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Understanding car insurance coverages

Bodily injury. Collision. Liability. Um, WHAT? Auto insurance coverages can be … confusing. Yet it's important to know what covers what.

To help you feel confident about your car insurance, we've translated complicated insurance lingo into easy-to-understand descriptions. See how Esurance can protect you, your car, and your wallet.

How coverages work

Basic car insurance coverages typically fall into three categories:

  • Coverages that protect your car (of course)
  • Coverages that protect you and your passengers (medical)
  • Coverages that protect your wallet (liability)

Some are required. Some are optional. All are extremely important to consider.

Coverages that protect your car

When your car's out of commission, it can feel like your whole life is out of commission. The following "car coverages" are designed to help you get back on the road — and back to normal — as quickly as possible.

Collision covers your car for collisions. Like you rear-end someone, slide into a tree, or run into a fence. If you accidentally hit another car or object or another car accidentally runs into you, your car's covered by collision.

More on comprehensive and collision

Comprehensive covers your car for the stuff that's not a "collision." Like a tree falling on your car. Or hail. Your car catching on fire. Running into an animal. Your car getting stolen. It basically covers the crazy stuff that you never really expect to happen … but still does. For this reason, it's sometimes called "other than collision."

Emergency roadside assistance, sometimes called towing and labor coverage, is there to help when you're stranded. Broken down? We'll tow you. Blown tire? We'll put your spare on. Ran out of gas? We'll bring you some. Emergency roadside assistance covers up to $75 per incident to help you get rolling again.

More on emergency roadside coverage

This coverage reimburses you for the cost of your rental car if your insured vehicle is in the shop or is unavailable due to an accident. You need to have comprehensive and collision on your policy in order to add rental car coverage. In certain states, Esurance offers CarMatch Rental Coverage®, which covers the rental cost of a vehicle comparable in size and body type to your regular ride.

More on rental car coverage

Simply put, loan/lease gap coverage is insurance that helps you pay off your loan or lease if your car is totaled and you owe more than it's worth. If you decide on this coverage, it'll pay up to 25% more than your car's actual cash value to help you take care of your loan or lease.

So let's say you're in an accident and your car's a total loss. Your insurance company values it at $20,000 but you still owe $25,000 on your loan. Your comprehensive or collision would pay the car's $20,000 value, minus your deductible. Loan/lease gap coverage would then cover the extra $5,000 you need to pay off your lender. Without it, you may have to pay that $5,000 out of pocket. Ouch.

More on insurance for your loaned or leased car

Coverages that protect you & your passengers

Medical coverages can help pay for … well, medical expenses for you and your passengers after a covered accident. And medical expenses can be … expensive.

Medical payments coverage (or, as some call it, med pay) is there to pay medical bills for you and the passengers in your car if you're injured in an accident. It doesn't matter whether or not you're at fault for the accident.

Say it's your turn to drive your work carpool or take the kids to baseball practice. You have an accident and there are injuries. Medical payments coverage — within your selected limits — can help make sure you (and your passengers) are covered for the resulting medical bills. Think things like doctor visits, hospital bills — even dental care.

More on medical payments coverage

Personal injury protection (often called PIP) covers your medical expenses, regardless of who was at fault for an accident. In some states it's called "no fault" coverage, because it could help cover your treatment, even if you're at fault or there were no other drivers involved.

Say you slide into a tree in slick conditions and break your leg. PIP covers things like ambulance bills, emergency room charges, follow-up medical visits, lost wages, prescriptions, and transit to and from your appointments.

In some states, your PIP will kick in before your health insurance to cover your accident-related injuries.

PIP is required in the following states: FL, KS, KY, MD, MA, MI, MN, NJ, NY, ND, OR, PA, and UT.

PIP is optional in TX and WA.

PIP is complicated to say the least, and requirements vary by state. But rest assured – when you get a quote, we'll only show you the limits that are available where you live.

More on PIP coverage

Coverages that protect your wallet

Liability can help pay for damaged property, medical care, and lost wages for other drivers and passengers if you're found at fault in an accident.

Each state sets its own minimum limits that drivers must have on their car insurance policies. These minimums are typically expressed in a 3-tier system: 25/50/15, for example. Here's what these numbers mean:

  • 25: The max amount (in thousands) the insurance company will pay toward injury-related expenses per person
  • 50: The max amount the insurance company will pay toward injury-related expenses per incident
  • 15: The max amount the insurance company will pay for property damage for each incident

This might seem confusing but don't worry. When you buy your policy, you won't be able to select limits below your state's legal requirements. You can always set limits that are higher.

Say you rear end another car at a stop light. The other driver's injured. You're held responsible for their damages, like treatment, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Do you want to foot those bills? Probably not. That's exactly why you have bodily injury coverage. Simply put, it'll help pay these costs if you're at fault for injuring someone in an accident. If you drive, you need this protection. In fact, just about every state requires it.

More on bodily injury coverage

Let's say you hit another car. Or you skid into someone else's fence. Or house. Whatever it is, if you cause damage to someone else's property (including their car) while driving, you're on the hook for fixing it. That's where property damage coverage comes in. It'll cover the cost of repairing someone else's stuff, up to the limit you choose.

More on property damage coverage

Imagine you've been in an accident with an uninsured driver. You're injured and have to take time off work. Uninsured motorist bodily injury (or UMBI, if you don't want to say all that) is designed to cover you and the people in your car for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering if you're in an accident with someone who doesn't have insurance (and it's their fault).

More on uninsured/underinsured motorist bodily injury liability

Say you're injured in an accident with a driver who doesn't have enough insurance. It's their fault. Underinsured motorist bodily injury (or UIMBI) can step in to help with medical bills and expenses (for you and the people in your car) beyond what that driver's insurance covers.

More on uninsured/underinsured motorist bodily injury liability

Uninsured motorist property damage (UMPD) and underinsured motorist property damage (UIMPD) are designed to protect your car if someone hits you and doesn't have insurance or enough insurance.

Say another driver causes a 3-car accident. The damage is significant, and the responsible driver is uninsured (or their insurance is used up quickly). These coverages could then step in to help cover the remaining repairs, up to the limits you choose.

They could also help to cover your collision deductible, rental car costs, or other out-of-pocket expenses you might have.

More on uninsured/underinsured motorist property damage

Get a quote to see how surprisingly painless insurance can be

or call 1-800-378-7262

Or speak with a licensed agent at 1-800-378-7262.