From the Badlands and the Black Hills to the glacial lakes and prairie, South Dakota is aptly called the land of infinite variety - and not only because of the weather. You can just as easily enjoy rock climbing or kayaking, or experience the awe of a herd of American bison. But before you set out to explore your home state, you need reliable car insurance!

Luckily for residents, the cost of car insurance in South Dakota is well below the national average. Because so much of the population is rural, there is little traffic congestion and relatively few claims made. But that doesn’t mean you should settle for the first car insurance policy you find. The best way to find affordable car insurance coverage is to shop around.

Thanks to the internet, getting comparing car insurance quotes no longer has to be a time-consuming ordeal. OnlineAutoInsurance.com can provide rates from local carriers online within moments. But before you start shopping, you need to understand the legal minimums and decide the level of coverage that’s right for you.

South Dakota car insurance requirements

The South Dakota Division of Insurance dictates that all motorists must carry proof of insurance at all times when operating a motor vehicle. The vehicle coverage requirements are as follows:

Liability Coverage

$25,000 Bodily Injury Coverage per person injured in an accident

$50,000 Bodily Injury Coverage per accident when multiple people are injured

$25,000 Property Damage Liability per accident

Your Liability coverage is meant to help you pay for damages you are responsible for in an at-fault accident. Bodily Injury policies will pay medical expenses, funeral costs, and other economic losses due to injuries. The Property Damage policy will pay to repair vehicles or structures damaged in an at-fault accident. Anything above the per person or per accident limits are still your financial responsibility.

Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM)

$25,000 for bodily injury to one person

$50,000 for bodily injury to two or more people

Your Uninsured Motorist coverage will pay medical expenses for you and your passengers when you’re in an accident with an uninsured driver. Or, if they only have the minimum coverage and your injuries exceed $25,000, your Underinsured Motorist coverage will kick in and pay out the rest.

It’s worth noting that the Underinsured Motorist coverage doesn’t “stack” with the other driver’s liability. Your insurance company will subtract the amount you received in benefits from your maximum limits, so if you’ve also only purchased the bare minimum UM/UIM policy, you won’t be able to get further reimbursement. If you decided to double your Bodily Injury limits to $50,000, then you could receive an additional $25,000 in benefits to help with the cost of your medical treatment.

Because emergency medical care is so expensive, purchasing the bare minimum insurance policy could leave you in serious debt. Additionally, your liability policy won’t help you pay for injuries you or your passengers sustain, nor will it help pay your vehicle repairs. The best way to protect yourself and your assets is to purchase a car insurance policy with maximum limits that make sense to you and to add additional policies that leave you protected.

Driving without insurance

According to South Dakota car insurance laws, proof of insurance or financial responsibility must be presented when asked by a law enforcement officer in a traffic stop or at the scene of an accident. Additionally, you will be required to provide proof of insurance when you register your vehicle.

If you are caught driving without insurance, the first offense may result in a $100 fine and 30 days in jail. You may also have your driver’s licenses suspended for up to one year. You will also be required to file for SR-22 insurance for up to three years, which will result in a hike in your car insurance premiums.

That’s on top of the huge financial hit you could take if you get into a car accident without insurance. If you’re looking to save money, skimping on car insurance isn’t the way to do it.

Additional Coverage

If you aren’t prepared for the high cost of repairing your vehicle, or you wouldn’t be able to afford medical bills from injuries sustained in a car accident, you should consider adding additional policies to keep you protected. These include:

Comprehensive and Collision

A Comprehensive and Collision Policy will help to repair or replace your vehicle from damages sustained in a car accident, as well as things outside of your control. If you are still paying off your vehicle, or if you drive a leased car, you will be required to carry this coverage by your lienholder.

If you’re in an accident, your collision coverage will pay to repair your vehicle or to replace it if it’s totaled, whether or not you are at fault. If the other driver’s property damage policy is insufficient to cover all the costs of repairs, you can choose to file a claim with your insurance instead. But this is only worthwhile if your deductible is significantly less than the difference between their coverage and the total cost of repairs. In general, making claims on your policy will raise your annual rate.

Comprehensive coverage will pay for damages outside of a collision. This could be damage from fire, falling limbs, or hail, or it could be damages caused by a collision with a deer. It will also repair or replace your vehicle if it’s stolen or vandalized. Because of the wide range of coverage, these two policies are more expensive than a liability policy. But if you can’t afford to replace your car, it is worth the money.

Medical Payments (MedPay)

Medical Payments will quickly provide benefits for any necessary medical care you require from a car accident, as well as funeral expenses. Because there is no deductible, this can be a great policy to help you meet the deductible on your health insurance, which can sometimes be very high. It will also cover things that traditional health insurance won’t, such as dental work you might need.

MedPay benefits extend to you and your family members in whatever car they are riding in, or even if they are injured by a car as a pedestrian. MedPay doesn’t pay for any other economic loss due to injuries. But there are two additional policies you can consider adding to protect you from serious accidents.

Total Disability/Loss of Income will pay for lost wages if you are unable to work, and accidental death benefits will pay benefits to a named beneficiary if you perish in an automobile accident. Both of these can be crucial if you are the primary source of income for your family.

Finding Cheap Car Insurance in South Dakota

Car insurance companies use a combination of personal factors, like your age, address, driving history, and credit score, to assess the risk of insuring you. The higher the risk, the more you will pay in insurance premiums. The best way to save on car insurance is to keep a clean driving record and maintain a healthy credit score.

But beyond that, the vehicle you want to insure makes a big difference. More expensive cars with harder to find parts will cost more to insure, while vehicles with advanced safety features can get big discounts. You should always check the car insurance rates before you purchase a new vehicle. If you can’t afford to insure it, you can’t afford to buy it.

There is no one insurer that has the best rates for everyone. Different insurance companies weigh these factors differently when calculating insurance premiums. You will need to compare rates from as many companies as possible to find the insurance company that offers you the best value. Many offer discounts as incentives for things like safe driving, students with high GPAs, or bundling multiple policies. You should take advantage of as many discounts as possible for the lowest rates.

When you’re comparing car insurance quotes online, you can experiment with different levels of coverage to find the policy that has the best value for you. Adjusting the maximum limits, raising or lowering the deductibles, and adding or removing optional coverages will give you an idea of how much you are paying for different benefits. But you shouldn’t choose a deductible that you can’t pay just to lower your premiums, and you should select maximum limits that won’t leave you penniless if you’re in a serious car accident.

The bottom line

There’s no reason to rush - 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. Once you find the policy that’s right for you, you can make a purchase online and have proof of insurance within minutes.

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. Take the time to compare rates, especially before you renew your current policy. Switching companies has its benefits; over time, you may qualify for new discounts offered by other companies, or take advantage of the incentives they offer for switching service providers. Get started now and see how much you can save!