car insurance, this might actually be a car insurance myth.
If you paid your entire rental car with a credit card, you may have secondary rental car insurance from your credit card issuer. Many travel-related credit cards offer rental car insurance benefits, which may cover damages, theft, and loss.
While it's a great benefit, it may not cover all rentals, including moving trucks, exotic cars or vintage autos. On top of that, you may be subject to a deductible before the combination of your credit card insurance and auto insurance kicks in. Before you rent your next car, check the fine print in your credit card guide to benefits and your auto policy to see if you have rental car coverage.
Myth #4: If Someone Borrows Your Car, They're Responsible for Any Accidents
One of the most common car insurance myths out there is the idea that if somebody borrows your car, their insurance will cover it. There’s a half-truth in this myth: While their insurance policy may not cover your car, your insurance policy might.
As insurance trade publication Claims Journal notes, auto insurance tends to follow the car instead of the driver. That means if somebody borrowing your car gets into an accident or destroys property, you could be left with the bill – without the help of your insurance policy.
However, if your auto insurance policy offers permissive use coverage, you can let a friend borrow your car and your insurance may cover any damages from their use. The most common insurance exclusions include if the borrower was using your car for a business purpose or if they do not have a valid driver’s licence.
Myth #5: Your Credit Score Doesn't Matter for Car Insurance
Another common car insurance myth is that your credit score doesn't matter for car insurance. On the contrary, your credit score could help you save on car insurance.
Because your credit score represents how fiscally responsible you are with credit cards and other loans, many insurance companies will also use it to estimate how responsible you will be with your car. While a high credit score suggests you are fiscally sound (and are a responsible driver), a low credit score could represent a greater risk of having a total loss.
In addition to your traditional credit score, you also have an insurance score as well. Fair Isaac Company (the group behind the FICO credit score model) also has an insurance score to help underwriters determine how much risk an individual presents. According to company data, 95% of insurance decisions involve FICO insurance scores in some way.
Myth #6: All Car Insurance Policies Cover Theft and Natural Disasters
It’s easy to believe that all insurance policies cover the unpredictable, including theft or natural disasters. This also falls into the bucket of car insurance myths.
With state-minimum car insurance, you may only be covered for the situations that commonly occur on the highway: property damage and bodily harm to others. Other common scenarios – such as auto theft and natural disasters like storm and hail damage – are only covered under more comprehensive insurance.
When you decide how much to pay for car insurance, putting a little more upfront for better coverage could save a lot more money down the line. While you can save money on car insurance by driving slower and having a good credit score, don’t cut corners by opting out of comprehensive coverage.
Myth #7: The Color of Your Car Determines Your Rate
One of the oldest car insurance myths revolves around drivers of red cars receiving more tickets since police spot them more easily. The theory goes that this causes insurance rates to increase faster. According to Car and Driver, nearly half of all Americans believe you will pay more based on car color.
In truth, it has nothing to do with how much you will pay for car insurance. According to the III, the biggest factors for determining car insurance rates are your overall driving record, overall car usage, and where you keep your car. While red cars are generally more visible, how you drive your car ultimately determines how much you pay for insurance.
Myth #8: All Car Insurance Policies Cover You Against Uninsured Motorists
Another common auto insurance myth is focused on other drivers. If an uninsured motorist collides with you – and is at fault for the coverage – your insurance should cover medical bills and property damage. However, car insurance is designed to protect other motorists from your actions (not the other way around).
To fully protect your car and the occupants, consider adding uninsured motorist coverage to your auto insurance policy. Also known as uninsured motorists bodily injury insurance, this coverage will pay for medical bills if you get hit by an uninsured driver.
Myth #9: All Car Insurance Policies Cover You Against Underinsured Motorists
Finally, have you ever considered what happens if you are hit by someone who has state-minimum car insurance? If you are hit by someone who is underinsured, you could be responsible for any bills beyond their coverage limits.
Uninsured motorist property damage insurance not only pays for damage to your car, but also any damage to your personal property (including your home). Finally, underinsured motorist coverage will cover any additional damage to your vehicle that isn’t covered by the at-fault driver.
How to Choose a Car Insurance Policy
Although it feels daunting, everyone should shop around for a car insurance policy at least once per year. By taking advantage of car insurance discounts (including safe driving and tracking devices), you could reduce your rate and ultimately reduce the amount you pay for car insurance.
Talk To Your Insurance Agent
Contact your current insurance company to see whether any discounts can be applied to your policy. Ask if you can bundle insurance to save money or apply new savings opportunities.
Shop Around for Car Insurance
Based on your current coverage and driving history, you could save on car insurance with another company. Therefore, if you don’t like the quote provided by your current insurance company, shop around to get multiple quotes for the best car insurance policy available. While most quotes can be obtained online, you may have to speak to an insurance agent.
Balance Car Insurance Savings With Coverage Level
Finally, you don’t decide on a car insurance policy based on the price alone. Although the amount you pay for car insurance should be a factor, you should also look closely at how much coverage you are receiving as well. By balancing the most coverage for the lowest price, you can get the right car insurance policy to fit your lifestyle.
What If I Can’t Afford Car Insurance?
If you cannot afford your premiums, the last thing you should do is stop paying for car insurance. Having a policy cancelled by your current insurance company can make it difficult to get new insurance – and driving without insurance may cause you legal trouble.
Before you stop making car insurance payments, speak to your insurance company. They may work with you to make your car insurance policy more affordable. Three easy ways to help you save money on car insurance include:
1. Increasing Your Deductible
While you’ll pay more out-of-pocket if you get into an accident, increasing your deductible from $500 to $1,000 could help you save money on your monthly premium.
2. Dropping Collision Insurance
If you have an older car that no longer has an auto loan (and it’s value has significantly decreased), it may not make sense to hold onto collision insurance.
3. Exploring Discounts
If you hold multiple insurance policies with them (e.g. home insurance) or agree to a tracking program, you could qualify for a discounted rate.