High or Low Car Insurance Deductible: Which is Better for You and Your Wallet?

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Is having a high deductible car insurance policy better than a low deductible car insurance policy? Financial Experts will tell you a high deductible car insurance plan is smart because your monthly premium payments will be lower. “Good deal,” you think, and so you opt for the $1,000 deductible.

Then you hit a telephone pole while backing out of a parking space. When you take your car to the body shop for a quote, you realize you’re on the hook for paying the entire cost of repairs. How is this a good deal?

When you’re weighing high or low deductible car insurance, you have to consider a few factors, including your finances, your driving record, and your premium costs. We’ll help you choose.

What Is a Car Insurance Deductible?

First off: let’s explain what this ‘deductible’ thing is. The car insurance deductible definition is the amount you pay out of pocket when you make a claim. It acts as an insurance for your insurer that you might think twice about claiming and won’t claim for lots of little things. For example, if a broken windshield costs $400 to replace and your deductible is $250, you’ll pay $250 and your insurer will pay $150. But, if you have a chip on your windshield that costs $100 to fill, you’ll just cover the cost yourself.

Why can’t your insurance company just pay the whole cost? A deductible represents “a sharing of the risk between the insurance company and the policyholder,” according to the Insurance Information Institute. In other words, you might be more careful about parallel parking if you know you’ll have to pony up $500 for repairs to your bumper.

A car insurance deductible typically applies only to the parts of your policy concerning damage to your property: comprehensive and collision coverage. Liability coverage has no deductible. So if you hit someone else at a red light, your insurance will pay the entire cost (up to your coverage limits) of repairs to the other driver’s vehicle. Got it?

The Pros and Cons of a Low Car Insurance Deductible

Having a low car insurance deductible gives you peace of mind, especially if you’re on a tight budget. If your finances would be seriously rocked by an unexpected $500 or $1,000 expense, play it safe and opt for a low deductible, such as $250. Some companies even offer a $0 deductible, so you’ll never have to pay a dime on top of your regular premiums if your car needs some TLC after an accident.

Having a lower deductible means that you’ll pay more in monthly premiums, but you won’t have to panic if something happens to your car. If you have a history of backing into another car in the Starbucks parking lot (no judgment!) a low deductible car insurance policy is probably smart.

You’ll also want to opt for a lower deductible if you’re leasing or financing your car. Most lease/finance agreements mandate a deductible of $500 or less, so that takes the decision out of your hands. If you’re driving a beater car, you may even drop your collision and comprehensive coverage entirely. No coverage, no deductible.

The Pros and Cons of a High Car Insurance Deductible

The biggest reason to go with a high auto insurance deductible? It lowers your monthly premiums, sometimes dramatically. The Insurance Information Institute calculates that raising your deductible from $200 to $500 can reduce your premiums by 15 to 30 percent. Double your deductible to $1,000 and you could save 40 percent.

These numbers sound good, but remember they’re just estimates — and the savings only apply to premiums for collision and comprehensive coverage. To determine if high deductible car insurance will save you a significant amount of money, you’ll have to run the numbers. Use Compare’s free auto insurance quote tool to play around with your deductible amounts and see how they affect premiums.

Then, do a little more math. How long will it take for your annual savings to equal the cost of your high deductible? Say you’re saving $50 per year on premiums for raising your deductible from $250 to $500, but then you have to make a claim. It’ll take five years for your savings to equal the $250 you spent. On the other hand, if you decline to make an insurance claim and just pay for everything out of pocket, your insurance premiums may remain lower in the long run.

The best option? Compare quotes on Compare.com. Try a couple of different deductibles and see how much you’d really be saving by opting for $0 vs. $1,000 deductible. That way, you can be sure you’re making the right decision based on your budget and needs.

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