Minimum car insurance requirements vary from state to state. This means the car insurance coverages and limits that work for a friend or family member living elsewhere might not be right for you. NerdWallet has assembled minimum requirements by state so you can quickly and easily find how much car insurance you need to drive legally.
Check the table below for minimum coverage requirements in your state (then read on for more detail about each coverage type):
Understanding your required coverages
Liability insurance: Every state except New Hampshire requires at least a minimum amount of liability insurance. This coverage helps pay for any damage you cause to another driver, their passengers or any property, such as their car.
There are three components to car insurance liability coverage:
- Bodily injury coverage per person
- Bodily injury coverage per accident
- Property damage coverage per accident
These limits are usually expressed as a series of numbers, such as 15/30/10. Let’s say you collide with a van carrying several passengers. With those hypothetical limits, your liability coverage would pay up to $15,000 per person for bodily injuries caused to people in the van but no more than $30,000 in total bodily injury costs for the incident. You’d also be covered for up to $10,000 in property damage.
Most experts recommend carrying more than the minimum liability insurance coverage. If you were at fault in a bad accident, you could easily be on the hook for more than $30,000 in medical bills alone, not to mention potential damages in a lawsuit. Insurance agents typically recommend liability coverage of 100/300/50 for a “full coverage” policy. It’s also worth considering an umbrella policy for more protection if you have a high net worth and a lot of assets.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage: UM/UIM are required in almost half of states. These kick in to help with the cost of injuries to you or your passengers if you’re ever struck by a driver who doesn’t have enough, or any, car insurance. A few states also require uninsured/underinsured motorist property damage coverage to cover property damage in these cases. The minimum limits for UM/UIM are often similar or identical to your state’s liability insurance limits.
Personal injury protection: Roughly 20% of states require PIP, which covers medical expenses for the insured and their passengers if they’re in an accident, regardless of fault. PIP may also cover lost wages or other benefits that health insurance doesn’t. PIP is often associated with “no-fault” states, where each party is responsible for his or her own damages in an accident.
Medical Payments Coverage: Medical payments coverage, like PIP, goes toward your medical expenses if you’re injured in an accident. Unlike PIP, it doesn’t cover additional benefits, such as lost wages. Even though medical payments coverage usually has a low limit, it may be helpful for those with high health insurance deductibles. This coverage is required in Maine and Pennsylvania.
Exceptions to state minimum car insurance requirements
Not all states require drivers to have insurance. New Hampshire famously doesn’t mandate insurance for most of its drivers; only those who have been convicted of certain vehicle-related crimes, such as drunken driving, have to carry it. Other states provide (often unpublicized) alternatives, including:
- Proof of financial responsibility: Some states, like Arizona, allow drivers to provide a bond, certificate of deposit or cash to the department of motor vehicles in place of the state minimum car insurance. The payment amount varies widely from state to state and can be as little as $30,000 or more than $100,000.
- Uninsured motorist registration: In places such as Virginia, residents with clean records have the option to register as uninsured motorists for an annual fee. To be clear, this doesn’t replace car insurance. It simply lets drivers operate a vehicle without coverage. And although this option costs less than auto insurance, it leaves drivers with no coverage whatsoever in an accident.
For most drivers, it’s simply easier to meet the state minimum car insurance requirements than to deal with alternative insurance — and it’s certainly less risky.
While meeting state minimum car insurance requirements is important, you don’t have to stop there. In fact, the bare minimum won’t be enough in most cases. For example, no state requires collision and comprehensive coverage. Yet these are two common add-ons many drivers rely on to help with car thefts, animal collisions and more.
In fact, if you lease your car or have borrowed money to buy it, your lender probably will require you to buy collision and comprehensive coverage.
There are many additional optional coverages available, such as rental reimbursement, which pays for a rental car if your car is in the shop after a covered claim, roadside assistance or towing insurance and full-glass coverage, which pays to repair or replace broken window glass, without a deductible.
By shopping around, you can afford more than the minimum required insurance without breaking the bank.
Alex Glenn is a staff writer for NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.