My husband was rear-ended a few weeks ago. Thankfully, everyone was okay, but his car was in the shop for over a week. With no rental car coverage, he was forced to borrow my car (which he was nice enough to detail afterward).
The inconvenience gave me reason to log into our car insurance policy and reconsider our coverages, especially our optional coverages. I’m embarrassed to admit I hadn’t done this earlier. Before meeting me, my husband’s insurance philosophy was, “If it costs extra, I don’t want it.” But as someone who knows a thing or 2 about insurance, I have a very different philosophy: “Protect, protect, protect.”
Are optional coverages worth the extra cost?
This is the first question I asked myself as I examined our policy. Optional coverages vary by state, but there are a few common ones worth discussing.
Comprehensive and collision coverage
My husband’s take: My car is financed so I have to buy them.
My take: Yes, we do need them since his car is financed, but there’s more to these (somewhat) optional coverages than necessity. Unless you can afford to repair or replace your car if you have an accident or your car gets pummeled by hail, these coverages come in pretty handy — especially if you have a low deductible. In fact, I just had a windshield nick repaired and it didn’t cost me a cent.
Medical payments coverage
My husband’s take: We have health insurance, so this coverage is redundant.
My take: Medical payments coverage pays for more than just your medical bills. It also pays for your passengers’ medical expenses if they’re hurt while you’re behind the wheel. Plus, if you don’t have enough health insurance, medical payments will kick in to help cover the rest (and it’ll pay for stuff like dental care and extended nursing services or hospitalization while you’re rehabilitating).
Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage
My husband’s take: Probably a good thing to have, but I’m not going to bother with high limits.
My take: Many states actually make this coverage mandatory. In California, where we live, however, it’s an optional coverage and one I can’t imagine going without. As of 2011, 1 out of every 7 drivers was uninsured. And many who are insured choose the minimum state limits, which are often not enough to cover expenses after an accident. If I get hit, I don’t want to be on the hook for someone else’s irresponsibility. You can buy uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage for both bodily injury and property damage. I selected the same limits as our bodily injury and property damage coverages because I don’t want an accident (especially one that’s not my fault) to put me at financial risk.
Rental car coverage
My husband’s take: Why rent when I can borrow your car?
My take: Well, in this instance, he happens to be right. We live near a train station, he’s an avid bicyclist, and, if we schedule it out, we can get by with one car temporarily. But if you don’t have public transportation, rock solid thighs, or a generous spouse at your disposal, this coverage is worth considering. For just a few extra dollars a month, it could pay for you to get around if your car’s going to be in the shop for a while. In some states, Esurance offers CarMatch Rental Coverage®, which provides a rental car that’s comparable to your own vehicle.
Emergency road service coverage
My husband’s take: It’s inexpensive and worth every penny.
My take: Agreed. While I technically know how to change a flat tire and cool my overheating engine, I’m a writer, not a mechanic, so I’d rather leave these things to the professionals. Of course, if you already have a roadside service like AAA, this coverage is probably unnecessary.
If you’re trying to figure out which optional coverages you need or how high your limits should be, check out our Coverage Counselor®. Answer just a few questions and it’ll help you select the right coverage for you based on your input. It certainly came in handy for me!