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Car insurance (or auto insurance, motor insurance) is insurance consumers can purchase for cars, trucks, and other vehicles. Its primary use is to provide protection against losses incurred as a result of car accidents.
By buying car insurance, depending on the type of coverage purchased, the consumer may be protected against:
Liability insurance covers only the last point, while comprehensive insurance covers all three. Even comprehensive insurance, however, doesn't fully cover the risk associated with buying a new car. Due to the sharp decline in value immediately following purchase, there is generally a period in which the remaining car payments exceed the compensation the insurer will pay for a "totaled" (destroyed, or written-off) vehicle. So-called GAP insurance was established in the early 1980's to provide protection to consumers based upon buying and market trends. The escalating price of cars, extended term auto loans, and the increasing popularity of leasing gave birth to GAP protection. GAP waivers provide protection for consumers when a "gap" exists between the actual value of their vehicle and the amount of money owed to the bank or leasing company. In some countries including New Zealand and Australia market structures mean that people are more likely to buy a nearly new car than a new car so this is less of a problem.
In the United States, liability car insurance covers claims against the policy holder and generally, any other operator of the insured's car, provided they do not live at the same address as the policy holder and are not specifically excluded on the policy. In the case of those living at the same address, they must specifically be covered on the policy. Thus it is necessary for example, when a family member comes of driving age they must be added on to the car insurance policy. Liability insurance generally does not protect the policy holder if they operate any vehicles other than their own. When you drive a vehicle owned by another party, you are covered under that party's policy. Non-owners policies may be offered that would cover an insured on any vehicle they drive. This coverage is available only to those who do not own their own vehicle.
Generally, liability coverage does extend when you rent a car. However, in most cases only liability applies. Any additional coverage, such as comprehensive policies, i.e. "full coverage" may not apply. Full coverage premiums are based on, among other factors, the value of the insured's car. This coverage may not apply to rental cars because the insurance company does not want to assume responsibility for a claim greater than the value of the insured's vehicle, assuming that a rental car may be worth more than the insured's vehicle. Most rental car companies offer insurance to cover damage to the rental vehicle. These policies may be unnecessary for many customers as credit card companies, such as Visa and Mastercard , now provide supplemental collision damage coverage to rental cars if the transaction is processed using one of their cards. These benefits are restrictive in terms of the types of vehicles covered.
In some regions, the costs associated with not having access to the vehicle ("Loss of Use") is also covered.
In many countries it is compulsory to purchase auto insurance before driving on public roads. This is to protect third parties against the financial consequences of loss, damage or injury caused by a vehicle. Typically, coverage against loss of or damage to the driver's own vehicle is optional - one notable exception to this is in Saskatchewan , where SGI provides collision coverage (less a $700 deductible ) as part of its basic insurance policy. In South Australia Third Party Personal insurance from the State Government Insurance Corporation (SGIC) is included in the license registration fee. Most countries relate insurance to both the car and the driver, however the degree of each varies greatly.
Except for government-mandated liability insurance, most car insurance plans charge a premium based on several risk factors that are likely to have an impact on the frequency of occurrence or on the expected cost of future claims. The premium usually depends on the car characteristics, the coverage selected (deductible, limit, covered perils), the usage of the car (commute to work or not, predicted annual distance driven), driving history, as well as the age and sex of the driver.
For mandatory liability insurance, in some countries risk factors are taken into account (giving varying prices) and in others a fixed rate is charged regardless of the individual circumstances.
Car insurance plans routinely charge a flat per-car/per-year price regardless of how much the car is used. Since a time unit provides no actual measurement of the actual miles of driving exposure each car consumes during the insured year, insurers have no credible statistical basis for the cost comparisons used to support price classifications.
As a sales enhancement, many car insurers offer a "low estimated future mileage" discount to customers who predict that the car's mileage will be below some stated limit during the next premium period. There is no verification involved and no additional charge if the car is subsequently driven more than the stated amount. This arbitrary discount tends to foster customer belief in the mistaken idea that "miles" are just one of many classification factors used to raise or lower prices from the territorial base rate. In fact, odometer miles (which insurers do not use) are not a factor but a metric - the only valid basis for measuring each car's consumption of insurance protection in on-the-road use.
When obtaining car insurance, here are some great tips. Policies are priced differently, according to the level of risk each driver poses. Insurance companies group drivers into categories based on the loss incurred by the insurer:
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