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This brief article is intended as an introduction and overview of phrases and terminology commonly heard while searching for automobile insurance. It will summarize a variety of terms and phrases you will hear when shopping for auto insurance coverage, or when adding auto insurance to an existing homeowners policy. While we have tried to be thorough and accurate in providing the information below, please note this is not intended to replace your own research, or the advice of a trusted insurance professional.


Automotive liability insurance (or liability coverage) is designed to cover the damages you do to other vehicles, property, or individuals in an accident. Liability coverage is mandatory in all 50 states within the US, though the amount that you must carry varies by location.


Comprehensive and collision coverage is the form of insurance that is designed to protect you in case of damage to your vehicle from a collision or other covered claim. Generally speaking, it will pay for repairs to your vehicle in accidents where you are at fault (as the other driver's liability insurance will typically pay for your vehicle if he/she is at fault) or in incidents where your vehicle is damaged by a covered event. For example, if a thunderstorm uproots a tree which falls onto your hood causing damage, the "Comprehensive" section of your Comprehensive and Collision policy will usually cover this claim. Make sure to carefully read the permitted claims and exceptions within the policy as not all insurance policies provide coverage for the same events.)


This type of coverage is also very common and is designed to provide you with the resources necessary to repair your vehicle and obtain the funds necessary to get back on the road when you are involved in an accident with a motorist who has no insurance or an inadequate amount of an insurance to cover the damage caused. As with comprehensive and collision insurance discussed above, please consult the policy for specific limitations to the coverage offered by each policy you are considering.


This type of coverage is designed to provide you with a regular source of income, or a small regular stipend, in the event a covered incident renders you unable to work. Coverage terms, allowances, and durations vary greatly within this form of coverage so make sure to carefully review the limits and exclusions within the insurance policies you are considering.


This form of coverage offers you the benefit of providing medical insurance coverage for yourself, and the individuals within your vehicle, regardless of who was at fault in an accident.


This option typically allows you to pay a small additional fee each month with your overall auto insurance package to have the ability to receive a rental car free of charge, or at a substantially reduced rate following an accident. Typical coverage will allocate a set daily fee that can be applied to a rental car while your vehicle is being repaired or replaced. Be careful to read the details carefully as many policies do not cover amounts over the limit so you may be responsible for taxes or other fees if your costs exceed the amount allocated. Additionally, many insurance companies will not pay for the damage waiver or additional "insurance" sold by rental car locations so even if your total is below the daily limit, if some portion of the total is for "insurance" and not the actual car being rented, you may find yourself footing the bill. (Same goes for the gas refill fees, etc... that are not specifically part of the vehicle being rented)


While the above are likely to be the most common terms you hear while seeking auto insurance coverage for your vehicle, there are many other varieties of coverage and options to protect your investment available. Some terms you may hear or come across include:

- Antique Vehicle Automotive Insurance - A type of insurance designed specifically to cover antique and collector's cars over a certain age. Many of these policies have a yearly mileage limit attached and are intended only for vehicles that are show cars or rarely driven

- Audio/Video Equipment Insurance - As digital media increases our reliance on technology more and more vehicles are being equipped with high-end audio and video equipment including GPS, DVDs, LCD display panels, and more. If you have expensive audio or video equipment in your vehicle you may need an additional policy to cover it in the event of an accident or theft. Consult your insurance provider for details.

- Modified Vehicle Insurance Coverage - In instances where you have substantially modified your vehicle from stock, perhaps by adding a lift kit complete with new suspension and oversized wheels and tires, you may need to purchase a policy that includes coverage for these additional aftermarket items. Again, this is a good situation in which to consult your insurance professional.

- Roadside Assistance and Tow Policy - This policy or addition is similar to the rental car replacement coverage mentioned above. It is usually offered for a flat monthly fee and provides a certain number of assistance calls you can make to receive assistance when your car becomes inoperable on the road. Typical policies will provide you with a gallon of gas if you run out, assistance changing a flat, a tow to the nearest service center, and a variety of additional minor repairs. Consult the policy documentation for specifics.


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