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Life is full of surprises. While some are exhilarating, others are devastating emotionally and financially, like a car accident or a kitchen fire. That’s why there are many types of insurance to help after unexpected disasters.
To help you sort through your options, here are the main types of insurance policies.
Driving without auto insurance is against the law in almost every state. Not only is it illegal to drive without coverage, but it could significantly cost you if you get in an accident, especially if you’re at fault. Fortunately, several types of car insurance can pay for vehicle damage and injuries after an accident:
- Liability coverage. This type of car insurance pays for property damage and injuries you cause to others if you’re at fault for an accident. Liability car insurance also pays for your legal defense and judgments or settlements if you’re sued because of a car accident. States (except New Hampshire and Virginaa) require a minimum level of liability insurance to drive legally.
- Uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM) coverage. If an uninsured or underinsured driver strikes your vehicle, this coverage pays for you and your passengers’ medical expenses. Uninsured motorist coverage can also pay for lost wages and compensate for pain and suffering. Some states require UM coverage. And in some states UM coverage can also cover your car damage from the uninsured/underinsured driver.
- Personal injury protection (PIP). Regardless of who was responsible for an accident, PIP insurance can cover injuries to you and your passengers. This coverage may also reimburse you for lost wages, rehabilitation costs and services like child care you can longer perform after being injured. Many states require PIP, but it’s optional in others, and in some states it’s not available.
- Medical payment coverage. MedPay coverage helps pay for medical expenses for you and your passengers if you’re injured in an accident, regardless of fault. Coverage amounts are typically low, usually between $1,000 and $5,000.
- Comprehensive and collision coverage. These coverage types work together to pay for damage to your vehicle. Collision insurance pays to repair or replace your car after an accident, no matter whose fault it was. Comprehensive insurance covers theft and damage to your car due to floods, hail, fire, vandalism, falling objects and animal strikes. Collision and comprehensive coverage are often sold together and are optional. However, if you finance your car, your lender will require you to buy it. The same goes for car leases.
Related: Best car insurance companies
Unlike auto insurance, no state law stipulates that you must have homeowners coverage. However, if you financed your home, your lender will usually require coverage to protect their interest in your property. This way, if your home is damaged or destroyed, you have funds to rebuild and won’t walk away from your mortgage.
Even if you don’t have a mortgage and paid for your home outright, you’re responsible for repairs or replacement costs if something damages or destroys your home and you don’t have home insurance. It’s wise to buy a home insurance policy.
Home insurance policies wrap up several types of coverage, including:
- Dwelling coverage. From your roof to your floors, dwelling coverage protects the structure of your house from unexpected events like fire, wind, theft or vandalism. This type of coverage also pays to repair or replace structures attached to your property, such as a garage or deck. Your dwelling coverage amount should equal the cost of rebuilding your house.
- Personal property coverage. This type of coverage protects your personal belongings, such as furniture, appliances and clothing. Problems covered include theft, fire and explosions. Coverage for personal property is usually set at an amount between 50% and 70% of your dwelling coverage. You can usually buy more coverage if you need more.
- Other structures on the property. Structures on your property like a tool shed or fence are covered under this type of coverage.
- Liability coverage. Liability insurance pays for injuries or property damage you accidentally cause to others. Additionally, liability home insurance covers your attorney fees if someone sues you. So, if a visitor falls on your front steps, liability coverage can pay for their medical bills and your lawyer fees. The amount of your liability insurance should equal your net worth or what could be taken from you in a lawsuit.
- Additional living expenses. If you are temporarily displaced from your home because it’s been damaged by a problem covered by your policy, additional living expenses coverage pays extra costs such as for meals and lodging.
Remember that a standard home insurance policy doesn’t cover damage from floods or earthquakes, but separate insurance is available for these problems.
Related: Best homeowners insurance companies
If you don’t own a home, that doesn’t mean you don’t need insurance. Renters insurance helps you replace your belongings such as electronics, furniture, and clothing if they’re stolen or damaged. Problems covered include fire, tornadoes, explosions and more.
Without coverage, you would be responsible for replacing all of your stuff if your rental goes up in flames. While your landlord’s insurance will cover damages to the structure of a rental, it doesn’t cover tenant property. In some cases, landlords will require proof of coverage to rent a unit.
Renters insurance includes:
- Personal property coverage. This coverage reimburses you if your stuff (furniture, clothing, dishes, etc.) is stolen or damaged by an issue like a fire.
- Liability coverage. If you’re liable for someone else’s injuries or property damages, this coverage can pay for the cost involved. For example, if someone falls in your apartment due to your negligence, liability insurance can pay for their medical bills.
- Additional living expenses coverage. If your rental is damaged or destroyed by a problem covered by the policy, making it uninhabitable, this coverage will pay for your extra costs while you can’t live at home.
