Buying your first car is a right of passage. Getting your first auto insurance policy is one, too. Whether you’ve graduated from your parents’ policy, just moved out, or purchased your first car, here’s what you need to know about getting that important first policy.

Learn about the types of coverages.

An auto policy is made up of different coverages. You choose the types you need from a range of options. Some coverages are required by law. Others are optional but will help to fully protect your investment.

  • Liability: If you are at fault in an accident, and others are involved, it’s good to have liability coverage. Liability coverage is required by law in most states. It covers you for bodily injury and property damage you cause to others. However, it does not cover any damage to your own vehicle; that’s covered by collision. It also does not cover injury to you and your family; it only covers the people in the other car.
  • Collision: This coverage is if your car is damaged in a collision with another car or an object, such as a fence. Your collision coverage will pay for repairs minus the deductible. Collision coverage is not required unless you’re leasing a car or paying off a loan on a vehicle. However, it may be good to have, especially in the event of an accident.
  • Comprehensive: Comprehensive coverage is for natural disasters, fires, vandalism, theft and animals that damage your vehicle. Think of it as “bad luck coverage.” Comprehensive coverage is not usually required unless you’re leasing a vehicle or paying a car loan. However, it’s valuable to protect your car.
  • Medical expenses: If you or others are hurt in an accident, you will want medical expenses covered. You will either be able to get medical payments coverage or personal injury protection (PIP). These coverages apply to everyone in your car whether or not you are at fault in the accident. This type of coverage is good to have, as your health insurance may not cover auto accidents and does not normally protect your passengers. PIP is only available in some states and may be mandatory if your state offers it.
  • Uninsured or underinsured motorist: You may encounter drivers who are not insured or who are underinsured. If so, you will need insurance to cover your car and the people in your car if hit by an at-fault driver in that situation. Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Property Damage (UMPD) helps pay for repairs to your vehicle. Uninsured/Underinsured Bodily Injury coverage pays for medical treatment, lost wages, pain and suffering for you and your passengers. These are optional coverages in most states. In some states, you are not allowed to carry collision and UMPD at the same time. Also, sometimes UMPD has a policy maximum, or cap on the amount it will pay.

See our infographic for a quick overview of car insurance, or consult our blog on liability, collision and comprehensive coverage for more detail on these coverages.


Know what affects your car insurance premiums.

Your car insurance premium will be determined by the coverages you select and other factors that contribute to the risk you present as a driver.  These include, but are not limited to:

  • Where you live: If you live in the city, there’s greater risk for vandalism and theft. If you live in a location prone to floods, wildfires or other disasters, you could pay more as well. You don’t necessarily have to move to get better rates, but sometimes moving into a neighboring zip code can save you some money.
  • How often you drive: The more you drive, the greater chances you have to get into an accident—even if you’re a safe driver. So, people who only drive their car for leisure will pay less than others with a long commute.
  • Your car’s make and model: Generally, cars that are more expensive will cost more to replace; therefore, it will cost more to insure them. Cars that are highly rated for safety, or that include certain safety features, may qualify for a reduction in your premium.
  • Your driving record: Insurance companies use your past behavior to predict your future behavior. That’s why drivers with few or no accidents, and few or no moving violations like speeding tickets, pay less than those with lots of claims. In many cases, companies keep the violations on record for 3 years. If you have a clean driving record otherwise, you may qualify for a lower rate.


Tips to Save Money on Your Policy

  • Shop around. You’ll pay more as a first-time driver and so it’s always good to compare pricing. Compare quotes for insurance but be sure that you are looking at similar coverages or it won’t be a fair comparison.
  • Raise your deductible. Since the deductible is the amount your insurance provider will subtract from an insurance payout, you’ll want to select a deductible that you’re comfortable paying out-of-pocket after a loss. However, if you can afford to raise the deductible, you could lower your premium.
  • Reduce your annual mileage. Consider carpooling or taking public transportation to reduce your mileage, which in turn can reduce your premium. In most states, your insurer pulls reports to determine annual mileage. But your daily commute mileage to work each day can impact rates so it’s a good idea to live close to where you work.
  • Ask about discounts. You may get a discount for installing an anti-theft device. You may qualify for affinity or association member group discounts. At California Casualty, we offer special group rates for educators, nurses, and public safety employees.
  • Maintain a good insurance score. This score, known as the Financial Responsibility (FR) Score, is allowed in most states, and has a big impact on your premiums.


Insurance companies use the same basic information to determine your rate. At California Casualty, we have our own unique formula to help our clients save money. Learn more by getting a free quote at


This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or




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