Top Guide for Acquiring Auto Insurance in Wisconsin

Possibly more than in any other state, procuring auto insurance in Wisconsin can be a somewhat tricky task. With less-than-clear liability laws and unique road hazards that require special types of coverage, it's important to make sure you get a policy that best suits you and the state you drive in before you find yourself in a situation where you wish you had.

The Truth about the Requirements

If you were to check several different sources to determine what type of coverage is required by the authorities, you'll likely get several different answers. Some will say America's Dairyland requires only liability coverage; some will say liability and uninsured motorist protection is mandated; and others might tell you the state doesn't have a mandatory law. Believe it or not, all would be correct. While Wisconsin doesn't have that law per se, it does have a financial liability law. The mandate declares each driver in America's Dairyland financially liable if he or she is determined to be at fault in a traffic accident. So in order to operate a motor vehicle, one must be able to prove that he or she is capable of that financial responsibility. This is accomplished by giving the State Secretary of Treasury a deposit of $60,000, or by obtaining liability and uninsured motorist protection. The liability portion must have the following minimum levels: $25,000 for bodily injury or death of one person; $50,000 for bodily injury or death of two or more people; and $10,000 for property damage. The uninsured motorist insurance must take care of a minimum of $25,000 for bodily injury or death of one person and $50,000 for bodily injury or death of two or more people.

Being a Responsible Driver

Since your average resident doesn't have $60,000 in cash available to post as a deposit, most drivers meet the financial requirements by purchasing liability and uninsured motorist protection. But even if you're in compliance with the law, do you really have enough protection? Liability protects only the other driver if you're at fault in a collision, while uninsured motorist coverage guarantees you'll be protected up to your set limits if you're involved in an accident with a driver who's not if you incur repair costs and/or medical bills as the result of a collision caused by a motorist who's not financially liable. While the peace of mind those types of insurance offer is important, they leave out a broad range of areas that could leave you and your family in a lengthy financial mess should you have a moving mishap while behind the wheel.

America's Dangerland

Keep in mind that living in this region means facing unique driving hazards exclusive to America's Dairyland. Its proximity to Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, as well as the Mississippi, Montreal and St. Croix rivers, makes the state a veritable gathering place for winter cold fronts, which often leave the roads coated with thick layers of ice, slush and snow. As a result, more than 17,000 car accidents occur every winter when drivers lose control of their vehicles on the difficult-to-navigate roadways. Winter also brings hail and harsh winds, which damage hundreds of parked cars every year.

Another unique danger on the roads comes courtesy of America's Dairyland's high population of deer. With their tendency to dart in front of moving vehicles from obscured locations and freeze when they sense danger approaching, deer were the cause of nearly 20,000 crashes in 2008, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation reported. That ranks the otherwise graceful animal among the top causes for car accidents.

Enough Isn't Enough

In spite of the high number of serous crashes caused by these factors every year, none of them are covered by the policy that's required by the state's laws. To properly protect yourself from costs arising from slick roads, damaging weather and wayward forest animals, you'll have to add comprehensive protection to your policy. In addition to helping replace your vehicle if it's stolen, comprehensive coverage pays to repair damages resulting from factors like hail, severe wind, falling objects, fire, explosion, flooding, vandalism and animals. Unless you have the ability to pay for your own car repairs and medical costs, having a comprehensive policy is as close to essential as one can get.

Know Your Policy

Even if you believe you'd be covered in any of the aforementioned mishaps, it pays to look over your policy to make sure. The State of Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance reports that it receives numerous complaints every year from policyholders who believed they were protected but actually weren't. One the most common misconceptions is that collision plans compensates for all types of collisions, including those involving deer or such fixed objects as poles or trees. In reality, it's meant to serve as a supplement to liability and uninsured motorist coverage, paying for damage to your vehicle after it's been involved in a collision with another car. So it's important to know in advance exactly what's included in your policy; if you don't, you could be left holding the bag--and a very costly bill.

Explore Your Options

Other types of add-ons available to residents include medical payments, which reimburses for injuries sustained by you and your passengers under a variety of outlined circumstances; towing, which provides towing service if your vehicle breaks down; roadside assistance, which provides you with help if you have engine trouble, a flat tire or other problems that leave you stranded; and rental car insurance, which provides you with temporary transportation while your vehicle is being repaired. While including all of these options in your policy might seem ideal, whether they're required depends on your specific needs and budget. The best route to take is to put together an auto policy that makes you feel safe without overextending your budget.

A Good Deal

The good news is you're less likely to overextend your budget than you would be in any other state. Wisconsin consistently ranks among the least expensive places for auto policies, with Eau Claire beating out every other city in the U.S. on the list of least expensive cities to purchase auto protection. Considering how much money one accident could set you back if you aren't properly insured, can you really afford to keep driving with just what is required by the financial liability law?

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