It’s not news that Texas is huge, and you can find just about every kind of terrain in all that space. From El Paso to DFW and Austin to Houston, you can find pine forests, wide-stretching plains, mountains, beaches, and deserts. With so much to explore, you need to make sure you have the proper insurance coverage.

The average price of car insurance in Texas is considerably above the national average, but it can vary widely depending on where you live. This can be due to a high crime rate or areas with a lot of traffic congestion or traffic fatalities. Also contributing to the high price of car insurance is the relatively high rate of uninsured drivers and traffic fatalities in Texas.

But with savvy comparison shopping, you can find cheap car insurance that will keep you protected in the worst-case scenario. And thanks to the internet, you can compare rates without leaving your house. All you have to do is answer some basic questions about yourself and the car you want to insure, and will provide free car insurance quotes from insurance companies in your area within moments.

But before you start shopping, you need to decide the level of coverage that’s right for you. So what are the state’s legal minimum limits? And what other coverage options should you carry?

Texas Car Insurance Laws

Texas law requires motorists to carry a car insurance policy on their vehicles at all times. Failure to maintain insurance is punishable with a fine up to $350, and an annual surcharge on your driver’s license of $350 for up to three years. Subsequent offenses carry fines up to $1,100 with the same annual surcharge for up to three years, as well as the risk of having your license revoked. This is on top of any damage you will have to pay for out-of-pocket if you cause a car accident without insurance.

The legal minimum coverage limits are as follows:

  • $30,000 Bodily Injury Liability per person.
  • $60,000 Bodily Injury Liability per accident with multiple people injured
  • $25,000 Property Damage Liability per accident

Your Bodily Injury policy pays for medical bills, funeral expenses, and other economic loss for injuries caused in an at-fault accident. Your Property Damage policy will pay to repair or replace vehicles and structures you damaged in a car wreck. Neither policy will pay expenses for any injuries you or your passengers receive, nor will it pay to repair your vehicle.

In a serious accident, you can easily exceed your Bodily Injury and Property Damage liability limits. But this doesn’t relieve you from your financial responsibility, and the other driver may sue you to collect. The best way to protect yourself and your assets is to get coverage with liability limits that make sense for you and to consider adding additional policies to protect you and your vehicle.

Collision and Comprehensive

While your liability insurance keeps you legal to drive, it won’t do anything to help you repair or replace your own vehicle. That’s where Collision and Comprehensive policies come into play. While not required by law, you will be required to carry these policies if you lease or finance your vehicle.

Collision will pay benefits to repair your vehicle if it’s damaged in a car accident, regardless of fault. It will also pay to fix your car if you hit a stationary object, like a tree or side rail. No matter how your car is damaged, you’ll have to meet a deductible if you make a claim.

Comprehensive coverage will pay for damage that happened outside of a collision. Depending on where you live, tornados, hail, floods, and wildfires are a real threat to your vehicle, as well as hurricanes along the coast. This policy will also pay to replace your vehicle if it’s stolen.

If you own your vehicle outright, it may still be beneficial for you to carry this policy. If your car is valued at a high dollar amount, keeping it in good shape will get you a better deal if you want to trade it in or sell it. Even minor dings and scratches can devalue your vehicle significantly. However, if your car is valued at under $3,000, the value of these policies is less certain. You may only want to carry them if you’d have trouble replacing your vehicle if it was damaged beyond repair.

Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage

It’s estimated that as many as 25% of Texas drivers are uninsured, and certain areas in South Texas may have even higher rates of uninsured motorists. If you’re in an accident with an uninsured motorist, you can use this coverage to help. Just like a liability policy, it comes in two parts: Bodily Injury and Property Damage, with limits identical to the ones you chose for your liability limits. The only difference is you’ll be filing a claim with your insurance company rather than another driver’s company.

