Category Archives: Auto

How Gaps in Coverage Affect Auto Insurance Rates

A lapse in coverage increases your risk and your rates. It may be harder to find suitable and affordable car insurance and may mean that you need to make some sacrifices in order to keep those insurance premiums at an affordable level. But it’s not a complete disaster and is far from the worst thing you can have on your record.

What is a Gap in Coverage?

A lapse or gap in coverage is a period in which you were not insured. You owned a car during this period but you didn’t meet the state minimum insurance requirements.

In some cases, a gap in coverage can be the result of negligence on your part. You may have allowed your insurance policy to lapse without purchasing a new one or it may have been canceled because you failed to meet your payment obligations.

A lapse in auto insurance coverage can also occur when you are deployed, sent to prison or because you simply didn’t drive during that period. 

If you fall into the first group, your insurer will notify the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), telling them that your car insurance policy has lapsed and you are no longer insured. This will expose you to fines and a host of other problems (see our guide on the penalties imposed on uninsured drivers).

As for members of the military, they can suspend their car insurance coverage when they are on active duty, thus avoiding any rate increases and other problems. The same applies to students studying abroad, although in their case, they will need to contact their DMV first.

What Happens Following a Car Insurance Lapse?

Many states require you to have continuous insurance, which means your auto insurance policy has not lapsed for any period of time. As soon as it lapses, your license and registration may be revoked, and you will need to pay a fee to have these reinstated. These fees, as they apply in each state, are listed below, but it’s worth noting that you may also be hit with additional court fees and fines if you are found to be driving without insurance:

  • Alabama: Insurance Lapse Fee = $200 (first offense); $400 (second offense)
  • Alaska: Insurance Lapse Fee = $100
  • Arizona: Insurance Lapse Fee = $50
  • Arkansas: Insurance Lapse Fee = $50
  • California: Insurance Lapse Fee = $14
  • Colorado: Insurance Lapse Fee = $40
  • Connecticut: Insurance Lapse Fee = $200
  • Delaware: Insurance Lapse Fee = $100 + $5 a day
  • D.C.: Insurance Lapse Fee = $150 + $7 a day
  • Florida: Insurance Lapse Fee = $150 (first offense); $250 (second offense); $500 (third offense)
  • Georgia: Insurance Lapse Fee = $25
  • Hawaii: Insurance Lapse Fee = $20+
  • Idaho: Insurance Lapse Fee = $85
  • Illinois: Insurance Lapse Fee = $100
  • Indiana: Insurance Lapse Fee = $150 (first offense); $225 (second offense); $300 (third offense)
  • Iowa: Insurance Lapse Fee = N/A
  • Kansas: Insurance Lapse Fee = $100 (first offense); $300 (second offense)
  • Kentucky: Insurance Lapse Fee = $40
  • Louisiana: Insurance Lapse Fee = $125 to $525 (depending on length of gap)
  • Maine: Insurance Lapse Fee = Up to $115
  • Maryland: Insurance Lapse Fee = $150 + $7 per day
  • Massachusetts: Insurance Lapse Fee = $500
  • Michigan: Insurance Lapse Fee = $75
  • Minnesota: Insurance Lapse Fee = $30
  • Mississippi: Insurance Lapse Fee = $30
  • Missouri: Insurance Lapse Fee = $20 (first offense); $200 (second offense); $400 (third offense)
  • Montana: Insurance Lapse Fee = N/A
  • Nebraska: Insurance Lapse Fee = $500
  • Nevada: Insurance Lapse Fee = $251 to $1,000 (depending on length of gap)
  • New Hampshire: Insurance Lapse Fee = N/A
  • New Jersey: Insurance Lapse Fee = $100
  • New Mexico: Insurance Lapse Fee = $30
  • New York: Insurance Lapse Fee = $8 to $12 per day
  • North Carolina: Insurance Lapse Fee = $50 (first offense); $100 (second offense); $150 (third offense)
  • North Dakota: Insurance Lapse Fee = N/A
  • Ohio: Insurance Lapse Fee = $160 (first offense); $360 (second offense); $660 (third offense)
  • Oklahoma: Insurance Lapse Fee = $400
  • Oregon: Insurance Lapse Fee = $75
  • Pennsylvania: Insurance Lapse Fee = $88
  • Rhode Island: Insurance Lapse Fee = $30 to $50
  • South Carolina: Insurance Lapse Fee = $550 + $5 per day
  • South Dakota: Insurance Lapse Fee = $78 to $228
  • Tennessee: Insurance Lapse Fee = $115
  • Texas: Insurance Lapse Fee = $100
  • Utah: Insurance Lapse Fee = $100
  • Vermont: Insurance Lapse Fee = $71
  • Virginia: Insurance Lapse Fee = $145
  • Washington: Insurance Lapse Fee = $75
  • West Virginia: Insurance Lapse Fee = $100
  • Wisconsin: Insurance Lapse Fee = $60
  • Wyoming: Insurance Lapse Fee = $50

Will My Car Insurance Rates Increase Following a Gap in Coverage?

In addition to the fines mentioned above, you can expect your auto insurance quotes to be a little higher than before, although this all depends on how long the gap in coverage was.

If it was less than 4 weeks, the rate increase may amount to a few extra dollars a month. If it was longer than 4 weeks, you could find yourself paying 20% to 50% more, depending on your chosen car insurance company. 

The exact rate of increase will depend on the state, high-risk status, driving record, car insurance discounts, and age of the driver. Insurance is all about measuring risk and probable claims, and an insurance company will look at everything from marital status to DUI convictions when measuring your risk and underwriting your new policy.

