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Know the insurance jargon (there's a lot of it) before you sit down with your agent. Also, 20/40/10 is shorthand for different levels of coverage in your policy, not the measurements of a very oddly-shaped woman.

The Lingo

Property damage liability:
Pays for damages to someone else's car, mailbox, or garage. This is required in most states.

Pays for your car when you get in a wreck. If you own a clunker, don't waste your money with this coverage. Hopefully the layer of rust will prevent any serious damage.

Personal Injury Protection (PIP):
Pays for injuries to the driver and passengers of your car (required in some states). This is not to be confused with Personal Image and Reputation Protection (PIRP), which pays for spinning rims.

Pays for damage to your car due to theft, fire, hail, or other things not wreck-related.

Uninsured Motorist:
Pays for your injuries when you get into an accident with an uninsured motorist. What a jerk.

Underinsured Motorist Property Damage:
Mandatory in some states, this insurance protects you if your car is damaged by that jerk that doesn't have enough insurance.

No-fault insurance:
In some states, your policy pays for your medical bills, no matter who is at fault in the accident (generally speaking).

That 20/40/10 Thing

Most insurance policies and state standards are written in a funny code with slash marks (like 20/40/10). For the history of these numbers, see our story below. Here's what they mean:

First number (20):
Up to $20,000 coverage for "bodily injury liability" (pays for injuries you cause to someone else) per person injured in an accident.

Second number (40):
Up to $40,000 coverage for "bodily injury liability" per accident. If three people need more than $20,000 of care (more than $60,000), you're paying for it out of pocket.

Third number (10):
Up to $10,000 coverage for all property damage per accident.

Story Time

If you've ever wondered about the history of auto insurance (who hasn't?), we've unearthed some juicy tidbits about the 20/40/10 jargon.

"Auto insurance code" was invented by Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius (as XX/XL/X), who showed keen insight in predicting not only the need for car insurance, but also the need for cars.

Over the years, the code evolved through various permutations -- smoke signals, Morse Code, shiny rocks piled at different heights and, for a brief time, poodles -- until it arrived at the format we now know so (kinda) well: 20/40/10.