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What is automobile insurance and do I need it?

Auto Insurance Basics
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Automobile insurance provides such a wide array of protections that it's tough to get anywhere without getting specific. So we'll break the topic into three separate questions:

  1. What are third-party coverages and do I need them?
  2. What are first-party injury coverages and do I need them?
  3. What are first-party property coverages and do I need them?

Before we get started with these three specific questions, we should make clear our general bias. Simply stated, Fools always aim for self-insurance through savings and investment.

Note that we said "aim" because in many cases this just isn't a practical goal. Nonetheless, it does define our approach. We'd rather funnel insurance premiums into our personal savings accounts, whenever it makes sense, and take our chances with small claims, rather than looking for insurance to cover every unexpected event.

With this perspective in mind, let's get started.