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Insurance Premiums, Limits, and Deductibles Explained

If you have an insurance policy, you’ve likely heard of premiums, deductibles and limits. But do you know what each of these terms means? Each of these concepts helps determine both how much you’ll pay for your insurance (homeowners, auto, boat or life, for instance) — as well as how much you may receive after a covered loss.

Here’s a quick guide to these important terms:


Premiums are the amount you pay to your insurer regularly to keep a policy in force. You may be able to pay premiums monthly, quarterly, every six months or annually, depending on your insurance company and your specific policy.

Many factors may affect premium prices. For instance:

Your homeowners insurance premium may be based on the limits (the maximum your policy will pay after a covered loss) you choose; your home’s age and condition; your claims history; your credit rating; optional coverages you select and the amount of your deductible, explains the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).

Auto insurance premiums may be calculated based on a combination of factors such as your age, driving record, age of your car, types of coverage you choose, the limits (the maximum your policy will pay after a covered loss) you select, where you live and drive, how much you drive and your credit score, says the Insurance Information Institute (III).

Life insurance premiums, the III explains, are usually based on the amount and type of life insurance you select as well factors like the length of your policy, your age, health and life expectancy.


Your deductible is the amount you pay out of pocket before your insurance will help pay for a covered loss, says the III. Example, if you carry a $500 deductible and have $10,000 in damages after a fire in your home, you’ll likely pay $500 before your insurance covers the remaining $9,500. (The amount of coverage you have depends on the limits you choose.) Deductibles may be required for certain parts of or types of insurance policies but not for others.

Unlike health insurance, where you usually have to meet a single deductible for an entire calendar year, deductibles for other types of insurance policies generally apply each time you make a claim.

In some cases, your insurance company may set deductibles for particular policies. In other cases you may be able choose your deductible. In general, the higher your deductible, the lower your ongoing premium will be. For example, if you choose a $1,000 deductible on your auto policy, you will likely pay less in monthly premiums than you would for a policy with a $250 deductible.


This term refers to the maximum amount of money an insurance company will pay you for a covered loss. You’ll typically find that the higher your coverage limit, the higher your premium may be. Limits often apply to different types of coverage within a policy. For example:

Homeowners insurance. You’ll likely want to consider a number of factors when choosing your homeowners insurance coverage limits. These may include the amount it may cost to rebuild your home at current construction costs (dwelling coverage), the value of your belongings (personal property coverage) and the amount of liability coverage that may assist you in the event that you’re found legally responsible for a guest’s injuries or damage to someone else’s property.

Auto insurance. Typical auto insurance policies include separate limits for different types of coverage, such as liability, uninsured/underinsured motorists and medical payments. Your state may require certain minimum limits for certain coverages, according to the III. Your insurance agent can help you make sure you’re meeting any requirements or provide information to help you decide whether higher coverage limits make sense for you.


Check your policy or contact your Colonial agent to learn about or make adjustments to your specific limits, premiums or deductibles.

You can also learn more at


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