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What Is Uninsured Motorist Coverage? (Guide)

Uninsured motorist coverage–also known as UM–helps pay for damages caused by an at-fault driver who doesn’t have auto insurance. Learn more with our guide.

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09/14/2023 04:34 PM

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If you get into a car accident with a driver who doesn’t have auto insurance (or pulls a hit and run), uninsured motorist coverage can protect you from paying for any damages or medical expenses out of pocket.

Our research team took a deep dive into uninsured motorist insurance to help you learn what it is, how it works, and what it covers. We’ve also reviewed the best car insurance companies, so if you’re looking to add uninsured motorist coverage to your policy, you’ll have a good idea of where to start.

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What Does Uninsured Motorist Insurance Cover?

Uninsured motorist coverage, often referred to as UM insurance, helps pay your repair costs and medical expenses when a driver who doesn’t carry car insurance causes a car accident. If an uninsured party causes property damage or injury, UM covers the costs associated with that damage.

Types Of Uninsured Motorist Coverage

There are two main kinds of uninsured motorist insurance coverage: uninsured motorist bodily injury and uninsured motorist property damage.

Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury Coverage (UMBI)

This covers medical bills, lost wages, funeral costs, and expenses related to pain and suffering for you and your passengers after an auto accident.

UMBI usually has two limits: the maximum amount it will pay per person and the total coverage for injuries per accident. For example, if you have a 50/100 UMBI policy, your insurer would pay $50,000 per person and a maximum total of $100,000 per accident.

Uninsured Motorist Property Damage Coverage (UMPD)

If someone without insurance causes a car accident, this coverage pays for repair costs for your car or other property. In most states, UMPD can be used to pay for damages after a hit-and-run accident.

How Much Does Uninsured Motorist Coverage Cost?

On average, uninsured motorist coverage costs much less than standard liability car insurance. The cost of UM fluctuates based on the number of uninsured drivers in a state, so the lower that number, the less coverage will cost you. In many states, adding UM to your existing auto insurance policy may only add $60 to $120 to your yearly insurance premium, or $5 to $10 per month.

What Is Underinsured Motorist Coverage?

Underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) pays for your and your passengers’ injuries and damages that result from an accident with a driver who doesn’t have enough insurance. If you’re involved in a car accident and the at-fault driver doesn’t have enough liability coverage to pay the medical bills for you and your passengers, UIM kicks in. This coverage also has per-person and per-accident limits.

The two main types of underinsured motorist insurance are:

  • Underinsured motorist bodily injury (UIMBI): This coverage pays for medical expenses, lost wages, funeral costs, and pain and suffering after an accident with an at-fault driver who doesn’t have enough liability insurance to cover all the costs. 
  • Underinsured motorist property damage (UIMPD): This coverage pays for damages to your vehicle or other property after an accident caused by a driver who doesn’t have enough insurance.

In some states, UM and UIM are paired together as one coverage policy. In other states, you can purchase each coverage separately.

Should I Carry Uninsured Motorist Coverage?

You’ll need to carry an uninsured motorist insurance policy if your state requires it to legally drive. If your state doesn’t require it, adding it to your policy may be worth it anyhow. UM is generally very affordable, and your liability insurance policy won’t protect you from damages caused by an uninsured driver.

Which States Require Uninsured Motorist Coverage?

Many states require some type of uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. The table below shows what type of coverage is required under state law:

StateUM Bodily Injury RequiredUM Property Damage RequiredUIM Bodily Injury RequiredUIM Property Damage Required
New Hampshire
New York
New Jersey
North Carolina
North Dakota
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Washington, D.C.
West Virginia

New Hampshire and Virginia only require UM/UIM if drivers choose to buy insurance coverage. Rhode Island requires UM/UIM if a driver purchases more than the minimum liability coverage.

How Many Drivers Are Uninsured?’

According to the most recent data collected by the Insurance Research Council (IRC), about one in eight drivers in the U.S. didn’t have automobile insurance in 2019. The number of uninsured drivers varies by state, however. In that same study, the IRC found that:

  • Mississippi had the highest percentage of uninsured motorists, at 29.4 percent.
  • New Jersey had the lowest percentage of drivers without insurance, at 3.1 percent.

Despite the two states not requiring insurance, only 6.1 percent of New Hampshire drivers and 10.5 percent of Virginia drivers were uninsured.

How Common Are Hit And Runs?

