Comprehensive car insurance is a type of car insurance policy that covers damage to your car caused by an event other than a collision. In this case, “other than a collision” generally means your car damage was caused by events like hail, animals, glass breakage and theft. Drivers who own their vehicles outright aren’t required to carry comprehensive coverage, but if you have an auto loan on your car or lease your vehicle, your lender will almost certainly require you to carry this type of coverage.

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Comprehensive car insurance pays for expenses related to a number of damage scenarios, but there may be times when filing a comprehensive car insurance claim may not be necessary. And for some drivers, adding an optional comprehensive coverage policy may not make sense. Understanding what comprehensive coverage offers and when it may be beneficial to file a claim might 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 – the amount you pay out of pocket – 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 in a covered claim.

Fortunately, comprehensive coverage is typically inexpensive compared to other aspects of a car insurance policy. The cost averages $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.

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