Americans spend a lot of money on car insurance every year. Part of the reason why is that state governments set minimum amounts of coverage drivers must purchase to legally drive a car. Our newest visual breaks down the 3 most important types of auto insurance: property damage, bodily injury per accident and bodily injury per person.
- 32 states set a $25,000 minimum threshold for bodily injury liability per individual. Alaska and Maine have the highest minimums in the country at $50,000.
- 31 states set a $50,000 target for bodily injury liability per accident. Delaware has the lowest requirement in the country at just $25,000.
- Property damage liability minimums vary the widest across the country. 4 states only require $5,000 of coverage (California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Massachusetts).
- Maine and Alaska require the highest levels of coverage across the board, totaling $50,000, $100,000 and $25,000 for bodily injury per person, per accident and property damage.
State governments require minimum insurance coverage for a few obvious reasons. If you’re going to drive a vehicle, there’s a chance you could injure someone or ruin someone’s property. If a driver doesn’t have insurance (or a lot of money) and causes an accident, then the injured parties can’t recover anything for their losses. Without insurance minimums, there would be a lot more lawsuits to determine responsibility for accidents and to garnish wages. We gathered these state-by-state minimum insurance thresholds from The Balance. Keep in mind how some states also require insurance minimums to cover uninsured and underinsured drivers.
Our visual demonstrates how most states conform to a generally accepted standard of coverage. For example, 32 states require $25,000 of coverage for bodily injury liability per individual, and 31 require $50,000 for bodily injury per accident. What does that mean? Imagine a car accident that injures 2 people, who each have $30,000 of medical bills, or $60,000 total. An insurance policy with these minimum coverage amounts would only pay out $25,000 per victim, or $50,000 total. The driver would be responsible for the remaining $10,000.
There are some exceptions where states require a lot more (or a lot less) coverage than others. 19 states require drivers to carry a minimum of $25,000 for property damage liability, however California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Massachusetts only require $5,000. Maine and Alaska mandate at least $100,000 of coverage for bodily injury per accident, compared to just $25,000 in Delaware.
There are lots of reasons why you should carry more than the state-required minimums. For starters, the average price of a new car in 2019 was an eye-popping $36,718. If you carry the minimum insurance and wreck someone’s brand new vehicle, you could be financially ruined. Plus, car accidents happen all the time. More than 20,000 people die every year in approximately 5 million accidents. Obtaining full coverage can be expensive. Our cost guide can help you think through all the options.
How much auto coverage do you carry? Do you think there should be higher state-mandated minimum insurance amounts? Let us know in the comments.