What is an Auto Insurance Policy Declaration Page?
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Your Insurance Declaration Page: The Basics
When you buy insurance coverage, the insurance company gives you a document explaining exactly what you’re paying for and how much it costs you. This is your insurance policy, and you can think of it as a glorified receipt. It spells out the agreement you’ve struck with your insurer in black and white.
These documents can get fairly long. After all, insurance companies have to break down precisely what your car insurance policy does in any number of situations, so there’s no ambiguity after an accident. Fortunately, they include a handy summary called a “declaration page,” or “dec” page.
The insurance policy declaration page - which is usually the very first page - is a high-level summary of your insurance policy. It includes details like:
- Name of insurance company - the insurer
- Policy number - used to reference the policy
- Policy period - effective date and expiration date, i.e. policy term
- Named insured and address - the policyholder
- Description of included vehicles - year make and model of listed vehicles
- Coverage for each vehicle - type and limits of coverage
- Premium for each vehicle - the cost breakdown for each vehicle and each coverage
- Loss Payee, Lien holder, Additional Interest or Additional Insured - the finance or leasing company or person listed as owning the interest of the vehicle
- Endorsements - changes made to the policy or special conditions
What should you do with a declarations page?
The first thing to do when you receive a new declarations page is to check it thoroughly for accuracy. It’s critically important that this page reflect your exact understanding of your auto policy.
Imagine, for instance, that you meant to include your spouse as a covered driver on your policy, but the declarations page doesn’t reflect that. If they get in an accident, your car insurance won’t cover them. Even a simple typo that incorrectly lists your birthday, driver’s license number, or vehicle identification number could prove a major headache should you ever need to make a claim.
In other words, your auto insurance declaration page shows what you’re paying for. If it’s inaccurate, you may be wasting your money. The policy may not be there when you need it most.
The most important items on your declarations page
When you’re scrutinizing your declarations page, there are a few choice pieces of information that you should pay attention to. They’re the key points summing up what it will be like to actually use your insurance policy. These include:
- Type of coverage: Do you have liability coverage? Comprehensive coverage? Collision insurance? Uninsured motorist coverage, or underinsured motorist coverage? Gap insurance? Roadside assistance? All your different policy types should be listed here. Of course, different kinds of policies cover you in different situations, so it’s critical to know the difference. Liability coverage, for instance, covers property damage such as damages done to other people’s vehicles in an accident. Collision coverage, on the other hand covers damages to your own car. Note that there are different legal minimums for these coverage limits in different states, so make sure you are informed when you’re shopping for a quote.
- Your insurance premium: To keep your insurance policy in good standing, you have to pay your insurer a set monthly fee. This is called your insurance premium, and it’s one of the most important things you’ll look for in an insurance policy. Getting a low insurance premium - i.e. a competitive rate - is usually a matter of doing smart comparison shopping, and trying to protect your driving record. People with fewer accidents, fewer tickets, and safer vehicles generally get better rates. Some factors that influence insurance premiums are out of your control, like your age and gender. But even then, you can ask your insurance agency for discounts to get a few dollars knocked off your payment rates. Something as simple as taking a defensive driving course or using an antitheft device could help you get more competitive premiums.
- Your deductible: After an accident, you insurer will help pay for damages. But before the agency’s financial coverage “kicks in,” you have to pay a certain amount yourself out of pocket. This is called your deductible. Generally, there is a see-saw relationship between your insurance premium and your deductible. That is, a low-deductible policy which requires very little out-of-pocket spending after an accident will charge high monthly rates. Conversely, an insurance policy that charges very low monthly premiums will hit you with very high deductibles when you make a claim.
What do you need a declarations page for?
The declarations page is a tangible, physical representation of your insurance coverage. After checking it for accuracy and filing it safely away, you can drive with confidence that you’re legally protected from financial catastrophe. But the declarations page isn’t only useful for you - there’s a number of other situations where it may be handy. These include:
- Proof of insurance: In some circumstances, your insurance ID card will be all the proof you need that you have car insurance. But sometimes, businesses or government agencies will need to see more concrete proof of insurance coverage. For instance, if you take out a loan on your vehicle, the lender will likely request a copy of your declarations page.
- Policy shopping: Imagine you already have car insurance, but you’re in the market for a new policy. Any new insurance agency you consult with will likely request a copy of your declarations page.
- Coverage changes: Whenever you change update your current insurance policy, your insurance carrier will issue you a new declarations page. If you’re adding a vehicle to your policy, adjusting your deductible or coverage limits, or bumping up your personal injury protection, your declarations page will reflect the change. It’s not official until you see it in writing!
What does a declarations page look like?
Here is an example of a policy declarations page similar to ones used by auto insurance companies throughout the United States when issuing personal auto policies.
It is a good idea to review the information for accuracy and to keep a copy of your declarations page for your records. You can often get discounts by showing this document as proof of prior insurance or by having it available to show as proof of coverage upon request.
Declaration pages are issued upon inception of policy and upon renewal of the policy, in which case it is referred to as a "renewal declarations page". If a change is made to a personal auto policy, a revised or endorsement declaration page will be issued when the changes are made.
Many of the coverage descriptions may be abbreviated, however in the example above, the coverage is completely listed in thousands.
The above declarations page example has the following coverage:
- A combined single limit of $100,000 liability coverage (coverage towards others)
- Medical payments of $1,000 (medical coverage for policyholder and passengers)
- Uninsured Motorist Coverage of $25,000 which will pay medical expenses for bodily injury / medical injuries as a result of another person having no coverage
- Collision and Other than Collision coverage with $100 deductibles. This will provide coverage for the policyholder's vehicles
- Towing and Labor Cost coverage for $25 per occurrence