The best auto insurance liability limits are generally the highest, but how much coverage policyholders really need is dependent on their financial situation and the amount of risk they feel comfortable taking on.

All states set minimum coverage levels that even the most barebones policies must provide. Although some motorists are required to meet higher limits than others, drivers usually need to buy additional protections beyond the state-required minimums to get adequately protected.

The minimum insurance requirements in some states can be exceptionally low. For example, vehicle owners in Ohio need to meet minimum limits of only 12.5/25/7.5 to drive legally. These numbers mean a minimum policy must provide at least up to $12,500 to cover the injuries of a single person hurt in a crash caused by the driver, $25,000 total per accident, and $7,500 for property damages. This threshold is among the lowest in the nation and may leave residents vulnerable to heavy financial losses after an accident.

Auto liability insurance is designed to cover damages that the policyholder is responsible for. When motorists maintain minimal levels of coverage, there is the possibility that at-fault damages may exceed their policy threshold. If this happens, the insured driver may still be financially responsible for any remaining auto repair or medical costs. Based on the severity of an accident, these charges can quickly amount to thousands of dollars. If a person with a minimum policy causes damages far above those limits, he or she is still responsible for compensating the parties with damages. As Ohio regulators note in a consumer brochure, "You and your family could end up paying for one accident for the rest of your life!"

On the other hand, some of the highest requirements can be found in Maine, where vehicle owners are required to purchase minimum limits of 50/100/25 in addition to uninsured motorist protection and medical payments coverage. Although these thresholds are high compared with other states, residents may still want to consider improving their policy beyond those levels.

The Federal Trade Commission estimates that the average cost of a new car exceeds $28,000. If motorists are at-fault for an accident that involves a newer automobile, or multiple cars, their property damage liability could easily be exceeded, and drivers should keep this in mind when shopping. Many medical costs can also quickly exceed most minimal protection plans. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the average cost of hospitalization for a head and neck injury in 2005 exceeded $16,000. If multiple people are injured in a collision, the responsible driver could end up paying hefty medical bills.

Luckily, purchasing a policy with increased liability is one of the more affordable ways to prepare for an automobile accident. To get the cheapest rates available, drivers are encouraged to gather auto insurance quotes online where dozens of estimates can be viewed at once. After exploring multiple options, motorists are encouraged to purchase affordable vehicle coverage that includes an adequate level of protection. The Insurance Information Institute recommends that drivers consider limits of 100/300/50, but higher limits are still available, and for not much more premium.