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Minimum car insurance requirements

Read the Spanish version: Requisitos mínimos del seguro automotor

Most states require you have car insurance and have laws that outline the minimum level of coverage you must buy. The state required car insurance coverage differs greatly from state to state. All state mandates include liability coverage, but limits vary, and then some states require medical coverages for you and your occupants or uninsured motorist coverage. So what may be right for you in one state can change if you move states.

How to read auto insurance liability limits

Liability auto insurance has two parts. The first is bodily injury and the second is property damage. Bodily injury pays for the medical expenses of those you harmed in an auto accident, up to your limits. Property damage covers the damage you caused to another vehicle or to other property, such as a fence, in an auto accident, again up to your limits. Liability coverage does NOT cover your injuries or your vehicle, only those outside your vehicle whom you caused damages to.

Here's how to read auto insurance liability minimum limits:

  1. First number: Bodily injury liability maximum for one person injured in an accident.
  2. Second number: Bodily injury liability maximum for all injuries in one accident.
  3. Third number: Property damage liability maximum for one accident.

For example, if you live in New York, the minimum liability limits are $25,000 for injury liability for one person, $50,000 for all injuries and $10,000 for property damage in an accident (written as 25/50/10). Plus, New York requires you to have personal injury protection (PIP) and uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage (UM).

Keep in mind that state requirements are the lowest limits you can carry and may not necessarily be adequate. A car accident can cost far more than the limits mandated by most states as medical expenses have skyrocketed and the value of vehicles have gone up. Insure.com's consumer analyst, Penny Gusner, recommends you carry at least $100,000 of bodily injury protection per person and $300,000 per accident and $100,000 of property damage liability (100/300/100). Higher liability limits offer better protection and doesn't cost that much more, so if you can afford it, raise up your limits.

UM, what?  Car insurance coverages abbreviations

Here's your guide to the car insurance acronyms in the chart below that lists the minimum car insurance coverages in each state. New Hampshire does not mandate car insurance in its laws, but instead requires you provide financial responsibility if you cause an accident. The easiest way to provide this is with a car insurance policy.

Many states just required liability coverages, so you have a way to cover damages you cause others, but some require a variety of other coverages.  Here is your cheat sheet for the abbreviations used in our chart for various coverages.

  • UM = Uninsured motorist coverage.
  • UIM = Underinsured motorist coverage.
  • UM BI: Uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage.
  • UMPD: Uninsured motorist property damage coverage.
  • BI liability: Bodily injury liability.
  • PIP: Personal injury protection.
  • PPI: Property protection insurance (Michigan).

StateMinimum car insurance limits
AlabamaLiability: 25/50/25
AlaskaLiability: 50/100/25
ArizonaLiability: 15/30/10
ArkansasLiability: 25/50/25
CaliforniaLiability: 15/30/5
ColoradoLiability: 25/50/15
ConnecticutLiability: 25/50/25
UM/UIM BI: 20/40
DelawareLiability: 25/50/10
PIP: 15/30
District of ColumbiaLiability: 25/50/10
UM BI: 25/50
UMPD: $5,000
FloridaLiability: 10/20/10
PIP: $10,000
BI liability not required by Florida but many carriers require 10/20
GeorgiaLiability: 25/50/25
HawaiiLiability: 20/40/10
PIP or PPO: $10,000
IdahoLiability: 25/50/15
IllinoisLiability: 25/50/20
UM BI: 25/50
IndianaLiability: 25/50/25
IowaLiability: 20/40/15
KansasLiability: 25/50/25
UM/UIM BI: 25/50
PIP: $4,500 medical/$900 work loss
KentuckyLiability: 25/50/25
PIP: $10,000
LouisianaLiability: 15/30/25
MaineLiability: 50/100/25
UM/UIM BI: 50/100
Medical payments: $2,000
MarylandLiability: 30/60/15
UM/UIM BI: 30/60
UMPD: $15,000
PIP $2,500
MassachusettsLiability: 20/40/5
UM/UIM BI: 20/40
PIP: $8,000
MichiganLiability: 20/40/10
PIP: Medical and work loss
PPI: $1,000,000
MinnesotaLiability: 30/60/10
UM/UIM BI: 25/50
PIP: $40,000
MississippiLiability: 25/50/25
MissouriLiability: 25/50/10
UM BI: 25/50
MontanaLiability: 25/50/20
NebraskaLiability: 25/50/25
UM/UIM BI: 25/50
NevadaLiability: 25/50/20
New Hampshire*Liability: 25/50/25
UM/UIM BI: 25/50
Medical payments: $1,000
*Insurance not mandatory in New Hampshire
New JerseyLiability: 15/30/5 (standard policy)
UM/UIM BI: 15/30
UMPD: $5,000
PIP: $15,000
New MexicoLiability: 25/50/10
New YorkLiability: 25/50/10
UM BI: 25/50
PIP: $50,000
North CarolinaLiability: 30/60/25
UM BI: 30/60
UMPD: $25,000
North DakotaLiability: 25/50/25
UM/UIM BI: 25/50
PIP: $30,000
OhioLiability: 25/50/25
OklahomaLiability: 25/50/25
OregonLiability: 25/50/20
UM BI: 25/50
PIP: $15,000
PennsylvaniaLiability: 15/30/5
First party benefits (PIP): $5,000
Rhode IslandLiability: 25/50/25
South CarolinaLiability: 25/50/25
UM BI: 25/50
UMPD: $25,000
South DakotaLiability: 25/50/25
UM/UIM BI: 25/50
TennesseeLiability: 25/50/15
TexasLiability: 30/60/25
UtahLiability: 25/65/15
PIP: $3,000
VermontLiability: 25/50/10
UM/UIM BI: 50/100
UMPD: $10,000
VirginiaLiability: 25/50/20
UM/UIM BI: 25/50
UMPD: $20,000
WashingtonLiability: 25/50/10
West VirginiaLiability: 25/50/25
UM BI: 25/50
UMPD: $25,000
WisconsinLiability: 25/50/10
UM BI: 25/50
WyomingLiability: 25/50/20

Source: Property Casualty Insurers Association of America and Insurance Information Institute; state departments of insurance and motor vehicles.

