What is liability auto insurance?

Liability auto insurance covers bodily injury and property damage to others if you cause an accident. Although most states require drivers to carry liability car insurance, limits are usually very low. In addition, liability insurance doesn’t cover damages to you, your passengers, or your vehicle. Consider raising liability limits and adding coverages like collision, comprehensive, and personal injury protection to be fully protected.

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Chris Tepedino is a feature writer that has written extensively about auto insurance for numerous websites. He has a college degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and has experience reporting, researching investigative pieces, and crafting detailed, data-driven features. His works have been featured on CB Blog Nation, Flow Words, Healing Law, WIBW Kansas, and Cinncinati.com. ...

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Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health in...

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Reviewed by Rachael Brennan
Licensed Insurance Agent Rachael Brennan

UPDATED: Feb 15, 2022

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Can't-Miss Facts

  • Liability car insurance coverage pays for bodily injuries and property damages of others if you cause an accident
  • Most states require at least a minimum amount of liability insurance
  • Consider adding collision and comprehensive insurance to pay for damages to your vehicle

There are various coverage options to choose from when it comes to auto insurance. While drivers in most states have to carry liability auto insurance, coverage requirements are usually minimal and don’t offer much protection.

Liability-only insurance helps pay for damage you cause to others, but it doesn’t pay for damages to your vehicle. Consider adding collision and comprehensive coverages to be fully protected.

Although liability-only car insurance is the cheapest option, you will pay more out of pocket if your vehicle is damaged. Compare multiple companies to find the most coverage with the lowest rates.

Keep reading to learn about liability auto insurance and what it covers. Enter your ZIP code now to compare liability car insurance quotes for free from companies in your area.

What does liability auto insurance cover?

Almost every state requires at least a limited amount of liability auto insurance. However, some states do require drivers to carry more coverage.

Liability is a combination of bodily injury and property damage coverages. Each one offers different protection.

Bodily injury is just like it sounds. Everything from hospital bills and medications to lost wages and pain and suffering is covered.

Property damage insurance is also easy to understand. Any damage to another person’s property falls under this, including vehicles, fences, and anything else damaged. This type of coverage can also pay for a rental car for the other driver.

However, most states only require a very small amount of liability coverage that might not cover all of your costs. Let’s say that your state requires you to have $25,000 in bodily injury and property damage liability coverage, and you cause an accident that totals a vehicle and lands the other driver in the hospital.

Since your insurance will only pay $25,000 each for the vehicle and hospital stay, you can be left with huge costs that you have to pay yourself. And let’s face it, hospital bills and car repair costs are through the roof. Costs can stack up and quickly reach enormous amounts.

If you choose to have only liability coverage, consider raising your limits to pay for more damages. While your rates may increase, more coverage will save you from those high out-of-pocket costs.

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How much is liability auto insurance?

Liability is the cheapest auto insurance you can get. However, coverage is limited to injuries and property damage for other people. You and your vehicle are not covered at all.

This table shows average annual liability-only auto insurance rates from top companies in each state.

Average Annual Liability Auto Insurance Rates By State
StateAverage Annual Rate for Liability Coverage
District of Columbia$628.09
New Hampshire$647.07
New Jersey$393.24
New Mexico$865.55
New York$462.21
North Carolina$784.98
North Dakota$357.59
Rhode Island$495.02
South Carolina$720.06
South Dakota$497.50
West Virginia$501.44

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On average, liability insurance will cost $43 a month. While those rates are low, remember that coverage is also minimal.

Rates will also vary by driver. Many different factors affect auto insurance rates, including your age, driving record, vehicle, credit score, and where you live.

Every insurance company looks at these factors differently and offers various rates. That’s why it’s so important to shop around to find the best deal for you.

What other auto insurance coverages should be considered?

Thankfully, liability isn’t the only coverage available. You can add coverages that protect you and your vehicle. While these coverages raise your rates, you will face lower out-of-pocket costs if your car is damaged. Consider adding one or all of these coverages:

  • Collision coverage. Collision pays for damages to your vehicle if you cause an accident. So whether you hit another car or a tree, damages will be covered.
  • Comprehensive coverage. Comprehensive is for damages unrelated to an accident, such as fire, theft, vandalism, falling debris, and acts of nature like hail, tornados, and hurricanes.
  • Personal Injury Protection (PIP). PIP will help cover costs of you and your passengers if you are injured in an accident. Damages can include medical bills, prescriptions, lost wages, and even funeral bills.

Full coverage includes liability, collision, and comprehensive coverages. To compare liability and full coverage average annual rates, look at this table that shows top companies’ rates.

Average Annual Auto Insurance Rates Based on Coverage Type

CompanyAverage Annual Rate for Low CoverageAverage Annual Rate for Medium CoverageAverage Annual Rate for High Coverage
American Family$3,368.49$3,544.37$3,416.40
Liberty Mutual$5,805.75$6,058.57$6,356.04
State Farm$3,055.40$3,269.80$3,454.80

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Liability averages about $315 a month, and full coverage is only around $350 a month. So you get much more coverage for a small cost difference each month.

Do I only need liability auto insurance?

How do I know if I chose the right coverages?

You might have to do a little detective work to determine which coverages you need.

The age and condition of your vehicle is the first thing to consider. If your car is older, in poor condition, or not worth much money, you may not need collision and comprehensive coverages.

However, dropping those coverages would mean you will have to pay to repair or replace your car yourself. This brings us to the next factor to consider.

How is your financial situation? Can you afford to pay for repairs or a new car yourself? If the answer is yes, then consider reducing coverages. But, if the answer is no, paying a little more each month for full coverage may be worth it.

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Liability Auto Insurance: The Bottom Line

Liability car insurance is required by most states but usually doesn’t offer enough coverage. In addition, required limits are generally too low to completely cover bodily injuries and property damage if you cause an accident.

In addition, liability insurance doesn’t cover damages to you and your passengers. Consider adding collision, comprehensive, and personal injury protection to be fully covered.

While full coverage auto insurance is more expensive, it reduces the amount you may have to pay out of pocket if your vehicle is damaged.

Each auto insurance company will offer different rates for coverage. So shop around to find great coverage with the lowest rates for you.

Now that you know about liability auto insurance, you’re ready to find your best deal. Enter your ZIP code now to compare liability auto insurance quotes from companies near you for free.

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