state of Montana

From the Rocky Mountains across the plains to Glacier National Park, Montana is a state of incredible natural beauty. The biggest city, Billings, may seem like a small town to people from urban areas. Drivers roaming through Big Sky Country may stop to enjoy the many National Parks and mountain ranges throughout the state. But because of the dangers associated with rural driving, you need to make sure you have the proper insurance coverage first.

Drivers in Montana pay above-average car insurance premiums compared to the rest of the nation. It’s important to take the time to get as many quotes as possible to make sure you don’t overpay for coverage. But before you start shopping, you need to understand what it is you’re shopping for. So what’s required by law? And what other policies should you consider adding?

Montana Car Insurance Requirements

The Montana auto insurance laws require that all drivers carry proof of insurance at all times while operating a motor vehicle. Your insurance policy must meet the minimum liability coverage as follows:

$25,000 Bodily Injury Coverage per person to pay for bodily injury or death caused in a car accident you’re at fault for.

$50,000 Bodily Injury Coverage for multiple injuries or deaths per car accident, but not to exceed the per person limit.

$10,000 Property Damage Protection for the damage or destruction of a vehicle, stationary object, or standing structure in an at-fault accident.

While these are the minimum limits, they may not be enough for you. The minimum limit can be exhausted quickly in a serious accident. The cost of emergency medical care from even minor injuries can be extreme, and expensive vehicles are costly to repair or replace. The financial responsibility will still be yours, regardless of whether or not the damages exceed your coverage. Consider raising these limits to protect your assets.

Your liability policy won’t pay your medical bills or repair your vehicle. Even if you do have enough coverage to pay damages you caused the other driver, you’ll need additional insurance policies to help pay the cost to repair your vehicle, as well as any medical expenses for you and your passengers.

Additional Coverage

State law requires liability insurance, but what about protecting your car and your assets? Use a little common sense - can you afford to replace your car if it’s totaled in an accident? And will your health insurance be enough to take care of any medical bills you have if you’re injured? And what if you have to miss work because of your injuries? If you’re not financially prepared for any of these possibilities, you need more car insurance.

Comprehensive and Collision Coverage, or what many people call “Full Coverage,” will help to repair or replace your car, no matter what caused the damage. Your collision coverage will pay for damages to your car no matter who’s at fault, and some policies will pay for a tow truck or rental reimbursement if your car will be out of commission for a while.

Comprehensive covers damages to your vehicle that happen outside of the standard car crash, whether it’s hail, fire, or flood damage, or a collision with a deer or other animal. It will also cover you from theft and vandalism. But be aware - some cars are much more likely to be stolen, and will cost more to cover for that reason.

Medical Payments, or MedPay, is a type of no-fault insurance that will pay your medical bills no matter who is at fault in an accident. This policy will follow you, regardless of what car you’re riding in, and even cover you if you’re injured as a pedestrian.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage will act in lieu of another driver’s liability policy if you’re hit by an uninsured motorist. It offers bodily injury and property damage coverage for you, your passengers, and your vehicle, and can also combine with the liability policy of an underinsured motorist when the damages exceed their maximum limits. Car insurance companies are required to offer this policy with their liability policies, but you have the right to deny them in writing.

Even if you’re confident in your driving abilities and decide to skip the other coverage options, you can’t always adjust for other people’s reckless behavior. Adding an Uninsured Motorist policy is usually fairly inexpensive and can give you an extra cushion in the worst-case scenarios.

Driving without insurance in Montana

If you’re caught driving without insurance, your first offense could be punished with a fine between $250 and $500 or up to ten days in jail. The second offense triggers a minimum fine of $350 or 10 days in jail. Drivers could also have their driver’s license revoked for 90 days and get five points on their driving record. Three or more convictions may be punishable by a fine of $500 or imprisonment for up to six months, or sometimes both.

In addition, lapses in insurance coverage and black marks on your driving record will hike up your insurance premiums. Plus, you will still be financially responsible for any damages you cause in an accident; without any insurance, one slip up could cause financial ruin.

In order to enforce mandatory insurance laws, the state established the Montana Insurance Verification System (MTIVS). This allows the state to use vehicle registration records and information provided by insurance companies to find registered vehicles without insurance policies. Law officers can access the database instantly for up-to-the-minute information on whether or not a car in a traffic stop has insurance. If you’re driving without insurance, you will get caught sooner or later.

What determines your premiums?

Your car insurance rates are determined differently by various insurance companies. While they may all use the same factors, they will weigh them differently. In general, high-risk drivers pay more for insurance.

Car insurance companies will use personal information such as your age, driving history, the number of insurance claims you’ve made, and your credit score to establish your risk. The kind of vehicle you drive, how much you drive it, and the address where it’s garaged will also have a major impact. The final factor is the level of coverage and additional policies you choose.

Your premiums are subject to change, even in the middle of a policy period. If you get married or buy a house, they’ll usually drop. On the other hand, insurance claims usually increase your car insurance rates. Some companies offer accident forgiveness with their policies, and this can add a lot of value to the premiums you pay.

There are many discounts you might qualify for, and taking advantage of as many as possible will ensure you get the best possible rates for your coverage. Some of these discounts include multi-car discounts, safe driving discounts, and multi-line discounts for bundling separate policies.

Comparing Montana Car Insurance Online

Before the internet, comparing car insurance quotes was a major time investment that involved calling multiple insurance agencies, or possibly having to visit them in person. But now the internet lets you compare quotes from multiple service providers in your area from the comfort of your home, can show you quotes from companies without providing any sensitive personal information. Just fill out the questionnaire and start comparing rates on policies with similar levels of coverage, all with no obligation to buy. Once you find the policy that’s right for you, you can buy and print proof of insurance within minutes,

Make sure you know what you need before you start comparing rates, and remember that bare minimum policies aren’t sufficient for most people. Don’t skimp on the coverage you need, because when it’s time to make a claim, it won’t save you any money.

The bottom line

Do your homework and make sure you take the time to compare as many car insurance rates as possible. After all, it’s totally free, and it can save you a lot of money on your annual rates. And in the meantime, drive safely and maintain a clean driving record so you don’t have to suffer from higher premiums.

Of course, finding an insurance carrier that’s right for you doesn’t mean it’s the last insurance policy you’ll ever need to buy. Regularly comparing rates will make sure you always pay the best rates for your insurance policies. Over time you may qualify for new discounts offered by other companies or take advantage of the incentives they offer for switching service providers.