by Clint Burgess

Chances are, if you drive a car or any other sort of automobile, you probably have insurance. After all, it's the law, and abiding by the laws is in all of our best interests. As the financial demands of this thing called life go, chances are there have been times when law-abiding citizens have driven a vehicle without insurance. On a moral scale of one to 10, this falls on the low end, but on the end where the law enforcement authorities come into play, it ranks about $450 up the spectrum. (That's the price of a ticket for driving without insurance.) To avoid this hit in the pocketbook, insurance is the legal and safe way to stay on the right side of the line.

As is true with anything these days, insurance policies come in all shapes and sizes. Big ones, little ones, one for SUVs -- even ones for Mini Coopers. There is a company and a policy out there for everyone. Some of the major players in the insurance industry include Allstate, Geico and Safeco, but it's also common for local agencies to offer competitive prices as well as to gamble on high-risk drivers. This insurance, however, will come at a hefty price. In the vernacular of the insurance companies, a high-risk driver is someone who is too expensive to cover. Maybe it's a bunch of speeding tickets, a tendency to run into things or perhaps multiple unfortunate encounters with the law while operating a motor vehicle under the influence of controlled substances or alcohol.

Some of the finer points of insurance shopping include fitting the kind of coverage you need with the kind of coverage you can afford. More often than not, insurance carriers opt for liability coverage only and assume a meager amount of personal injury insurance. Some of these choices are dictated by economic circumstance and a hope that if an accident does occur, it won't be the fault of the lesser-insured individual. The flaw here is that there are those drivers who drive without insurance; you know, the ones who usually run into you. We've all seen the beat-up 1980s Datsun station wagon with its fender and bumper held on by an industrial piece of orange twine. While this may be the stereotypical uninsured motorist, they come in all sizes and packages, including those with very nice vehicles but a poor driving record hiding in the trunk.

In the age of technology -- yes, I love technology -- shopping for the necessary insurance doesn't have to be a headache. Geico, for instance, offers a comprehensive Web site for plugging in all the pertinent information, allowing customers to tailor policies to their needs. The best part is you get a quote right there, and as the commercials say, quotes from their competitors as well. All of this from the comfort of your computer and no annoying automated phone systems to deal with. Of course, if you need more questions answered, consulting with a live broker is a good way to go, too.

A few things to consider when putting your policy together are what kind of deductible you want to be stuck with, how much personal injury coverage you need and whether you want or need any of the extras, like motor club options that many insurance companies offer. A high deductible is no good, but it will lower your premium. Playing it safe with insurance is probably the best route. To be sure there are no misunderstandings -- and no $450 fines -- pick yours up today.

Publication date: 11/04/04

Vandal Summer Cinema Series

Fridays, Sat., Aug. 21 and Thu., Aug. 26. Continues through Aug. 20
  • or