UPDATED: Mar 19, 2020
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All states require any vehicle on the road to carry a certain minimum level of coverage. While these minimums can vary from state to state and don’t necessarily cover everything that a driver might want, the fact remains that insurance is essential. For many consumers, the process of purchasing auto insurance is fairly straightforward. They simply work with an agent or contact several insurance companies to compare rates. Things can be a little different for truck owners.
People are attracted to trucks for a variety of reasons. While some people just like the look, others prefer trucks for their ability to carry large items. The way you plan to use your truck can have a big effect on the type of insurance you need to purchase. Take care when choosing a policy, as being underinsured can be an expensive mistake.
Vehicle Insurance Basics
The state minimums for auto insurance refers only to liability insurance. This means that the damage that you and your vehicle cause to another person or their property. These minimums are usually listed as a set of three numbers that pertain to limits on bodily injury, total for an accident, and property damage. For example, the insurance requirements in Texas are written as 30/60/25. This means that the insurance will cover $30,000 for injuries to a single person with a $60,000 maximum for a single accident. It will then cover up to $25,000 in damages to property, which can include things like the other party’s car or a mailbox. These limits are just a minimum, and it’s always possible to purchase higher amounts of coverage.
Of course, it’s important to note that those minimums are only covering the damages that you cause to other people and other people’s property. It does nothing to cover the damage to your truck. If you want the insurance company to cover repairs to your truck, you’ll need to purchase collision insurance. Not only does this cover repairs, but if your truck was completely destroyed in the accident, the insurance company would help you get a new truck. If you’re still making payments on your truck, the bank likely requires you to have collision coverage, but when you have an older truck that you own outright, it’s your choice. Before you decline the coverage to save a few bucks, though, consider what you would do if your truck was totaled.
There are other types of optional insurance protections that you can choose. Personal injury protection (PIP), for instance, covers lost wages in addition to medical expenses. A personal effects plan would cover theft of items inside the truck, and uninsured or underinsured motorist insurance helps pay for damages not covered by another party’s insurance. Many people also appreciate having roadside assistance, which means that the company will pay for things like towing, lock-outs, and having someone come to help change a flat tire. Each of these different types of insurance adds a charge to the premium, but it’s usually a small price to pay for the added protection it provides.
When filing a claim with your insurance company, remember that your deductible will play a role. This is the amount of money you have to pay before insurance starts covering charges. You can save on your premiums by having a higher deductible, but you’ll have to pay that deductible if you want to use the insurance.
What Makes Trucks Different
Truck owners have slightly different issues when it comes to getting their vehicle insured. One of the major differences between insuring a truck rather than a small passenger car is the size of the truck. Even a small pickup truck is much bigger than a hatchback, and if the truck were to get into an accident, the amount of damage that the truck could do is far greater. This is multiplied when the truck in question is a large 18-wheeler. For this reason, insurance premiums in general are higher for those who have a truck instead of a car.
The use of the truck plays another big role in determining how much you’ll pay for insurance. For instance, if you simply use the truck to commute to your office job, your use is fairly similar to someone with a car. However, if you take the truck off-roading on the weekends, you’ll need to mention this to the insurance company and pay a bit more for coverage. Additionally, when you use the truck for some type of business purpose, you may need to get commercial insurance.
Personal vs. Commercial Truck Insurance
In many respects personal and commercial insurance for trucks cover the same types of things. They both offer coverage for liability, collision, and the other options like personal injury and property. Commercial insurance takes protections a step further, though, and recognizes that certain business uses make damages more likely.
For instance, commercial insurance will cover property related to a business. When theft occurs in a person’s car, the thief usually takes small things like a GPS device, a CD player or a wallet left on the seat. There are higher stakes when it comes to business property, though. In these cases, a thief may be stealing thousands of dollars’ worth of tools, equipment, or materials needed for a job. The potential for losses is more extensive, so the coverage should be more extensive.
Commercial truck insurance will also cover liability when loading and unloading items. If you or a worker drops and breaks an expensive piece of equipment when taking it out of the truck, that would be covered by insurance. This type of coverage is particularly important when the truck is used to transport other people’s belongings, as in a moving company’s trucks.
Who Needs Commercial Truck Insurance?
Sometimes, the need for commercial truck insurance is obvious. If you’re a business owner that rents trucks to people, you need commercial insurance. If you’re a contracting company that has employees driving the company’s trucks to work sites, you need commercial insurance. If you’re transporting business-related goods that would be expensive to replace, you need commercial insurance.
Other times, though, there’s a bit more of a gray area. For instance, if you’re an employee delivering pizza, your personal auto insurance plan might not cover you if you had an accident while on the job, but your employer may have coverage for this. If you work for a landscaping company and carry the company’s tools in your personal truck, insurance might not cover theft of those tools. However, if you get in an accident while helping your buddy move, you would probably be covered by personal insurance, even though you were transporting someone else’s belongings.
These gray areas are one of the biggest reasons to speak with a professional agent about your insurance needs. When you do this, you can be sure that you’ve covered all the bases.
Finding Truck Insurance
No matter what type of truck insurance you need, there are two ways to go about finding it. One is to contact each individual company you know of, such as Progressive, Geico, etc., and request insurance quotes. The other way is to work with an independent insurance agent who is experienced in procuring auto insurance.
If your insurance needs are straightforward and basic, it’s probably fine to search on your own. However, you need to be sure that you are upfront about your use of the truck. If the company discovers that you’ve been using your truck for commercial pursuits, they could cancel your coverage or deny your claim in the event of an accident.
For many people, though, an experienced agent could be a big help. There is no additional cost to you for using an independent agent, and the agent will have the ability to really look at your truck usage and help you determine which types of insurance coverage are essential. Best of all, the agent will have his or her own errors and omissions insurance, which can provide coverage if you’re accidentally underinsured.
Finding truck insurance is a tricky prospect, as there are so many different uses for a truck. Being underinsured is a common occurrence, but using an agent can help you avoid this problem. At the very least, you need to be upfront with insurance companies about your truck usage and to educate yourself on the many types of coverages you might need.