California is a pure comparative negligence state. This means that if a party is found to be at least 1% at-fault for an accident, they could be responsible for paying some or all of the medical bills or repairs for the other party. It is not only crucial that anyone living in California is covered by auto insurance, it's required by law. Like most states, California mandates that all vehicles registered in the state are covered by a minimum amount of insurance, but the minimum isn't always enough. If you are wondering how much coverage you need in California, here's a quick guide to help you make a more informed insurance decision.
California Minimum Car Insurance Coverage
Under California law, you are required to have two types of liability coverage with minimum coverage limits:
Bodily Injury Liability Coverage - The minimum limits for Bodily Injury coverage are $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident.
Property Damage Liability Coverage - The minimum limit for Property Damage coverage is $5,000 per accident.
The California minimum car insurance requirement is often not enough coverage to fully protect you or your assets if you are found to be at fault in an accident.
Is Minimum Liability Coverage Right for You?
If you are new to the state, it might seem tempting to opt for only the required California minimum car insurance coverage. While it might save you money up front, it generally is not enough to pay for serious medical bills or to replace a newer model car.
Deciding on Your Level of Liability Coverage
The simple answer to the question "How much liability coverage should I buy?" is "as much as you can afford." You really can't go wrong with more liability coverage. If you are found to be at fault in a serious accident, the medical bills can be astronomically expensive. A robust policy will give you the peace of mind of knowing that your savings and assets are protected.
Most financial experts recommend raising your liability to $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident if you have few assets. If you have a decent amount of savings and assets, experts recommend bumping your coverage up to at least $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident.
Considering Additional Types of Coverage
Liability insurance will protect you if you are at fault in a crash and would then be required to pay for another person's medical bills and/or repairs. What if you are also injured in an accident you caused, or if you are hit by a driver who does not have sufficient insurance to pay for your injuries and damages? These situations call for additional insurance policies. Here is a breakdown of additional coverage options:
Collision Coverage - This pays for damages to your vehicle if you are involved in an accident with another car or an object, regardless of who is at fault.
Comprehensive Coverage - This coverage pays for damage to your vehicle that is not caused by a collision (e.g. fire, theft, or vandalism).
How Much Collision or Comprehensive Coverage Do You Need? The maximum coverage limit is typically based on the actual cash value of your car at the time of the accident, so you're not really choosing a coverage amount. Collision or Comprehensive coverage is recommended if you own a vehicle that would be too expensive for you to repair or replace out-of-pocket, and both coverages are typically required if you finance or lease your car.
A better question may be, "What deductible should I have?" Your deductible is the amount you would have to pay first before the Collision and Comprehensive coverage steps in to pay the rest. Deductibles typically range from $100 to upwards of $2,000 and the higher your deductible, the lower your premium. While it may be tempting to choose a higher deductible to save a few bucks on your insurance bill, keep in mind that when an accident happens you'll have to pay that high deductible out-of-pocket.
Medical Payments Coverage - This type of coverage (commonly called MedPay) pays for your medical bills and the medical bills of any of your passengers, regardless of who is at fault.
How Much MedPay Coverage Do You Need? It all depends on your financial situation and health insurance. If you don't have health insurance or have a higher deductible on your health insurance, you might want to consider purchasing Medical Payments coverage with high limits. Otherwise, you might consider getting just a few thousand dollars' worth of MedPay Coverage to help cover your health insurance deductible and pay for things like X-rays and other tests.
Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury (UMBI)
UMBI can pay for injuries to yourself and others on your policy that result from an accident caused by an uninsured driver (someone without any Bodily Injury liability coverage), or an underinsured driver (someone who has Bodily Injury liability coverage, but they've chosen limits that are not enough to cover all of your injuries). In addition to covering medical bills, UMBI may also cover lost income or other general damages.
How Much Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury Coverage Do You Need? It's recommended that your UMBI limits be the same as your own Bodily Injury Liability limits. For example, if your Bodily Injury Liability limits are $100,000 per person, $300,000 per accident, your safest bet is to select UMBI limits at $100,000 per person, $300,000 per accident. The thought goes: you should protect yourself for the same amount that you're willing to protect others.
Uninsured Motorist Property Damage (UMPD)
UMPD can pay for damage to your car caused by an uninsured driver only if the driver can be identified and confirmed as to having no insurance whatsoever. This coverage can only pay up to a maximum of $3,500 towards the repair or replacement of your vehicle, regardless of how much the total repairs cost or what the car is worth.
How Much Uninsured Motorist Property Damage Coverage Do You Need? It's not recommended on more expensive cars but could be a cost-saving alternative to Collision coverage for a more aged, lower-value vehicle.
Uninsured Motorist Collision Deductible Waiver (UMC)
UMC can waive your Collision deductible if the accident is caused by an identified and uninsured motorist. This is a great coverage to pair with your Collision coverage since most people don't want to have to pay their deductible after being crashed into by someone else AND that person didn't have insurance!
Rental Expense Coverage
If you have an accident and your vehicle's in the shop, you'll still need a way to get around. Rental Expense coverage can pay for a replacement vehicle while yours is in the shop for a Collision or Comprehensive claim.
How Much Rental Expense Coverage Do You Need? That depends on the type and class of rental car you'd like to drive while yours is in the shop. If you have a mid-size SUV with 2 children that you drive to soccer practice etc., a higher limit like $50 per day, $1,500 per loss, can help pay for a larger rental which would be more comparable to what you usually drive.
This coverage can help pay for a jumpstart, lockout service, or any number of other roadside services which will help you get back on the road quicker. If you wouldn't feel comfortable changing a flat tire on the side of the road or flagging down a stranger with jumper cables, Roadside Assistance coverage can give you that peace of mind.
When it comes to deciding how much auto insurance to purchase, your best bet is to opt for as much coverage as possible within your personal financial restrictions. The more coverage you have, the less you'll have to worry about severe financial setbacks resulting from an accident. For more information, contact a Wawanesa Insurance professional to find out what California car insurance coverage is right for you. Looking for better coverage with lower rates? Get a free quote today to see how Wawanesa Insurance can help.