Comprehensive insurance

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Most states require vehicle owners to carry a minimum amount of car insurance. However, just because you purchased coverage according to your state’s laws does not mean you have enough insurance to protect you financially.

Usually, states only require you to have liability insurance to pay for the damages you cause others in an accident. The problem is, if your car is damaged and needs repairs for other circumstances not necessarily related to a car crash, minimum coverage does not pay for your vehicle’s issues. Comprehensive insurance potentially solves the problem by adding protection for your car.

Key takeaways

  • Full insurance coverage refers to a policy that includes liability, comprehensive and collision insurance.
  • Your state may not require you to have comprehensive insurance — but your lender may.
  • Comprehensive coverage provides coverage for your vehicle for a number of perils such as theft, weather and falling objects.
  • Many people believe that striking an animal would be covered through collision insurance, but it is actually included in comprehensive coverage.

What is comprehensive insurance?

Comprehensive insurance, also sometimes referred to as “comprehensive coverage,” does not cover your typical auto accident. Instead, it covers just about everything else that damages your vehicle.

Comprehensive coverage helps repair or replace your car if a covered event or peril occurs. The types of perils covered by each insurance company vary, so you will want to read the fine print. This is because comprehensive auto insurance is generally seen as a type of supplemental auto insurance— meaning it fills the gaps left behind by liability and collision.

When shopping for car insurance, most people do not think about their car being damaged by anything except another car. However, many claims are caused because your vehicle was damaged by something out of your control.

What does comprehensive insurance cover?

First, understand what comprehensive coverage does not cover. Comprehensive insurance does not cover actual car collisions with another car or rollovers. For that you need your liability and collision coverage.

Instead, comprehensive coverage covers just about everything else that can happen to your vehicle. Most comprehensive policies cover the following types of damages:

  • Falling objects — An item falls off another vehicle and hits your car.
  • Fire — A wild fire works its way through your community and damages your car.
  • Flood — Rainfall causes water levels to rise above your car’s clearance, which causes the inside of your car to become sopping wet.
  • Hail — Hail leaves numerous dents on your hood and roof, and small cracks throughout your windshield.
  • Hitting an animal — You hit a deer in the middle of the night, severely damaging your car’s hood and front bumper.
  • Theft — A thief breaks the passenger side window to steal your car’s radio.
  • Vandalism — Someone slashes your tires for fun at night.
  • Wind — Severe wind topples a tree which in turn totals your car.

As you can see, comprehensive is protection from several things that could easily damage or destroy your car. Because of this, many insurance experts consider comprehensive to be a vital part of their auto insurance.

How much does comprehensive coverage cost?

As with any insurance plan, the total cost of comprehensive insurance varies from person to person. Keep in mind auto insurance premiums (regardless of what type you get) are affected by the following:

  • Driver’s age
  • Driver’s gender (in most states)
  • Marital status
  • Driving experience (in years)
  • Driving history
  • Claims history
  • Insurance discounts
  • Type of car
  • Age of car
  • Car ownership status
  • Annual mileage
  • Credit score (in most states)
  • Location
  • Insurance history

Keeping this in mind, in the Insurance Information Institute’s latest report in 2018, the U.S. average for comprehensive coverage was just under $168 per year. What you pay could be more or less, depending on the above variables.

Most insurance companies offer multiple payment options. You can opt to either pay your premium all at once, quarterly or monthly. Many insurance companies offer a discount if you pay it all at once.

Do I need comprehensive insurance?

It depends. Each state has a minimum amount of coverage you will need to carry, but comprehensive coverage is not one of them. Even though your state does not legally require this coverage, your finance company will want you to have it. Since your finance company technically owns your vehicle until it is paid off, it will want to protect its investment from damage.

Even if your vehicle is not financed, consider the following questions before dropping comprehensive from your policy:

  • Is there a lot of wildlife in your area?
  • Are forest fires a common occurrence at the moment where you live?
  • What is the crime rate in your neighborhood?
  • Do you get a lot of hail in your state?
  • Do you live in a flood zone according to FEMA?

Insurance experts recommend that if having additional financial protection is possible with your budget then you should consider purchasing comprehensive coverage.

Frequently asked questions:

What is the difference between comprehensive and collision coverage?

Comprehensive covers damage to your vehicle from things like hail, vandalism, theft, fire, flood and wind-related damage.

Collision coverage is, in a way, the exact opposite of comprehensive coverage. Collision covers to repair or replace your car if it is damaged from hitting another vehicle or object.

When is it okay to drop comprehensive coverage?

If you do not have a lienholder, you are free to drop comprehensive coverage. Remember, you are not legally required to have it, but it can be a good idea.

Written by
Lauren Ward
Insurance Contributor
Lauren Ward has nearly 10 years of experience in writing for insurance domains such as Bankrate, The Simple Dollar, and Reviews.com. She covers auto, homeowners, and life insurance, as well other topics in the personal finance industry.
Edited by
Insurance Editor