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Some hard facts about auto insurance

File article by Kevin Neeson

Many students dream of getting the perfect car and hitting the road. They envision themselves in that classic red Mustang with the top down and the wind in their hair, the perfect partner next to them, the envy of everyone else on the road.

 
 

But then comes the reality check. First, you need to get together the money to buy that perfect set of wheels. That means getting a job or hitting up mom and dad for the cash. Then beyond the purchase looms the cost of auto insurance—a legal requirement for drivers in Hawai‘i and most other states.

Are you prepared to spend anywhere from $50-$200 a month for the privilege of legally operating that dream car?

In Hawai‘i, a conviction for driving without insurance carries a $1,000 fine, a blemish on your motor vehicle record, and increased insurance costs. As the old adage says, don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.

An auto insurance policy is a contract between you and an insurance company. You pay a premium, and in exchange, the insurance company promises to pay for specific car-related financial losses during the term of the policy.

Basic auto insurance is designed to protect you financially. If you seriously injure another person, you can be held liable for their medical expenses, rehabilitative therapy, lost earnings, and pain and suffering. These costs can easily add up to $100,000 per injured person if you are sued. Hawai‘i law requires bodily injury and personal property insurance coverage in order to prevent the number of lawsuits involving injury and property damage from overloading the courts.

Insurance companies also offer other forms of coverage not required by law. These include comprehensive coverage that will pay for the repair or replacement of your own vehicle if it is stolen, vandalized, or damaged in a fire. Collision is another optional coverage that will repair or replace your car if it is involved in an accident.

Although comprehensive and collision coverages are not required by law, if your car is financed through a bank or credit union, or leased, the lender or leasing agent will require you to carry them.
Other optional coverages include uninsured motorist coverage that protects you if you suffer injury or damage from a driver who has no insurance, and underinsured coverage that reimburses you if the cost of your injuries exceeds the amount of insurance carried by the other party. Emergency roadside assistance, accidental death benefits, funeral benefits, rental car expenses (so you can drive while your car is being repaired), and wage-loss benefits if an injury prevents you from working are other coverages available.

The costs for all these coverages can add up quickly. And for a new driver purchasing insurance for the first time, costs can run even higher since they have not established a record of safe driving.
So what is the alternative? Currently, none. Hawai‘i is a no-fault insurance state and therefore basic coverages are legally required when you are behind the wheel. Other alternatives, such as adding the cost of insurance to gasoline costs in a “pay at the pump” system have been proposed in the past but never approved.

So get ready to pay for the freedom of the road or else invest in the much more economical monthly bus pass. Of course, then you won’t have the wind blowing in your hair, but at least you will be able to afford some of the other pleasures that life has to offer.

 

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