New Jersey packs an impressive statistical punch for its size. It’s the fourth smallest state in the country, yet it’s the 11th most populous and the most densely populated of all. On top of that, it’s the second-wealthiest state in the U.S. according to income per capita—even if a lot of that money’s made next door in New York—with nearly one in five households earning over $150,000 per year.
It also happens to be one of the most expensive states to live in, with the third-highest cost of living nationwide. Auto insurance is one of many factors, and New Jersey usually ranks third for highest average premiums (with only Michigan and Montana beating it out).
So there’s plenty of incentive to seek out ways to lower your monthly car insurance payments. We talk about discounts and other ways to reduce your premium over the course of this page, but comparison shopping for the lowest quotes on a new policy is the single most effective way to minimize your car insurance costs. We assist you in doing just that, quickly and easily, delivering carrier-neutral information based on the coverage you need.
If there were just one carrier that consistently served up the best rates on the best policies, shopping for car insurance would be so easy. But there are plenty of personal factors that affect your offers, and each insurer has its own formula for determining premiums. Some carriers tend to stand out, though. For example, these are the top three in the Mid-Atlantic region, according to an objective J.D. Power study from 2016 (see the full list).
These auto insurance companies come out on top for the area when J.D. Power scrutinized their average premium, policy flexibility, customer satisfaction scores, and other important metrics. It’s just a generalization, but it can give you some direction if you’re trying to figure out which carriers to investigate first.
Or, let us simplify and speed things up for you. SmartFinancial’s innovative platform delivers quotes from New Jersey’s leading carriers, tailored to your personal information, so you can quickly narrow down the choices to the lowest offers on coverage that’s well suited to your lifestyle, location, and vehicle.
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Car insurance laws are based on the principle that all drivers need to be financially accountable for any damage or injuries they cause. This helps protect you and everyone who uses the roads from potentially devastating repair and medical expenses resulting from an accident, and it actually helps keep coverage costs down.
Every state sets its own minimum coverage requirements. We go over New Jersey’s a little further down. While it’s easy to grumble about having to pay every month, it should provide some peace of mind. Plus, you’ll be thankful for the protection should you have the misfortune of being involved in a traffic incident. They do happen, all the time.
New Jersey Driving Safety
Continuing with the thought above, there are, on average, well over 700 traffic accidents every day in New Jersey. Remember, this is the most densely populated state, so there are a lot of vehicles on the road. Plus, New Jersey is a heavily used corridor through the Mid-Atlantic region.
On a positive note, New Jersey does have a relatively low crash fatality rate, with 6.3 deaths per 100,000 residents. It’s certainly not the lowest in the country, but lots of states have higher rates—even twice as high or more. One main explanation is that a lot of crashes occur in congestion or traffic at lower speeds. So there’s a slight silver lining to all that maddening traffic you deal with.
New Jersey has some air quality problems. Part of the State’s plan to address this issue is incentivizing residents to make more environmentally friendly decisions about their vehicles and driving habits. Below are some examples.
It’s also worth noting that your car insurance company probably offers some rewards for choosing a green vehicle or keeping your annual mileage below a certain threshold. So, if you’re an eco-minded motorist, be sure to ask your carrier about this subject.
New Jersey motorists are required to undergo periodic emissions testing for their vehicles—something that costs time and money. However, if you drive an entirely electric-powered vehicle or certain types of diesel vehicles, the State waives this requirement. Learn more about local emissions standards and testing on the State of New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission website.
High-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes on the NJ Turnpike are only open to autos carrying three or more people. That is, unless you drive a qualifying hybrid electric vehicle between interchanges 11 and 14 at certain times (6:00 to 9:00 am Mondays through Fridays heading northbound and 4:00 to 7:00 pm on weekdays heading southbound). At these times on this part of the Turnpike, qualifying hybrids may use the HOV lane regardless of how many people are inside.
Vehicles rated at 45 miles per gallon or better that meet the California Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (SULEV) standard qualify for a 10% discount on off-peak toll rates on the NJ Turnpike and the NJ Parkway through the EZPass program. Learn more about the Green Pass Discount, as well as the other types of discounts offered, on the New Jersey Turnpike Authority website.
New Jersey’s minimum coverage options are a little more complicated than other states’. That’s because it offers two minimum coverage levels and requires more types of coverage than many other places.
There’s the Basic Policy, which only requires a minimum of $5,000 liability coverage for property damage per accident and—unlike other states—doesn’t mandate liability coverage for bodily injuries per person or per accident (though you can add on $10,000 bodily injury per accident). It also requires $15,000 personal injury protection (PIP) per person, per accident. The Basic Policy should generally only be considered by drivers with few or no family responsibilities and assets (like young drivers).
Then there’s the Standard Policy, which is the generally recommended minimum for most New Jersey consumers (this policy’s numbers are shown below). It sets minimum liability coverage at $15,000 bodily injury per person, $30,000 bodily injury per accident, and $5,000 property damage per accident. On top of that, you must carry personal injury protection (PIP) in the minimum amount of $15,000 per person or accident, as well as uninsured motorist coverage in the same minimum amounts as liability coverage.
Personal injury protection (PIP) is required because New Jersey is a no-fault state. This means that you can only pursue payment for accident-related medical bills through your own carrier, regardless of who or what caused the crash.
