When it’s time to shop for insurance, you may be tempted to pick a plan based on deductibles without knowing the full consequences of what your choice means to your future. Understanding how deductibles work will help you calculate your risk and how to optimize your insurance plan to save you money while properly covering you.
At its most basic, a deductible is the threshold amount an insured person has to pay for a service (accident repairs, an emergency room visit, etc.) before an insurance policy will step in to cover the rest. A premium, conversely, is the amount of money you pay into your insurance on a schedule (yearly, quarterly, etc.). Usually, your premium and your deductible are inversely proportional; that is, the higher your premium is, the lower your deductible is, and vice versa. A plan with low deductibles offers higher coverage, and a plan with high deductibles costs less monthly but demands more out-of-pocket money in the event of an accident.
Note that the deductible is not, in fact, the copayment, or proportion of the cost you’re responsible for. Deductibles exist to deter small claims that an individual could likely pay totally on their own in order to save the insurance company money on petty costs.
When it comes time to decide how much you want to spend on your premium versus your deductible, there are some important factors to consider regarding your own situation, your budget, and your emergency fund.
Insurance exists to ensure that you’ll be financially stable in the event of an accident or similar tragedy, so picking an premium/deductible package based solely on saving money in the present may not be the wisest solution. Suppose someone chose an insurance plan that demanded a low monthly payment of $100, but a deductible of $3000, for example, confident that nothing bad will happen to them and they can use the extra cash that they won’t be spending monthly on insurance. Such an individual may feel good about spending so little money on a monthly basis to “be covered,” but in the event of an accident, may not have $3000 sitting around to cover costs, so the insurance policy proves completely useless to the person in peril.
Cutting premiums to save money only really works if your emergency fund is well-stocked. That is, if you can easily afford to pay a $3000 deductible in the event of a crisis, then a low premium may be just fine. Without any accidents, the math may look “better” with a low premium, but accidents are just that — unforeseen, unplanned emergencies.
The simple answer to the “high or low deductible” question lies in your ability to pay said deductible in a moment’s notice. Choosing a high deductible for the sake of cutting costs may turn around and bite you if something bad were to happen. Do your math carefully and think about your emergency readiness before you start skimping on insurance premiums.