Related: Best renters insurance companies
Auto, home, and renters insurance come with liability coverage that protects you and your family’s assets from lawsuits brought against you. But every policy has liability limits. If you have substantial assets, your homeowners, renters or auto liability insurance may not be sufficient if you lose an expensive lawsuit.
Umbrella insurance can provide additional liability insurance if the unexpected happens and you’re liable. For example, let’s say someone sues you for $500,000 of medical bills after tripping on your sidewalk and injuring their back. If your home insurance liability limit only goes up to $300,000, you’re responsible for the remaining $200,000. Umbrella insurance would cover this extra cost.
If anyone depends on you financially, finding the best life insurance for your situation is essential. Forty-four percent of U.S. households would face financial hardship within six months if the primary wage earner died—and for 28%, it would be just one month—according to LIMRA, an industry-funded research firm. Life insurance is one way to replace your income if you die unexpectedly.
Life insurance policies usually fall into two main buckets: term life insurance and permanent life insurance.
Term life insurance
Term life insurance lets you lock in rates for a particular length of time, like 10, 15, 20 or 30 years. During this time, your premiums are level. Once the level term period ends, you can typically renew the policy on a yearly basis but at a higher cost each time.
If you want to cover a specific financial obligation, like the years of college or a debt, term life insurance may be a good fit for you. Term life insurance is usually the most affordable type of life insurance.
Permanent life insurance
Permanent life insurance can provide lifelong coverage. In addition to the death benefit, permanent life insurance includes a cash value component. If the cash value builds, you can access the money by taking a loan or withdrawing funds. If you decide to end the policy, you can take the cash value of the policy (minus any surrender charge).
Consider permanent life insurance if you want to build cash value to supplement retirement savings or to provide a death benefit for someone who will rely on you financially for a long period. Permanent life insurance is more expensive than term life insurance.
Related: Best life insurance companies
Medical bills are one of the frequent causes of financial hardship in America, according to the American Public Health Association. Even if you’re young and healthy, a stay in the hospital could cost you about $30,000 for three days, according to Healthcare.gov. If you’re uninsured, that could wreck your finances.
You can usually get a health insurance plan through your employer. If your employer doesn’t offer health insurance or if you’re unemployed, you can shop for health insurance plans through the federal health insurance marketplace. Health insurance plans from the federal marketplace can provide subsidies if you meet income and eligibility requirements.
Or you can buy health insurance by contacting health insurance companies directly or going through a health insurance agent or broker.
If the monthly premiums seem unaffordable, look into costs for a high deductible health plan. With this type of coverage, you must pay a higher deductible before coverage starts, but it will lower your monthly health insurance cost.
In addition, you can combine a high deductible insurance plan with a Health Savings Account, so you can stash away tax-free dollars to pay for future medical costs.
Typically, you can buy health insurance only during open enrollment periods specified by the health insurance companies selling them. Open enrollment for marketplace plans is usually from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15, though some states extend the deadline.
Exceptions to the open enrollment period are allowed under certain circumstances if you’ve had a recent life-changing event, such as getting married or having a baby.
You might think you need disability insurance only if you have a job involving dangerous activities. But most disabilities aren’t work-related. Arthritis, cancer, diabetes and back pain are among the most significant causes of disabilities, according to the Council for Disabilities Awareness. That’s why it’s wise to consider disability insurance as part of your financial plan.
If you become sick or disabled, leaving you unable to work, disability insurance supplements a portion of your income. It typically replaces 40% to 70% of your base income and usually has a waiting period before coverage kicks in and a cap on how much it pays out monthly.
Aside from qualifying for Social Security disability benefits, there are two main ways to get disability insurance:
- Group disability insurance through work
- Individual disability policies that you purchase on your own
Long-Term Care Insurance
Adults turning age 65 have a 70% chance of needing long-term care at some point, according to the Department of Health & Human Services. Whether it’s in-home assistance to help with everyday tasks or an extended stay at a nursing home, most seniors will likely need assistance at some point in their lives. And long-term care isn’t cheap. It costs an average of $9,000 per month to stay in a private room in a nursing home, according to Genworth, which sells life insurance and long-term care insurance.
Long-term care (LTC) insurance can help pay for expenses such as in-home care, adult day care or nursing home stays. The best time to buy long-term care insurance is when you’re in your 50s or 60s. Buying coverage during this age range is usually the most cost-effective time to buy. As you age, the cost of LTC insurance will increase.
Be sure to research this product thoroughly before you buy it. In recent years policyholders have been surprised by large premium increases that have made the insurance unaffordable for many after they bought it. The Congressional Research Service has an overview of long-term care insurance.
If you’re buying life insurance, you may be able to add long-term care coverage to your policy as a life insurance rider or buy a policy that combines life insurance and LTC coverage.