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Iowa Auto Insurance Basics

Auto insurance is mandatory in Iowa. This means that the state requires all motorists to purchase certain types of insurance in certain dollar amounts. If a driver does not have this insurance or does not have proof of it, he can face serious consequences. Thus, it is important for all drivers in IA to know what their state requires regarding automobile insurance and to be sure that their policy meets all minimum coverage specifications.

While ensuring that a policy meets the stipulations of the law may seem like it is the job of someone at the vehicle insurance company, the truth is that the law will not prosecute insurance companies if a violation is found. Instead, individual motorists will be held responsible for their own policies. Thus, whether you think it is your responsibility or not, as a driver in Iowa, to check out your policy against what the law says, it is something you need to do in order to avoid legal difficulties later.

Required Coverage in Iowa

Iowa focuses most of its auto insurance requirements around liability insurance. This is automobile insurance that pays for damages or injuries to people who did not cause the accident. Thus, a driver who carries this type of insurance will not necessarily have his own damage or injuries covered if he causes an accident, but the damage and injuries to anyone who was not at fault will be paid for.

There are two types of liability insurance mandated for IA drivers. The first is property damage liability. This insurance pays for all property damaged in an accident that is not owned by the driver deemed at-fault. Usually, the property in question is another vehicle, though these types of policies will also cover any damaged buildings, landscaping, signs, fences, etc.

The second type of liability insurance that all Iowa drivers must carry is bodily injury coverage. This automobile insurance policy is usually used to pay for the medical care and treatment of anyone injured in a car accident who is not the at-fault party. However, these policies also cover funeral costs for anyone killed in the accident and lost wages and disability payments under certain circumstances.

In addition to mandating that all drivers carry certain types of vehicle insurance coverage, Iowa also requires certain minimum dollar amounts of each sort of coverage. This means that drivers in the state must not only have specific types of policies but that each policy must pay at least the minimum amount if there is an accident.

For property damage liability insurance, IA requires all drivers to have at least $15,000 worth of coverage. When a driver is deemed at-fault in an accident, this money will go towards repairing or replacing the vehicle or other damaged property of people who were not at-fault. For bodily injury liability coverage, Iowa has a couple of different minimum requirements. Each policy must pay up to at least $20,000 if one person is injured or killed in the accident and $40,000 if more than one person is injured or killed.

It's important to note that many drivers in Iowa carry amounts of insurance beyond these minimums. If a driver is deemed at-fault in an accident where a luxury vehicle is totaled beyond repair, for example, the $15,000 of required property damage liability coverage will not cover all the costs. Similarly, medical bills in serious accidents often surpass $20,000 for one person and $40,000 for more than one. A driver who does not have sufficient insurance to cover damages in an accident where he is at-fault can be held personally responsible for the balance that is owed. This can mean losing a home or other valuable property when the courts require it to be sold to cover an outstanding balance.

Beyond liability coverage, Iowa does not require drivers to carry other types of vehicle insurance. However, any vehicle that is leased or that the owner is paying off in installments will probably be required to carry comprehensive coverage. This is automobile insurance that will pay to replace or repair the vehicle of the person who is at-fault in an accident. Thus, it protects companies that lease vehicles or that hold loans on them from total loss if the vehicle is damaged or destroyed.

Usually, the requirement to carry this sort of insurance will be written in to any vehicle lease or loan contract that a driver has. If it's in the contract, the state of Iowa will honor that contract and, thus, require a driver with one of these contracts to carry the comprehensive insurance.

It's important to note that IA has an important difference in the coverage they require as opposed to what many other states require. If you're moving to Iowa from somewhere else, this could effect you in particular.

Many states require motorists to carry uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage in addition to the two types of liability coverage. This insurance will pay for a driver's injuries or damaged property if he is in an accident where the at-fault driver does not have automobile insurance coverage or does not have enough to pay for the damage sustained in the accident. Iowa does not require drivers to have this coverage, though it does require car insurance companies to offer it and highly suggests that motorists take advantage of that offering.

Other Auto Insurance Requirements in Iowa

In addition to their regulations about the types of coverage all motorists must carry and the minimum amounts of that coverage, Iowa has some other laws pertaining to auto insurance that motorists need to know about before they drive in the state. That way, they can be sure to follow all the pertinent laws and ensure that they won't face legal trouble.

The most important of these additional requirements is that all drivers must carry proof of their insurance with them whenever they drive. Usually, this takes the form of an insurance card issued by the car insurance company. Additionally, drivers must show this proof of insurance to any officer of the state who asks to see it, no matter what the circumstances. This includes not only police officers, but anyone representing the state in a peace officer role.

The laws surrounding driving without insurance in Iowa are also important. Even if a driver's insurance lapses accidentally, he is considered to be driving without insurance if it is not up-to-date. If he is caught, he will be fined. If he is in an accident, he will be fined and may lose driving privileges for up to a year. Thus, it's important to not only purchase at least the minimum required amounts of automobile insurance once, but to keep up with all policy changes and renewals. This will prevent drivers from facing a difficult situation if they are caught without car insurance.

Iowa drivers who are still unclear about the state's car insurance requirements or who have more questions should contact the state directly. The Iowa Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) is a great place to start, and they should be able to answer all questions or direct drivers to someone who can. Their website can be found at


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