Minimum Liability Car Insurance by State

an older vehicle with only minimum liability car insurance

Basic auto insurance. Liability-only. State minimum coverage. Minimum liability car insurance. Bare-bones care insurance. It may go by different names, but minimum auto insurance generally does one thing: Help you stay legal on the road! There are many ways to find cheap auto insurance rates, and minimum auto insurance is one of them. 

However, before you purchase minimum auto insurance, it's critical to understand what coverages you're getting – and more importantly, what coverages you aren't getting. 

Keep reading to learn about the benefits of minimum auto insurance, the differences between liability-only and so-called "full coverage," and whether liability-only coverage could be a good fit for you.

What Is Minimum Liability Car Insurance?

Liability insurance meaning: In most states, minimum liability auto insurance coverage is the most basic level of auto insurance you can buy for your vehicle. Every state has its own financial responsibility or car insurance laws that mandate what you must carry to drive legally. You can often find cheap insurance that will help you meet your state's minimum requirements and keep you legally covered on the road. 

Sticking to liability-only car insurance is one way to keep your insurance costs low, but it's not an option for every driver. For instance, if you're leasing or financing your vehicle, you may be required to carry coverage that goes beyond minimum liability insurance. Also, keep in mind that if you have liability-only coverage and you're in an accident, or if your car is vandalized or stolen, you'll have to pay for your vehicle to be repaired or replaced. As we explain below, liability insurance coverage doesn't pay for damages to your car. 

What Does Liability Insurance Cover?

"Liability car insurance" usually refers to bodily injury liability (BIL) and property damage liability (PDL). However, it might just include property damage liability if you live in a no-fault state.

Liability insurance helps pay for damages that result from an auto accident you cause, including the other person's medical expenses, property damage, lost wages, etc. Liability insurance coverage offers no protection for your own medical bills or vehicle repairs.

Again, the amount of required basic liability car insurance varies by state.

Minimum Car Insurance Requirements by State

Wondering what insurance requirements look like where you live? Check out the chart below to see how much coverage you must carry in states where Direct Auto produces policies and is working to offer coverage. It’s worth noting that there may be additional coverages included by default on your policy unless you reject them in writing. You might also find that some states have higher default limits, but you can choose coverage that only meets minimum requirements if you’re eligible.

