Every state requires that you carry minimum levels of auto insurance coverage, or the equivalent in financial responsibility waivers, to ensure that you can cover the cost of damages to people or property in the event of a car accident. Auto insurance requirements vary from state to state. Check with your state insurance regulator to learn more about requirements and low cost auto insurance programs.
Take these steps to get the best coverage and best price on your insurance premiums:
Get several quotes from insurance companies and comparison shop.
Consider working with an independent agent who works with several insurance companies in your area.
Raise your deductible on collision and comprehensive coverage. If you have an old car, you might want to drop these coverages altogether.
Take advantage of discounts. You may be eligible for a discount based on the number of miles you drive, your age (turning 25 or 50), your good grades if you are a student, your driving record (no moving vehicle violations or accidents in three years), or if you've taken a safe-driving course. You might also be able to get discounts if you insure more than one vehicle, insure your vehicle and your home with the same company, have anti-theft devices, or have safety features such as air bags or antilock brake system.
Before you purchase a new auto insurance policy, order a free copy of your insurance claim report. Your insurer will use the report to determine if they will sell you a policy.
Since standard homeowners insurance doesn't cover flooding, it's important to have protection against flood damage. If you live in an area prone to flooding, you should take advantage of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)
Administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the NFIP offers flood insurance to homeowners, renters, and business owners if their community participates in the program. The program works closely with more than 80 private insurance companies.
Homes and businesses with mortgages from federally regulated or insured lenders in high-risk flood areas are required to have flood insurance. While flood insurance is not federally required if you live in a moderate-to-low risk flood area, it is still available and strongly recommended.
To find out if your home or business is in a community that participates in the NFIP, refer to the Community Status Book section on FEMA.gov.
Flood insurance protects two types of insurable property: building and contents. The first covers your building; the latter covers your possessions; and neither covers the land they occupy. Flood insurance only covers damage that is a direct result of flooding.
Rates are set nationally and do not differ from company to company or agent to agent. These rates depend on many factors, such as the 1) date and 2) type of construction of your home, and 3) your building's level of risk.
Flood insurance can only be purchased through an insurance agent; you cannot purchase it directly from the federal government. Typically, there's a 30-day waiting period from the date of purchase before your policy goes into effect.
Homeowners and renters insurance protect your personal property against damage or loss, and insures you in case someone gets hurt while on your property. You may already have insurance on your home if you have a mortgage on the property, because most lenders make insurance a condition of the loan.
Renters insurance, or tenant insurance, offers renters coverage similar to homeowners insurance. If you are a renter, do not assume your landlord carries insurance on your personal belongings; you may wish to purchase a separate policy.
What Can Homeowners or Renters Insurance Cover?
Homeowners or renters insurance may pay claims for:
damage to your home, garage, and other outbuildings
loss of furniture and other personal property due to damage or theft, both at home and away
additional living expenses if you rent temporary quarters while your house is being repaired
Homeowners or renters insurance may also:
include liability for bodily injury and property damage that you cause to others through negligence
include liability for accidents happening in and around your home, as well as away from home, for which you are responsible
pay for injuries occurring in and around your home to anyone other than you or your family
provide limited coverage for money, gold, jewelry, and stamp and coin collections
cover personal property in storage
What Doesn't Homeowners or Renters Insurance Cover?
Homeowners and renters insurance policies do not cover some catastrophic losses, such as those from earthquakes, hurricanes, or floods. You may be able to purchase such coverage by adding an earthquake or flood endorsement to your insurance policy, or through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)
Shopping for a Policy
Keep these tips as you choose a policy:
Ask your insurance agent about discounts. You may be able to get a lower premium if your home has safety features such as deadbolt locks, smoke detectors, an alarm system, storm shutters, or fire retardant roofing material. Persons over 55 years of age or long-term customers may also be offered discounts.
Insure your house, not the land under it. After a disaster, the land is still there. If you don't subtract the value of the land when deciding how much homeowner's insurance to buy, you will pay more than you should.
Make certain you purchase enough coverage to replace what is insured. "Replacement" coverage gives you the money to rebuild your home and replace its contents. An "Actual Cash Value" policy is cheaper but pays only what your property is worth at the time of loss, minus depreciation for age and wear.
Ask about special coverage you might need. You may have to pay extra for computers, cameras, jewelry, art, antiques, musical instruments, stamp collections, etc.
Before you purchase a renters' insurance policy, check with the landlord. The landlord may require you to carry specific limits of insurance for specific coverages. The landlord may also require you to name him/her as an additional insured on your tenant policy.