* New Hampshire doesn't require car insurance, but you must be able to show proof of financial responsibility if you're in an accident.

 

Beyond liability -- other car insurance coverages to know

Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage

A total of 21 states, plus the District of Columbia, require either uninsured motorist (UM) bodily injury coverage by itself or both UM coverage and underinsured motorist bodily injury (UIM) coverage. 

Uninsured motorist bodily injury covers medical expenses if you or your passengers are injured by an uninsured driver. Underinsured motorist is triggered when the at-fault party is insured but his insurance limits are too low to pay all of your medical bills.

Uninsured motorist property damage (UMPD) covers damage your car received from an accident with an at-fault uninsured driver.  UMPD is required in only eight states.

What is no-fault car insurance?

If your state has a "no-fault" auto insurance law, your auto insurance policy must pay medical bills for you and your passengers regardless of who caused the accident. No-fault laws are intended to keep insurance fraud down and injuries to be tended to quicker because you can use your own insurer to make the claims.

Your no-fault coverage -- which is your personal injury protection (PIP) -- may come with a copayment and/or deductible.  No-fault coverage applies only to bodily injury claims.PIP typically comes with additional benefits, such as covering lost wages and loss of essential services. It does not pay for pain and suffering.

PIP is supposed to help keep premiums down by taking away the ability of their citizens to sue one another for pain and suffering after a car accident. Puerto Rico (a U.S. territory) and 12 states have "no-fault" laws:

  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Pennsylvania
  • Utah

While no-fault may sound like there is no fault in accidents that is not the case. If you also have car damage, you would make a claim for the damage against the at-fault party’s property damage liability coverage. PIP and no-fault only covers the injuries sustained in the accident.

What is medical payments?

Similar to PIP is medical payments, sometimes referred to as MedPay, which covers medical expenses for you (the driver) and your passengers if you are in an accident, regardless of fault. MedPay does not cover lost wages or other extra benefits that PIP does. It only covers reasonable and necessary medical expenses. It also does not cover pain and suffering.

Property Protection Insurance - it's a Michigan thing

Property protection insurance (PPI) is a mandatory coverage specific to Michigan. The coverage provides you up to $1 million in protection for unintentional damage you may cause to buildings, fences, poles, other inanimate objects and legally parked cars. It does not cover your own vehicles, fence or other property, just those of others you may have harmed. Michigan has high car insurance rates due to unique PPI and PIP coverages. However, changes in Michigan's car insurance law that go into effect in July 2020, where drivers here have more choices of what coverages to have on their policy, brings hope that Michigan drivers will start to see lower rates.

Optional car insurance coverages

No state requires you to cover your vehicle for damages. If you want protection for your vehicle you need to add collision and comprehensive coverage to your car insurance policy. if your car is in an accident or if upset it (flip or roll it), you are covered by collision, regardless of fault. Comprehensive covers your vehicle for fire, theft, vandalism, striking an animal and damage from severe weather. And, while states do not mandate you carrying these coverages, if you have a lease or loan on your vehicle your finance company can require you to have them on your policy. A car with at least state coverages plus comp and collision is referred to as having "full coverage."

There are other types of car insurance as well, such as gap insurance for a new car, so be sure to know what you need when getting your policy to make certain you have the best protection that your budget will allow.

Auto insurance liability across state lines

If you hold the minimum automobile insurance required in your state and are involved in an accident in another state that requires higher minimum coverages or other coverage (such as personal injury protection), typically your policy will automatically increase to meet that state's minimum coverage requirements.

For example, if you're a Connecticut driver (where minimum liability coverage is $20,000 of bodily injury protection per person, $40,000 of bodily injury protection per accident and $10,000 of property damage per accident, referred to as 20/40/10) and are involved in an accident in New York (which requires 25/50/10 of liability coverage), your auto insurance will automatically extend to meet New York's requirements. This boost can be helpful, especially when you cause a large amount of property damage.

No-fault states have it set up so that your car insurance must pay for bodily injury damages (through PIP) no matter who's at fault in an accident. However, these same states allow their citizens to litigate against folks from other states after a car accident.

For example, you are limited in your ability to sue for damages if you live in Pennsylvania. When buying your auto coverage you have two choices of liability: "full tort" or "limited tort." If you choose "limited tort," you will pay less in premiums but you won't be able to sue another Pennsylvanian for pain and suffering unless you're seriously injured and your medical bills exceed a specified minimum amount. What constitutes a serious injury is outlined in your car insurance policy. If you choose full tort, your premiums will be more but you will be able to sue no matter the amount of your damages.

Throw out the rulebook if someone from another state crashes into you. Even if you have Pennsylvania "limited tort," you'll be able seek compensation for pain and suffering in the court system if someone from outside Pennsylvania crashes into you.

No matter what state you live in, the best way to get cheap car insurance rates is to shop around with multiple insurers. Before shopping, it's wise to find out what companies have the best reviews. Visit Insure.com's annual ranking of the best car insurance companies to shop for the best pricing on your required insurance coverage and see real consumer reviews of their current insurance provider.

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