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Understanding Your Coverage

If you own a car, you'll probably pay tens of thousands of dollars for car insurance over your lifetime.

While much of that cost is unavoidable because insurance is required by law, you may be able to save a significant amount, as well as ensuring you have the right coverage for your needs, by understanding the three different components of an car insurance policy:

  • Liability
  • Collision and Comprehensive
  • Accident and Medical Benefits

Liability Coverage

Third-Party Liability Coverage

If you injure somebody or damage another vehicle with your car, liability coverage protects you from having to pay any related costs incurred by the other party if you are found to be liable. Your insurance company will cover you up to the maximum amount of your policy. It also usually covers other people who are driving your car, and may also cover you when driving another vehicle.

The provinces set out minimum levels of third-party liability required by drivers. These minimums are typically very low — often in the hundreds, or even tens of thousands of dollars. If you have a serious accident, this may be nowhere near the amount you may be liable for. A good rule of thumb is to have at least $1 million of coverage.

Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Liability

If somebody injures you or damages your car and is liable for the costs but doesn't have liability insurance, this coverage will allow you to collect for lost wages, as well as medical expenses related to the accident.

Collision and Comprehensive

There are two parts to this coverage that protects you financially if your car is damaged.

  1. Collision Insurance. This covers the cost of repairing your vehicle if it is in a collision.

    This is one of the areas where people often overpay for coverage. The most you can get under this part of your policy is the book value of your vehicle, even if it is a complete write-off. The book value means what you could get for it on the open market.

    As a result, if you're driving an old clunker worth a few hundred dollars, there may be no point in paying for this coverage.

  2. Comprehensive Coverage. As the name suggests, this covers you for the many perils that can befall your precious automobile other than those caused by a collision. These range from fire and theft right down to cracks in your windshield caused by flying stones.

    This is also an area where you can save significantly on your insurance bill. As long as you can afford it if your car is damaged, take a high deductible, say, $500. And if your car is soon going off to the scrap heap, you may want to skip this coverage completely.

Accident and Medical Benefits

This coverage will take care of any medical expenses (above and beyond what your provincial health plan covers) if you are injured in an accident. It will also give you a small disability income if you unable to work due to your injuries, plus pay out a small amount in case of death. This coverage is usually mandatory.

 

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