VIEWPOINT: Del. auto insurance minimums. do they really protect drivers?

Almost all states have at least a certain amount of car insurance that drivers must carry to use their roads. These requirements are often referred to as minimums because they represent the bare minimum of auto insurance a driver can purchase to drive legally. Delaware is one such state that has implemented its own minimums. Drivers looking to save on car insurance wonder if they can get away with the lowest amount of car insurance possible.

Essentially, the answer is that everyone would be better off well beyond the minimum car insurance requirements. However, since Delaware isn’t exactly New York or California, there’s more wiggle room than normal for lower car insurance rates. To answer that question in the case of Delaware, let’s really take a look at the diamond state’s minimum auto insurance requirements.

Sam Rakestraw | PHOTO COURTESY OF MARINE DES ASSURANCES

Delaware enforces general liability auto insurance with the 25/50/10 rule that is present in other states. This is not an official rule, but a handy way to remember the minimum limits for basic liability coverage – at least $25,000 in bodily injury per person, $50,000 in bodily injury per accident and $10,000 in property damage. What also makes Delaware unique with its auto insurance requirements is also at least $15,000 in Personal Injury Protection (PIP) with $30,000 per accident. Thus, the driver responsible for the damage can also be covered by himself rather than end up with these expenses.

While this may all sound above average, Delaware actually has some of the lowest car insurance rates in the country. It has been reported that the minimum car insurance coverage costs $355 per year. It is the cheapest with USAA; next on that list would be State Farm, with an annual rate of $791. Of course, car insurance rates also depend on the driver and their vehicle, so averages are a bit difficult to establish.

Normally car insurance companies always encourage the purchase of coverage above the minimum required if you can afford it. This is not a marketing gimmick, but more of a prudent recommendation, as car accidents can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, with only tens of thousands of dollars in coverage, leaving you feeling a little shortchanged. Driving underinsured or without car insurance is not worth it, as it can result in fines and license suspension. Even in the case of Delaware, prevention is better than cure with automatic coverage.

Full auto insurance in Delaware, with comprehensive and collision coverage, costs about $1,775 per year. This is around the national average. You can argue that driving and residing safely in rural Delaware is a reason to opt for minimum auto insurance. Even so, you don’t want to risk one day having an accident with a luxury car owner with parts whose repair costs exceed your coverage limits. It’s not about how much car accidents will cost, but rather when they will happen.

Samuel Rakestraw is an insurance analyst at Insurance Navy.


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Justin D. O'Neill