Whenever you operate a motor vehicle, you run the risk of getting into an accident. To ensure drivers can compensate each other for any bodily injuries or property damage, all U.S. states, territories, and Canadian provinces have established financial responsibility laws that mandate the purchase of a minimum amount of auto insurance.

Components of Auto Insurance

In the United Sates, the statutory minimum has three components. The first component covers bodily injury for each party involved, the second covers the total limit for bodily injury resulting from any one accident, and the third is the limit for property damage. The three limits are commonly written side by side with a slash to separate the numbers, in the form of 10/20/5, for example, with each number representing thousands of dollars. Thus, the example would be $10,000, $20,000, and $5,000 of coverage of the respective type.

Statutory Minimum Auto Insurance Chart

State/Territory Limits Details
Alaska 50/100/25
Alabama 25/50/25
American Samoa 10/20/5
Arkansas 25/50/25
Arizona 15/30/10
California 15/30/5 Low-income drivers can obtain insurance through the California Automobile Assigned Risk Plan, which has limits of 10/20/3.
Colorado 25/50/15
Connecticut 20/40/10
Delaware 15/30/10
District of Columbia 25/50/10
Florida 10/20/10
Georgia 25/50/25
Guam 25/50/20
Hawaii 20/40/10
Idaho 20/50/15
Illinois 20/40/15
Indiana 25/50/10
Iowa 20/40/15
Kansas 25/50/10
Kentucky 25/50/10
Louisiana 15/30/25
Maine 50/100/25 $1,000 in medical payment coverage is required as well.
Maryland 30/60/15
Massachusetts 20/40/5
Michigan 20/40/10
Minnesota 30/60/10
Mississippi 25/50/25
Missouri 25/50/10
Montana 25/50/10
Nebraska 25/50/25
Nevada 15/30/10
New Hampshire 25/50/25 $1,000 in medical payment coverage is required as well.
New Jersey 15/30/5 Basic policy limits are 10/10/5, but do not offer uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
New Mexico 25/50/10
New York 25/50/10 Insureds must also have 50/100 for wrongful death.
North Carolina 30/60/25
North Dakota 25/50/25
Ohio 12.5/25/7.5
Oklahoma 25/50/25
Oregon 25/50/20
Pennsylvania 15/30/5
Puerto Rico 4/4/4 Minimums are purchased via a government agency known as the Automobile Accident Compensation Administration. This premium is refunded if you procure auto insurance privately.
Rhode Island 25/50/25
South Carolina 25/50/25
South Dakota 25/50/25
Tennessee 25/50/15
Texas 30/60/25
Utah 25/65/15
Virginia 25/50/20
Vermont 25/50/10
Virgin Islands 10/20/10
Washington 25/50/10
Wisconsin 50/100/55
West Virginia 20/40/10
Wyoming 25/100/15

Auto insurance policies provide coverage in the United States of America, its territories and possessions, Puerto Rico and Canada. There is also a provision for those who travel in states or provinces where the statutory minimum is higher than the minimum in the state where the vehicle is garaged. In this case, the limits increase to the statutory minimum of the region in which an accident occurs. For example, a car is garaged in Illinois (20/40/15), the driver is the at-fault party in Wisconsin (50/100/55), and there is $30,000 in property damage. The policy would cover the entire loss because Wisconsin's statutory minimum is higher.

Are Statutory Minimums Enough?

In most cases, the answer is no. To ensure repayment, auto loan lenders require borrowers to name them as a loss payee on auto insurance policies. Lenders may also insist on limits higher than the statutory minimum as a condition for the loan. In these cases, the consumer has to satisfy it by buying sufficient liability insurance coverage.

Even if the car is fully paid for, the answer is still likely no. Take for example, a driver with California's statutory minimum of 15/30/5 collides into two parked cars. She does $6,000 in damage to one car, which does not have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage and $7,000 in damage to the other, which does have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage of 250/500/50. Because her limits are insufficient to cover the damage, the owner of the first car files a small claims action and the insurer for the second car sues the at-fault driver. She ends up responsible for the $8,000 difference between the policy limit and the amount of property damage she caused.

This brings us to a third reason why statutory minimums may be insufficient. Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage provides extra coverage to cover damages beyond the other party's limits. In the example above, the insurer of the second vehicle adjusted the claim and provided for a rental vehicle while the car was being repaired. Thus, the insurer had the right to seek reimbursement for indemnification from the at-fault party.

Conclusion

Although you are required to carry a minimum amount of auto insurance to satisfy legal requirements of where you reside, the minimum is often insufficient to provide adequate coverage for losses. Moreover, you may be required to maintain higher limits to satisfy a lender's requirements. The additional cost of the limits is low for the amount of additional protection provided, and should you be an at-fault party for a large loss, you may consider the extra cost a bargain.