What is a comprehensive car insurance claim?

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Comprehensive is car insurance coverage that helps cover expenses for repairing or replacing your vehicle when it is damaged by hail, animals, glass breakage and theft. For drivers who lease or finance their vehicle, comprehensive coverage is usually required. However, for drivers who own their vehicles outright, comprehensive coverage is optional.

Comprehensive pays for expenses for a number of damage scenarios, but there may be times when filing a comprehensive car insurance claim may not be necessary. Understanding what comprehensive coverage offers and when filing a claim might be beneficial may help you decide whether or not to add this option to your policy.

What is comprehensive coverage and what does it cover?

Comprehensive covers repairing or replacing your vehicle when it is damaged from an incident other than colliding with another vehicle or object. When referring to a full coverage policy in auto insurance, it means a policy that includes both comprehensive and collision, as well as state-required coverage.

Examples of typical vehicle damage covered by comprehensive includes:

  • Hail damage and other weather-related events
  • Damage from hitting an animal
  • Theft
  • Vandalism and riots
  • Glass breakage (windshield and windows)
  • Fire
  • Falling objects, such as a tree limb

Comprehensive coverage does not cover the normal wear and tear for your vehicle. For example, when you need new tires or brake pads you would pay for these maintenance items out of pocket or through another warranty program. It also does not include damage to your vehicle from hitting a vehicle or object. If there is another vehicle involved, then it falls under collision.

When should I file a comprehensive claim?

Knowing when to file a comprehensive car insurance claim means understanding how much your deductible is before filing the claim. If the cost to repair your vehicle is under your deductible amount, you won’t be able to file a claim. If the repair costs are only slightly higher than your deductible amount, it may not be worth filing a claim and risking a premium increase upon your auto policy’s renewal.

If you choose to file a claim, there are a few steps involved in submitting it to your insurer.

  1. Contact a customer service representative or your local agent through the mobile app, online or a phone call and inform them of the situation.
  2. Submit any documentation, such as pictures, videos or papers related to your claim.
  3. Your insurance provider may ask you to get estimates from local repair shops.
  4. Each state has various laws regarding the amount of time you can submit a claim, including for damage only, so be sure to ask the insurance adjuster about the timeline.

Reasons to consider purchasing comprehensive coverage

Unlike liability insurance, states do not require comprehensive coverage to drive legally. However, if you lease or finance your vehicle, the finance company or lessor will usually require the coverage. For other drivers who have the option to purchase comprehensive, you may find it beneficial to have this coverage and limit your out-of-pocket expenses when there is damage.

Fortunately, comprehensive coverage is typically inexpensive compared to other aspects of a car insurance policy. The cost is around $168 per year, according to the Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I), which may be worth it to you for the extra financial protection it provides.

Frequently asked questions

What is the difference between comprehensive and collision coverage?

While comprehensive and collision insurance are often lumped together, they are two different coverage options in an auto insurance policy. Comprehensive covers damage to your vehicle caused by something other than a collision, such as damage from hail storms or hitting an animal.

Collision coverage covers expenses towards repairing or replacing a vehicle when there is damage from colliding with another vehicle or object. Examples of collision coverage include being involved in an accident with another vehicle or hitting a mailbox or tree.

Both comprehensive and collision have deductibles that are independent of each other. For example, you can carry a $100 comprehensive deductible but a $500 collision deductible if desired.

If I file a comprehensive claim will my insurance rates increase?

You may experience an increase in premiums once you file a claim, although the amount of the increase varies depending on the carrier, type of claim and the claim amount. You might also lose a claims-free discount if you currently qualify for one with your policy.

How long should I keep comprehensive insurance?

Most lenders require you to keep comprehensive coverage for as long as you are financing or leasing your vehicle. Once you own your vehicle outright, then you may start to consider dropping it.

If you live in a state where there are a number of hail storms, wildlife, a higher crime area or an area prone to flooding, then you should consider keeping it as long as your budget allows. Another rule of thumb is to calculate if your car is worth 10 times the premium or more, if it is not, comprehensive coverage may not be cost-effective, according to Triple-I.

How can I lower my insurance costs so I can afford comprehensive insurance?

One of the most effective means of lowering the overall cost for an auto insurance policy is to compare quotes from multiple carriers. Be sure to compare the same coverage options, including comprehensive, to ensure you are getting a true side-by-side comparison. Rates can vary significantly from one carrier to another. Be sure to ask about all available discounts, both with your current carrier or others you are considering, to help you find the coverage you need at a price that you can afford.

Written by
Sara Coleman
Insurance Contributor
Sara Coleman has three years of experience in writing for insurance domains such as Bankrate, The Simple Dollar, Reviews.com, Coverage.com and numerous other personal finance sites. She writes about insurance products such as auto, homeowners, renters and disability.
Edited by
Senior Insurance Editor