State

Minimum Coverage Requirements

Alabama

· $25,000 bodily injury liability coverage (1 person) per accident

· $50,000 bodily injury liability coverage (2+ people) per accident

· $25,000 property damage liability coverage

Arkansas

· $25,000 bodily injury liability coverage (1 person) per accident

· $50,000 bodily injury liability coverage (2+ people) per accident

· $25,000 property damage liability coverage

California

· $15,000 bodily injury liability coverage (1 person) per accident

· $30,000 bodily injury liability coverage (2+ people) per accident

· $5,000 property damage liability coverage

Delaware

· $25,000 bodily injury liability coverage (1 person) per accident

· $50,000 bodily injury liability coverage (2+ people) per accident

· $10,000 property damage liability coverage

· $15,000 PIP coverage per person

· $30,000 PIP coverage per accident

Florida

· $10,000 property damage liability coverage

· $10,000 PIP coverage per person

Georgia

· $25,000 bodily injury liability coverage (1 person) per accident

· $50,000 bodily injury liability coverage (2+ people) per accident

· $25,000 property damage liability coverage

Illinois

· $25,000 bodily injury liability coverage (1 person) per accident

· $50,000 bodily injury liability coverage (2+ people) per accident

· $20,000 property damage liability coverage

· $25,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage per person

· $50,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage per accident

Louisiana

· $15,000 bodily injury liability coverage (1 person) per accident

· $30,000 bodily injury liability coverage (2+ people) per accident

· $25,000 property damage liability coverage

Maryland

· $30,000 bodily injury liability coverage (1 person) per accident

· $60,000 bodily injury liability coverage (2+ people) per accident

· $15,000 property damage liability coverage

· $30,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage per person

· $60,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage per accident

· $15,000 uninsured motorist property damage coverage

Michigan

· $50,000 bodily injury liability coverage (1 person) per accident

· $100,000 bodily injury liability coverage (2+ people) per accident

· $10,000 property damage liability coverage

· $1 million in property protection insurance

· PIP AE Medical at a level you’re eligible to choose

Mississippi

· $25,000 bodily injury liability coverage (1 person) per accident

· $50,000 bodily injury liability coverage (2+ people) per accident

· $25,000 property damage liability coverage

Missouri

· $25,000 bodily injury liability coverage (1 person) per accident

· $50,000 bodily injury liability coverage (2+ people) per accident

· $25,000 property damage liability coverage

· $25,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage per person

· $50,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage per accident

North Carolina

· $30,000 bodily injury liability coverage (1 person) per accident

· $60,000 bodily injury liability coverage (2+ people) per accident

· $25,000 property damage liability coverage

· $30,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage per person

· $60,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage per accident

· $25,000 uninsured motorist property damage coverage

Ohio

· $25,000 bodily injury liability coverage (1 person) per accident

· $50,000 bodily injury liability coverage (2+ people) per accident

· $25,000 property damage liability coverage

Pennsylvania

· $15,000 bodily injury liability coverage (1 person) per accident

· $30,000 bodily injury liability coverage (2+ people) per accident

· $5,000 property damage liability coverage

· $5,000 medical payments coverage

South Carolina

· $25,000 bodily injury liability coverage (1 person) per accident

· $50,000 bodily injury liability coverage (2+ people) per accident

· $50,000 property damage liability coverage

· $25,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage per person

· $50,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage per accident

· $25,000 uninsured motorist property damage coverage

Tennessee

· $25,000 bodily injury liability coverage (1 person) per accident

· $50,000 bodily injury liability coverage (2+ people) per accident

· $15,000 property damage liability coverage

Texas

· $30,000 bodily injury liability coverage (1 person) per accident

· $60,000 bodily injury liability coverage (2+ people) per accident

· $25,000 property damage liability coverage

Virginia

· $30,000 bodily injury liability coverage (1 person) per accident

· $60,000 bodily injury liability coverage (2+ people) per accident

· $20,000 property damage liability coverage

· $30,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage per person

· $60,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage per accident

· $20,000 uninsured motorist property damage coverage

Washington

· $25,000 bodily injury liability coverage (1 person) per accident

· $50,000 bodily injury liability coverage (2+ people) per accident

· $10,000 property damage liability coverage

Am I Required to Have More than Liability Car Insurance? 

You might be required to have more than liability coverage depending on where you live, as some states also require no-fault insurance (also referred to as personal injury protection or PIP) and/or uninsured motorist insurance coverage as part of minimum required financial responsibility.

  • No-Fault/Personal Injury Protection (PIP) helps pay (within state-specific limits) for certain medical, hospital, and funeral expenses, as well as lost wages, that result from a car accident, regardless of who is at fault. 
  • Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UM) helps pay for bodily injury and, in certain states, property damage sustained by you and other passengers in your covered vehicle in an accident. This coverage applies when the at-fault driver does not have auto liability insurance or is a hit-and-run driver. In some states, it also includes coverage for damages caused by at-fault drivers who have insurance, just not enough of it to cover your claim entirely. In some states there, is also underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) to help cover when another driver is insured but doesn’t have enough coverage to pay for the damages they cause. 

You may be required to purchase higher than minimum limits if you have certain convictions on your driving record. If your vehicle is leased or financed, you may also be required by your lender to have comprehensive and collision coverage.

Benefits of Minimum Auto Insurance

Having the minimum amount of insurance to stay legal is better than having no insurance at all because, for the most part, driving without auto insurance is illegal. Every state requires drivers to maintain financial responsibility. There are a few ways to secure financial responsibility on a vehicle; an auto insurance policy is one of the easiest methods.

Aside from giving you the amount of coverage you need to comply with legal requirements, let's take a closer look at why a driver might choose to only purchase the minimum car insurance required where they live.

1. It can be a good option for older vehicles

Does your car have high mileage, or is it so old that you probably wouldn't repair it in the event of an accident? Minimum auto insurance doesn't include optional coverages, like comprehensive and collision, that would help pay to repair or replace your car in the event of an accident or other covered damage. If you’d be more likely to buy a new car after an accident, why pay for more coverage than you need?

One rule of thumb is that the cost of comprehensive and collision coverage should not exceed 10% of your vehicle's actual cash value including depreciation (use Edmunds.com or KBB.com to help determine value).

So, if your vehicle is worth $5,000 and you're paying more than $500 a year (10% of $5,000) for comprehensive and collision, it may not make financial sense to purchase these optional coverages. However, before you make that decision, it's wise to talk to your insurance agent about the pros and cons of opting out of these coverages.

2. It can lower the cost of owning a car

With insurance, registration fees, gas, and maintenance, the cost of owning a car can add up quickly. If you're looking for ways to cut back on your overall car expenses, going with minimum auto insurance (as opposed to piling on optional coverages) could help. 

3. It could be suitable for people who rarely drive

You need car insurance whether you drive five miles a week or 500. However, if your car spends more time in your driveway than it does on the road, you could save money by choosing the minimum amount of car insurance. Generally speaking, the less you drive, the less likely you will be involved in an accident and file a claim.

Liability-Only v. Full Coverage Car Insurance

"Liability-only" and "full coverage" car insurance: these are terms we mentioned above and you may have heard tossed around before, but what do they mean, and which level of coverage is best for your needs? 

Keep reading as we bust some of the most common liability-only car insurance myths, answer the most commonly asked questions, and give you the insight you need into these two (often confusing) terms. That way, you can confidently make the best decision for you, your family, and your car!

