Can You Stack Auto Insurance in California?

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Stacking an insurance policy is a tactic some people can use to combine (or stack) uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage for each vehicle you own, which gives you a greater amount of coverage overall. However in California, by law, you can not legally stack your auto insurance policy.

Understanding Stacked Auto Insurance

Stacked insurance allows you to combine the coverage limits of multiple vehicles in your household, increasing the total protection available. For instance, if you have two cars, each with $50,000 in UM/UIM coverage, stacking these policies would give you a total of $100,000 in coverage if you are injured by an uninsured or underinsured driver. This increased protection can cover medical bills, lost wages or future earning potential, and other damages that may not be fully compensated under a single-vehicle policy.

Benefits of Stacked Coverage:

  1. Increased Financial Security. Stacking provides additional coverage, reducing the risk of insufficient compensation if you face severe injuries after a vehicle accident with an uninsured driver.
  2. Multi-Vehicle Households. Households with several vehicles will likely benefit most from stacking, as it maximizes the total available coverage.
  3. State Law Compatibility. Some states, including Washington, permit stacking, making it a viable option for residents.

Drawbacks of Stacked Coverage:

  • Higher Premiums. Stacked policies generally cost more because of the increased coverage, which may not be necessary for everyone.
  • Eligibility Criteria. Not all drivers qualify for stacked coverage, particularly if they only own one vehicle.

Understanding Unstacked Auto Insurance

Unstacked auto insurance applies standard UM/UIM coverage to each individual vehicle without combining limits. For instance, if your vehicle has $50,000 in UM/UIM coverage, you are limited to that amount in the event of a collision with an uninsured driver.

Benefits of Unstacked Coverage:

  1. Lower Premiums. Unstacked policies typically come with lower premiums since the coverage is specific to each vehicle.
  2. Simplicity. Keeping coverage separate can make it easier to understand your limits and manage your policy.

Drawbacks of Unstacked Coverage:

  • Lower Payouts. The absence of combined limits means that individuals may not receive sufficient compensation if involved in a severe accident.
  • Limited Flexibility. Unstacked policies do not offer the flexibility to combine coverage across vehicles, potentially limiting protection.

Which Option is Right for You?

Deciding between stacked and unstacked auto insurance depends on your household’s needs, budget, and local regulations. Consider these factors when choosing:

  • Household Size. Multi-vehicle households are better suited for stacked policies.
  • Budget. If your budget is limited, unstacked coverage can provide basic protection at a lower premium.
  • Risk Assessment. Consider the likelihood of encountering uninsured drivers in your area and whether your current limits would suffice in an accident.
  • State Laws. Verify whether your state allows stacking and how it impacts your insurance requirements. If you live in California, you can not stack insurance.

California Auto Insurance Requirements

Just in case you were wondering what California law actually says about minimum car insurance coverage, every driver is required to carry the following types and minimum amounts of insurance:

  • Bodily injury liability coverage. $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident minimum
  • Property damage liability coverage. $5,000 minimum per incident

State law does not require individuals to carry uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. California however does not allow the stacking of insurance policies. Essentially, a person’s UM/UIM insurance policy can only be used if their coverage is greater than the coverage that the at-fault driver holds on their insurance.