Maximum payment for serious injury or death to a single person
Maximum payment for serious injury or death to more than one person
Maximum payment for all damaged property in an accident caused by you
To reiterate, New Jersey’s Basic Policy coverage is incredibly minimal and leaves you open to serious financial responsibility following an accident. Even the minimum coverage in the Standard Policy is relatively low and may also prove inadequate. Consider upping your coverage for more peace of mind and better value should the worst happen. Also, optional coverages like those listed below cover costs associated with damage and circumstances that minimum coverage won’t help out with.
Despite its name, some optional coverage might actually not be optional for you. If you’ve taken out a loan to purchase your vehicle, the bank or other financing institution probably requires that you add on a few optional coverages—usually collision and comprehensive.
If you’re worried about the extra costs of optional coverages, check out 12 Things You can Do to Lower Your Auto Insurance Premium. If you get your premium down, it’ll help fit the add-ons into your budget.
*This list of car insurance companies is based on the ratings for the Mid-Atlantic region in the J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Auto Insurance Study. Ratings are derived from five key service areas: claims, price, interaction, policy offerings, and billing. USAA is a military-only option and is therefore not including in the above rankings.
The passenger restraint system is a child’s best form of protection in a vehicle. New Jersey requires that all kids under 2 years old and 30 pounds be secured in a Federally approved rear-facing car seat with a five-point harness. Then, all kids under 4 years of age and 40 pounds shall be secured in an appropriate forward-facing car seat until they reach its manufacturer-designated size limit.
Children under 8 years of age and less than 57 inches tall must use an appropriately rated belt-positioning booster seat. After both of these thresholds are reached, kids can switch to the vehicle’s factory-installed seat belts.
While accidents are the main thing people think about in terms of the dangers posed by vehicles, there are some serious risks associated with parked cars, too. If you leave a child unsupervised in your car, van, truck, or SUV, he or she can get injured, kidnapped, otherwise victimized, or overheated.
To that last point—the interior of a vehicle heats up very quickly, even on a temperate day if it’s parked in the sun, and even with the windows cracked. This can lead to dehydration, heat stroke, brain damage, and death in young kids. The same goes for pets. Don’t leave either alone in a vehicle.
New Jersey doesn’t have a law specifically addressing this situation, but its child abuse and neglect laws may be applied for prosecution purposes if a child in your care were to get hurt while left unsupervised in your vehicle.
Yes. Auto insurance companies in New Jersey use consumer credit scores as part of their formula for determining risk and premium offers. There are plenty of other variables, but generally speaking, a higher score helps you get lower rates.
Most carriers in the state are happy to reward and incentivize responsible, cautious driving. Ask yours if they offer a good-driver discount and what you need to qualify. Usually, it’s a period of 3 or more years without an accident and/or a moving violation. Other discounts you can inquire about include:
New Jersey joined the digital age in mid 2015, when it enacted a law allowing state drivers to show a carrier-issued digital insurance card on their smartphone, tablet, or other electronic mobile device.
New Jersey has some of the harshest penalties in the country for driving without insurance. These may include at least several hundred dollars in fines, plus a few hundred dollars in associated fees, as well as up to a 1-year license suspension, community service, and possible vehicle impounding. And that’s just for a first-time offense. Aggravating factors like causing an accident or injuries without coverage makes things worse.
It’s illegal to operate a motor vehicle in New Jersey at the following BAC percentages:
.08%+ at 21 years old or older
.04%+ for commercial vehicle drivers
.02%+ at under 21 years old
New Jersey bumps up DUI penalties at 0.10% BAC. This is a little more aggressive than many other states, where it’s common to increase penalties at a reading of 0.15%.
New Jersey’s implied consent law means that refusing a breath, urine, or blood test comes with automatic consequences. For a first-time refusal, these include up to several hundred dollars in fines and fees, mandatory completion of an alcohol education course, and installation of an ignition interlock device for 6 months to 1 year.
Many aggravating factors can up the consequences of a DUI conviction in New Jersey. These include—but aren’t limited to—having a BAC reading of 0.10% or greater, having prior DUI arrests, causing an accident or injury, and driving in possession of an open container or drugs.
Penalties for a first-time offender without aggravating circumstances may include around $1,800 in fines, fees, and surcharges, as well as up to 30 days in jail, community service, and compulsory completion of a drunk driving course.
Find more details about DUI convictions and penalties on the State of New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission website’s DUI page.
Many carriers in New Jersey will extend a discount to you if you voluntarily complete a state-approved defensive driving course.
We’ve already discussed a number of discounts on this page, and keeping your credit score up and your driving record free of accidents and moving violations helps keep your rates down, too. Also, the higher your deductible, the lower your premium. But the single most effective way to reduce what you pay each month is to comparison shop for the lowest quotes on coverage that meets the needs of your vehicle and driver’s lifestyle.
Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage offer you financial protection should you get into an accident with a driver who doesn’t have auto insurance, or who doesn’t have enough coverage to pay for all the damage and injuries they cause. It also covers you in the event of a hit-and-run accident. If you opt for only the Basic Policy in New Jersey, you don’t get uninsured motorist coverage. However, if you buy the Standard Policy, you’re required to get liability coverage of at least $15,000 bodily injury per person and $30,000 bodily injury per accident.
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