The Lowdown on Liability-Only Insurance

Liability-only insurance generally refers to the most basic level of coverage that you can purchase for a vehicle. Although car insurance requirements vary from state to state, liability-only insurance is often the minimum amount of coverage required by law. It is designed to help protect you should you injure another person or cause damage to their property while operating your vehicle.

When you hear someone say "liability-only," they're actually referring to two types of liability coverages that go hand in hand, not one: bodily injury liability and property damage liability. Together, these coverages can help pay for the other person's medical expenses, lost wages, vehicle repair or replacement, and more.

While liability-only coverage will help you meet the legal requirements in most states, it probably won't offer the amount of coverage you would want in the event of an accident. Why? Liability car insurance alone does not provide coverage for your car or your injuries. Without coverage beyond liability-only, you could face hefty repair bills for the vehicle you depend on every day. 

The Myth of "Full Coverage" Car Insurance

You won't see "full coverage" listed when it's time to get a quote. Despite what many people may think, there's no such thing! When people refer to "full coverage," they're typically describing a policy that includes these coverages: 

  • State-mandated coverages, like liability coverage, uninsured motorist coverage, or anything else required where you live
  • Comprehensive coverage; and 
  • Collision coverage 

Collision and comprehensive are both related to damages that occur to your vehicle. Collision coverage applies if your car hits another object or is hit by a hit-and-run driver. Comprehensive coverage comes into play if your vehicle is stolen or damaged in an event other than a collision, like fire, flooding, or vandalism. 

A policy described as "full coverage" would not typically cover:

  • Your liability exposure if it is higher than the liability limits you chose 
  • Claims related to an uninsured or underinsured motorist unless UM/UIM is required where you live or you purchased this coverage.
  • Your medical expenses, unless you’ve purchased medical payments coverage or live somewhere that PIP is required
  • The amount of any deductibles you choose, including for comprehensive and collision coverages 
  • Events that are specifically excluded under your policy 

Long story short, full coverage means you’re protecting your vehicle with a combination of coverages liability insurance alone does not. At Direct Auto, we've got your back. We pride ourselves on being transparent and straight-up about your coverages and use their real names, so you know exactly what you're getting. 

How Do I Choose the Coverage That's Right For Me? 

There are unique features of each type of coverage we've explored. If you're deciding which could be right for you, it may be helpful to ask yourself these questions: 

  • How much do I want to pay for car insurance? A liability-only policy with minimum limits tends to be one of the cheapest ways to stay insured and stay legal while out on the road. 
  • If my vehicle is damaged or totaled, would I have enough money on hand to repair it or replace it? Remember, damage to your property is not covered with liability-only insurance
  • How old is my car? With older vehicles, there's a chance your insurance premium could end up costing more than the value of your vehicle. While this may tempt some vehicle owners to opt for liability-only, it could be a potentially risky scenario if you aren't sure whether or not you have enough cash on hand to repair or replace your vehicle in the event of an accident. 

How Much Coverage Do I Need?

Well, as we mentioned above, you must meet insurance requirements in your state. If you lease or finance your vehicle, you must also purchase coverages required by your lender. But after that, the amount of coverage you need is a personal decision. Use the questions above to guide you to determine if you want to stick with liability-only coverage or add additional coverage options. You may also want to add coverage or raise your liability limits if you drive frequently, live in a busy city, or travel regularly. There isn’t a single coverage option that’s right for everyone, so the best thing you can do is weigh your options, talk to an agent, and choose coverage that provides you and your family with peace of mind.

States That Don’t Have Minimum Requirements

You may wonder, are there exceptions to coverage requirements? It may come as a surprise, but Virginia and New Hampshire allow drivers to operate a vehicle without an auto insurance policy if you provide what the state requires when necessary in lieu of coverage.

  • In the Commonwealth of Virginia, drivers must pay the DMV an annual $500 registration fee to drive uninsured. This does not provide insurance protection and must be repaid at every renewal. With the average cost of liability insurance in Virginia being around the same cost as the fee, many drivers may find buying auto insurance is the better option for them.
  • In New Hampshire, drivers must provide proof of financial responsibility after being found at fault in an accident. This means drivers must be able to show they can provide sufficient funds to cover damages resulting from the accident.

In both states, you’re still responsible for injuries and damages if you cause an accident. Paying out of pocket for vehicle damage and medical expenses can be financially crippling when you consider how much a car accident can cost. So, your safest bet is to purchase an insurance policy, even if it’s not required to drive. 

And there are still circumstances where auto insurance is required in both states. A conviction (such as a DUI or felony involving a motor vehicle), accident, or administrative action can often require drivers to carry auto insurance and file an SR-22 or FR-44 for at least three years.

Is Minimum Auto Insurance Right for Everyone?

Direct Auto is here to help answer any questions you have about liability car insurance and whether minimum auto insurance makes sense for you. For more information or a free, no-obligation quote, call 1-877-GO-DIRECT (1-877-463-4732) or visit a Direct location near you.

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