Insurers don't determine your actual cash value (ACV) settlement based on what you owe, but rather on what the car is worth just prior to the accident. Let's say you owe $20,000 on your new car, but it's only worth about $16,000. If your car is totaled, you might get a settlement check of $16,000 but still owe an additional $4,000 on your loan or lease.

Once you know the approximate value of your car and the cost to carry collision coverage, then you can make an informed decision about purchasing that coverage. Many people find that it's a good idea to cover newer cars, but as cars get older, their values decrease, and you might consider omitting or dropping this coverage to save money on your auto insurance.

There is a case to be made for getting just comprehensive and not collision insurance, even if your car is not valuable. Comprehensive covers you for a lot more perils than does collision--including, most importantly, against theft. Regardless of the value of your car, having it stolen is a major inconvenience. Even if your car is worth only $2,000 at the time of the theft, and your insurer gives you $1,500, that sum would go a long way in buying yourself a new vehicle. As we discuss in more detail below, comprehensive insurance generally costs no more than $200 per year, so a $1,500 reimbursement would make the coverage valuable.

Auto insurance premiums depend on the insured party's driving record. A record free of accidents or serious traffic violations typically results in a lower premium. Drivers with histories of accidents or serious traffic violations may pay higher premiums. Likewise, because mature drivers tend to have fewer accidents than less-experienced drivers, insurers typically charge more for drivers below age 25.