Not all types of auto insurance are required, but buying extra insurance coverage may be worth it. If you cause an accident you can be sued for others' bills that your insurance doesn't cover. And damage to your own car won't be covered unless you have the right car coverage. Here's a look at the five main types of vehicle insurance.

Summary: Types of car insurance coverage

What it covers Liability Collision & Comprehensive Uninsured/underinsured motorist PIP or MedPay
Property damage you cause to others
Injuries you cause to others
Damage to your own car  
Your injuries from an uninsured driver    
Your injuries no matter who was at fault      

Liability insurance

Liability car insurance covers bodily injury and property damage that you cause to other people.

Bodily injury coverage will help you pay for:

  • Medical bills for others
  • Pain and suffering
  • Lost income if someone's injuries prevent them from working
  • Rehabilitation
  • Funeral costs
  • The cost to defend you in a lawsuit

Property damage liability insurance will cover:

  • Repairs to others' vehicles, or replacement if they're totaled
  • Repair of damaged items such as fences, poles or even others' pets

Most states have "financial responsibility" laws that require car owners to either buy auto insurance or post a bond with the state. Each state sets a minimum car insurance limit for what you must buy. 

These liability insurance minimums are often written as a set of three numbers that refer to the maximums insurance will pay for injuries per person, injuries per accident and property damage per accident. For example, 100/300/50 means:

  • $100,000 bodily injury liability per person
  • $300,000 bodily injury liability per accident
  • $50,000 property damage liability per accident

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Collision and comprehensive insurance

Maybe you've heard the phrase full coverage car insurance. Full coverage generally means that you have liability, collision and comprehensive insurance.

Collision insurance pays for repairs or replacement if your vehicle is damaged or totaled. It can cover problems such as:

  • Hitting another car or object, such as a fence or tree
  • Damage from a hit-and-run driver
  • Hitting a pothole
  • Damage from a rollover

Comprehensive insurance covers the theft of your car and damage from specific problems:

  • Fire
  • Explosions
  • Accidents involving animals, such as deer
  • Vandalism
  • Falling objects
  • Floods
  • Natural disasters and weather such as tornadoes, hail, wind and earthquakes

Uninsured motorist coverage

Uninsured motorist insurance (UM) covers the injuries of you and your passengers if you're in an accident caused by a driver without liability insurance. It includes underinsured motorist coverage for drivers who have some liability insurance but not enough.

Typically UM insurance does not cover damage to your car, unless you have purchased a type called "uninsured motorist property damage" coverage.

PIP and MedPay

Personal injury protection (PIP) insurance covers injuries no matter who's at fault. PIP laws vary:

  • No-fault insurance states require PIP coverage
  • Some states require it but don't have a no-fault system
  • In some states PIP is optional

PIP covers the injuries of both you and your passengers. With PIP insurance, your medical bills will even be covered if you're injured as a passenger in another car or as a pedestrian. PIP can also cover lost wages if you can't work, services you can't perform (such as house cleaning) and funeral expenses.

Medical payments coverage (MedPay) is similar to PIP insurance. Both cover injuries to you and your passengers following an accident, regardless of who's at fault.