Color of Money: Insurance Guide: The ‘Hit’ List

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CarInsurance.com has created an interactive online tool — with crashing sound effects — so that drivers can see what type of insurance would cover six common accidents: hitting someone else’s car, crashing into another car that you own, or running into a tree, animal, pothole or garage door. They call it the “Crash-o-Matic.” The tool compares hypothetical rates for liability, comprehensive and collision coverage on select 2013 vehicles. You can find it by going to http://www.carinsurance.com and searching for “You hit what? The Crash-o-Matic.”

Comprehensives coverage reimburses you for loss due to theft or damage caused by something other than a crash with another car or object, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Collision coverage pays for damage to your car resulting from a collision with another car, object or as a result of flipping over. Property damage liability covers damage that you or someone driving your car with permission may cause to someone else’s property. Every state except New Hampshire requires liability insurance coverage or some proof of financial responsibility, according to CarInsurance.com. New Hampshire requires that you demonstrate financial ability to cover damages once you have an accident, Toups said.

If you buy only liability insurance, as many people do, repairs to your car will not be covered under almost all of the damage scenarios featured in the in the Crash-o-Matic tool, Toups said.

So let’s say you a deer runs into your car (because of course you wouldn’t hit the poor animal on your own). This accident generally falls under your comprehensive coverage, CarInsurance.com says. If you have only liability coverage, you will be responsible for the repairs.

“We wanted to give people a good idea of the likelihood of different types of damage,” Toups said. “The tool we built goes even further, matching up various sources of damage with the coverage needed to fix the car and whether a claim is likely to raise future rates. The biggest mistake regarding claims that we see is people trying to get their money’s worth. Insurance companies keep score. Save your coverage for the big things you can’t fix on your own.”

I know times are tight and you may be trying to cut your insurance costs. So you might drop coverage or opt for the lowest amount of coverage. But be sure to compare rates with different insurance companies. Don’t underestimate how much coverage you will need, especially if you aren’t a careful driver or if you don’t have savings to cover damage. Or if you live where there are a lot of deer.

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Readers can write to Michelle Singletary c/o The Washington Post, 1150 15th St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20071. Her email address is singletarym@washpost.com. Comments and questions are welcome, but due to the volume of mail, personal responses may not be possible. Please also note comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless a specific request to do otherwise is indicated.

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