Bottom Line: Getting Cheap Car Insurance Quotes After a Lapse

In our research, we found that Progressive, Esurance, and State Farm offered lower rates than GEICO, even though GEICO typically tops the charts when it comes to insurance costs. You should also get much lower auto insurance rates with providers like USAA, providing you qualify.

To save even more, maintain a high credit score, aim for those good driver discounts, and try to secure bundling discounts, which are provided when you combine multiple different insurance products, such as homeowners insurance and car insurance.

The car you drive is also key. A new car will generally lead to much higher rates than a car that is a few years old, as it will be more expensive to repair and replace.

However, a car that is a few decades old will cost more to insurance than one that is a few years old, as it may lack the safety features and anti-theft features needed to keep rates low.

 

How Gaps in Coverage Affect Auto Insurance Rates is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

How Much Should I Spend on a Car?

How Much Should I Spend on a Car?

The sad thing about cars is that like boats and diamond rings, they’re depreciating assets. As soon as you drive yours off the lot, it immediately begins losing value. Some people are lucky enough to live somewhere with a reliable public transportation system. And others can bike to work. If you don’t fall into either of those categories, however, a car isn’t something you can put off buying.

Check out our investment calculator. 

If you’re preparing to purchase a new or used vehicle, you might be wondering, how much should I spend on a car? We’ll answer that question and reveal ways to make sure you’re not overpaying when you buy your vehicle.

The True Cost of Buying a Car

Next to buying a house, buying a car is likely one of the biggest purchases you’ll make in your lifetime. And if you want a quality vehicle that isn’t going to break down, you’re probably going to have to pay a pretty penny for a new ride. The average cost of a brand new car was about $33,543 in 2015, compared to $18,800 for a used one.

When you buy a car, of course, you’re paying for more than just the vehicle itself. Besides the fee you’ll pay for completing a car sales contract (known as a documentation fee), you might have to pay sales tax. Then there are license and registration fees, which vary by state. In Georgia, for example, you’ll pay a $20 registration fee every year versus the $101 that drivers pay annually in Illinois.

The amount you pay up front for a car can rise by 10% or more when you add taxes and fees into the equation. And if you need a car loan, you might have to put 10% down to get a used car and 20% down to get a new vehicle. If you decide to roll the sales tax and fees into the loan, you’ll cough up even more money over time because interest will accrue.

Once the car is in your possession, you’ll have to pay for insurance, car payments, parking fees, gasoline and whatever other costs come up. In a 2015 study, AAA found that a standard sedan cost Americans $8,698 annually, on average. As convenient as having your own car might be, it’ll be a huge investment.

Related Article: The True Cost of Cheaper Gas

How Much Should I Pay?

How Much Should I Spend on a Car?

The exact amount that you should spend on a car might change depending on who you ask. Some experts recommend that car-buyers follow the 36% rule associated with the debt-to-income ratio (DTI). Your DTI represents the percentage of your monthly gross income that’s used to pay off debts. According to the 36% rule, it isn’t wise to spend more than 36% of your income on loan payments, including car payments.

Another rule of thumb says that drivers should spend no more than 15% of their monthly take-home pay on car expenses. So under that guideline, if your net pay is $3,500 a month, it’s best to avoid spending more than $525 on car costs.

That 15% cap, however, only applies to consumers who aren’t paying off any loans besides a mortgage. Since most Americans have some other form of debt – whether it’s credit card debt or student loans that they need to pay off – that rule isn’t so useful. As a result, other financial advisors suggest that car buyers refrain from purchasing vehicles that cost more than half of their annual salaries. That means that if you’re making $50,000 a year, it isn’t a good idea to buy a car that costs more than $25,000.

How to Buy a Car Without Busting Your Budget

If you’re trying to figure out how to make your first car purchase happen, know that you can do it even if your finances are currently in disarray. If you look at a website like Kelley Blue Book before visiting a dealership, you’ll have a better idea of what different makes and models cost. From there, you can set a goal and work towards reaching it by saving more and keeping your excess spending to a minimum.

Once you find a car you like (and that you can afford), you can save money by challenging or cutting out certain fees. For example, you can lower or bypass dealer fees for shipping and anti-theft systems. If you’re planning on getting an extended warranty, you can shop around and see if there’s another company offering a better deal on it than your car manufacturer.

Meeting with more than one dealer and comparing offers can also improve your chances of being able to find a vehicle within your price range. So can timing your purchase so that you’re buying a car when a salesperson is more open to negotiating, like near the end of a sales quarter.

Try out our budget calculator.

If you need financing, it’s important to make sure you’re not getting saddled with a car loan that’ll take a decade to pay off. Long-term car loans are becoming more common. In 2015, the average new car loan had a term of 67 months versus the 62 months needed to cover the average used car loan.

The longer your loan term, however, the more interest you’ll pay. And the harder it’ll be to trade in your car in the future, especially if the amount of the loan surpasses the car’s value. That’s why some experts suggest that buyers get loans that they can pay off in four years or less.

The Takeaway

How Much Should I Spend on a Car?

How much should you spend on a car? Only you can decide that after reviewing your budget and figuring out if you can pay for the various expenses that go along with owning a car.

Keep in mind that getting a new or used car will likely involve taking on more debt. If you can’t make at least minimum payments on the debt you already have, it might be a good idea to get a part-time job or concentrate on saving so you won’t have to take out a huge loan.

Update: Have more financial questions? SmartAsset can help. So many people reached out to us looking for tax and long-term financial planning help, we started our own matching service to help you find a financial advisor. The SmartAdvisor matching tool can help you find a person to work with to meet your needs. First you’ll answer a series of questions about your situation and goals. Then the program will narrow down your options from thousands of advisors to three fiduciaries who suit your needs. You can then read their profiles to learn more about them, interview them on the phone or in person and choose who to work with in the future. This allows you to find a good fit while the program does much of the hard work for you.

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