Dispel Misconceptions about Auto Insurance

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auto insuranceWhen was the last time you actually read your auto insurance policy? Better yet, how much do you really know about your coverage?

Admittedly, it’s not a thrilling read. But it’s better to ensure that you have adequate coverage before you need it. Not knowing insurance fact from fiction can prevent you from purchasing the car you really want. Here, then, are eight myths about auto insurance, according to AAA and the Insurance Information Institute.

MYTH 1: People who drive red cars pay more for auto insurance.

“Insurance companies have no indication of color when determining a rate,” said Leah Hunger, director of insurance operations at Tidewater AAA, which covers the Norfolk region. Many factors determine the rate that you pay, but color is not one of them. So if you want a red car, buy it.

MYTH 2: Insurance costs rise as you get older.

There are many factors when it comes to car insurance, not merely age. If your insurance costs seem too high, ask your provider about a mature driver course discount. Many companies will reduce your rates upon completing the course.

MYTH 3: Your credit score has no effect on your insurance rate.

Actually, it does. It’s wrapped into an insurance score, which uses your credit score to measure your financial affairs. “I don’t know of a company out there that doesn’t do it,” said AAA’s Hunger. She says that improving your credit score can reduce your insurance rate, but you would have to ask your carrier for an insurance score review, as it’s not typically done upon renewal.

MYTH 4: Your insurance covers your car if it is stolen, vandalized or damaged by hail, flood or fire.

“In order to have coverage for these items, you must have physical damage and you must have comprehensive and collision,” said Hunger. Not opting for this coverage leaves you vulnerable to big repair bills, although it can be dropped if your car’s book value is minimal.

MYTH 5: The minimum amount of auto liability insurance required by law is all that you need.

“People who carry minimum of liability are asking for a lawsuit,” Hunger said. The minimum required in Virginia is $25,000 per person, or $50,000 per occurrence. But Hunger says that she knows of a case where a woman sustained $100,000 worth of injuries; the driver had $50,000 worth of liability and was sued. Typically, AAA’s average coverage is $100,000 of bodily injury protection per person and $350,000 per accident.

MYTH 6: If your friend borrows your car, his or her auto insurance covers them if they get in an accident.

“The insurance follows the vehicle,” said Hunger. “If you borrowed a friend’s vehicle, and you get into an accident, their insurance will pay for the damages.” This applies to personal insurance. Commercial insurance is different and depends on the policy.

MYTH 7: Soldiers pay more for insurance than civilians.

Actually, there are companies out there that offer discounts for people in the military, Hunger said. If one is available, you may have to submit documentation that lists your name, rank and the length of your enlistment. Some companies also offer discounts for veterans.

MYTH 8: Both personal and business use of your car is covered by your personal auto insurance policy.

“Nay,” says Hunger, who said that using your car for business without a business policy can leave you without coverage. She advises contacting your agent to ensure that you have the appropriate policy.

“All are very clearly myths,” said Hunger.

FACTORS THAT AFFECT YOUR AUTO INSURANCE RATE: Auto insurance premiums are based on make, model, body type, engine size, vehicle age, the car’s sticker price, the cost to repair it, its overall safety record, and the likelihood of theft. Your age, driving record and credit history also affect your rate.

Source: McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.