In most states, UMPD can be used to cover damages caused by a driver who immediately flees the scene. Below is data on hit and runs from a 2018 AAA study.

  • Car crashes caused by hit-and-run drivers in 2015: 11.7 percent
  • Crash-related injuries caused by hit-and-run accidents in 2015: 5.9 percent
  • Traffic fatalities caused by hit and runs in 2015: 5.1 percent, rising to 5.5 percent in 2016

The study also found that hit-and-run deaths increased by about 60 percent from 2009 to 2016, an average increase of 7.2 percent per year. According to the study, New Mexico, Louisiana, and Florida have the highest rates of fatal hit-and-run accidents per capita, while New Hampshire, Maine, and Minnesota have the lowest.

Is Uninsured Motorist Coverage Worth It?

Because it offers extra protection at a very low cost, we recommend having uninsured motorist coverage if you can afford it. UM/UIM can give you peace of mind by helping you avoid sudden expenses after a hit-and-run accident or a collision with an underinsured driver.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage: Conclusion

Uninsured motorist coverage helps protect you if you’re involved in an accident where the at-fault driver doesn’t have auto insurance. UM is an inexpensive optional coverage that can be purchased as part of a full-coverage car insurance policy or as an add-on to an existing policy. Twenty-two states and Washington, D.C., require some form of UM or UIM to legally drive, but it’s worth considering even if your state doesn’t require you to have the coverage.

Our team took a detailed look at the most reputable insurance providers. When you’re shopping for car insurance, we recommend starting with State Farm and Travelers. It’s always good to source car insurance quotes from multiple providers to see what coverage fits your budget and needs.

State Farm: Best Overall Provider

State Farm is the largest auto insurance provider in the country. The company holds an A++ financial strength rating from AM Best as well as an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. Along with its usage-based insurance program and many discount opportunities (especially for students) State Farm offers the following auto insurance coverage options:

Bodily injury liability and property damage liability insuranceCar rental and travel expense coverageCollision insurance
Comprehensive insuranceEmergency roadside assistanceMedical payments (MedPay)
Personal injury protection (PIP insurance)Rideshare driver coverageUninsured/underinsured motorist coverage

Read more: State Farm insurance review

Travelers: Best Coverage Options

In addition to offering the six standard car insurance coverages–including a robust uninsured motorist option–Travelers has many add-on coverage options. These include loan/lease coverage, named non-owner coverage, and new car replacement coverage. The provider holds an A++ financial strength rating from AM Best and an A rating from the BBB. Drivers praise Travelers for its affordability and attentive customer service.

Read more: Travelers auto insurance review

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Uninsured Motorist Coverage: FAQ

Do you need uninsured motorist coverage in Florida?

Florida doesn’t require drivers to carry uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage to legally drive. However, the state does have one of the highest rates of hit-and-run accidents per capita, according to AAA, so you should consider adding the coverage to your auto insurance policy.

What is uninsured motorist coverage?

Uninsured motorist coverage helps pay for costs associated with your damages or injuries from an auto accident caused by a driver with no car insurance.

Can an uninsured driver make a claim?

Yes, uninsured drivers can make insurance claims against insured drivers. But providers are likely to report the uninsured driver’s status to the state. Virginia and New Hampshire don’t require drivers to have insurance, but every other state has minimum liability limits to legally drive.

Our review process aims to deliver consistent and unbiased assessments of car insurance providers. While there are multiple qualities that make a car insurance company successful, our review team focuses on those we believe are the most important for consumers:

  • Cost: Cost can be difficult to compare between insurers because so many factors impact annual premiums. The cheapest insurer for one driver may not be the cheapest for another. To determine our cost score, we look at insurance rate estimates generated by Quadrant Information Services, discount opportunities, and consumer reports.
  • Coverage: To determine our coverage score, we look at the number of coverage options available as well as coverage limits and deductible options. Our ratings also take into account additional services and benefits like roadside assistance.
  • Reliability: It’s important that an auto insurer is able to meet its claims obligations. Companies with a strong financial strength rating from AM Best score best in this category. Established insurers with a long history of reliable service also receive positive marks.
  • Service: We comb through customer reviews on sites like the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to learn about customer experiences. Insurers with a low volume of complaints score well in this area. We also consider the claims process, giving higher ratings to car insurance providers that offer easy-to-use claims apps.

*Data accurate at time of publication.