Your Uninsured Motorist Coverage will also work for you if you’re ever the victim of a hit-and-run, or if you’re in an accident with damages that exceed the other driver’s liability limits. However, the amount you can receive is reduced by the amount you’ve already received. So if you have the bare minimum 30/60/25 insurance policy, and the other driver has the same liability limits, you can’t receive any further benefits. So if you want any underinsured motorist benefits, you’ll have to raise your maximum limits above the legal minimums.

Personal Injury Protection(PIP) vs. Medical Payments(MedPay)

Texas insurers offer two kinds of medical insurance - Personal Injury Protection and Medical Payments. Both of them are no-fault insurance policies designed to quickly settle any medical expenses you or your passengers incur from a car accident. Because emergency medical care is so expensive, having medical insurance coverage can be crucial to protecting your finances.

PIP is considered “mandatory” in Texas, but you can reject the coverage in writing. But carrying the policy helps you pay for medical expenses or funeral costs, as well as economic losses like lost wages or the price of in-home services if you are unable to perform necessary tasks at home. If your family depends on your income or you care, then PIP is far more valuable than MedPay.

MedPay also pays for medical and funeral expenses from injuries caused in a car accident, regardless of fault. It will not pay for economic losses, and it is generally only sold with a $2,500 limit. However, it is generally cheaper than PIP, and it can help you meet your health insurance deductibles after a car crash, as well as cover things your insurance might not. That means you can get necessary dental work or chiropractic care regardless of your health plan. MedPay is usually only sufficient for people with less income and no dependents.

There are some confusing nuances to both policies that you should be aware of. If you carry an Uninsured Motorist Policy, your PIP limits will pay out first, and that cost is subtracted from your maximum Uninsured Motorist benefits. But if your benefits are coming from another party’s liability policy, it won’t affect the amount you can collect.

With MedPay, most policies are subject to subrogation unless otherwise specified in your contract. That means if you’re injured in an accident caused by another driver, you can quickly get the care you need. But when the other driver’s liability policy pays out, you have to give your MedPay benefits back to your insurance company.

Finding cheap car insurance in Texas

Car insurance companies determine the rates for your insurance policy based on a combination of personal factors, vehicle information, and the level of coverage you selected. Generally speaking, the higher the risk you are to insure, and the more protection you want, the more you will pay each month.

Insurers are allowed to use personal factors such as your age, sex, driving history, and credit score to determine the risk to insure you. The fewer accidents and moving violations you have on your record, the lower your insurance premiums will be. That means safe driving helps prevent car accidents and saves you a lot of money on your car insurance.

The make, model, and year of your vehicle will also have an effect on the price of your insurance policy. The more expensive a car is to repair, and the higher the risk it can be stolen, the more you will pay to insure it. You should always look at insurance quotes before you buy a new vehicle to make sure you can afford to keep it insured.

While skipping optional coverages, choosing high deductibles, and selecting the lowest liability limits can save you money each month on car insurance, it leaves you vulnerable. If another driver sues you, or if you’re responsible for a multi-car accident with multiple injuries and damaged vehicles, the money you save each month will be a drop in the bucket in thousands of dollars in damages you owe. It isn’t worth it to skimp on the car insurance you need,

Instead, find the insurance companies that offer you the best rates, and be sure you get all the qualifying discounts. These can include discounts for safe driving, taking a defensive driving course, maintaining a high GPA if you’re in school, and any safety features or anti-theft devices installed on your vehicle. You can also save money by bundling different kinds of policies, or for insuring more than one car.

The bottom line

Finding affordable car insurance is much more complex than choosing the cheapest policy you can find. You have to decide the level of coverage you need and only compare quotes with comparable coverage. Once you find a policy that suits you, you can purchase it online and have proof of insurance within minutes, all from the comfort of your home.

But even if you already have coverage, you should take the time to compare other options before the end of your policy period to see if you qualify for a better deal elsewhere. Switching companies can save you hundreds of dollars a year. Start your free rate comparison today, and find affordable coverage before you hit the road.