Comprehensive and collision insurance are physical damage coverage options that financially protect your vehicle. Collision may pay for damage to your car if you’re at fault in an accident. Comprehensive, on the other hand, may pay for damage caused by things generally out of your control, such as weather events, theft and vandalism. When purchased together, these options are usually referred to as “full coverage” and may help bolster a liability-only policy. Understanding collision vs. comprehensive insurance may help you choose the best coverage package for your car insurance needs.

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Collision vs. comprehensive insurance

Full coverage car insurance usually means that you have financial protection for your vehicle in case of a covered claim. Although some call full coverage “collision and comprehensive insurance,” these options are not individual policies but are coverage options that you can add to an existing car insurance policy. Many people purchase collision and comprehensive as a package, but you can buy them individually (unless you’re required to carry both by your lienholder).

Liability-only car insurance means you only have financial protection for the other party if you cause injuries or property damage in an at-fault accident. For example, if you have a liability-only policy and cause an accident, your car insurance will not pay to repair the damage to your vehicle. Instead, your policy will pay to repair the damage you cause to the other vehicle (up to the property damage limit you carry on your policy).

The following table illustrates different types of vehicle damage covered with collision vs. comprehensive.

Type of coverage Comprehensive coverage Collision coverage
What does it cover? Broken windows or windshields
Hitting an animal
Vandalism
Theft of the vehicle
Weather damage
Fire damage
Flood damage
Falling objects
Collision with another person’s property, such as their car or home
Collision with another object, such as a tree, fence or light pole
Damage from a car accident, regardless of fault

Comprehensive coverage

Comprehensive coverage is sometimes referred to as “other-than-collision” coverage because it may pay for damage to your vehicle caused by instances other than a car collision. Comprehensive coverage may help pay for scenarios like broken car glass, fixing your car after hitting an animal, fire damage and damage from fallen objects. According to the most recent data from the Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I), the average premium for comprehensive coverage nationwide is about $134 per year.

Collision insurance

Collision insurance may help pay to repair your vehicle if you are at fault in an accident or if you hit a stationary object. A stationary object could be a tree, light pole or a shopping cart left in the parking lot. In some instances, collision may also repair your car if someone hits you and they have no insurance or if you are hit by a hit-and-run driver. Collision coverage is usually more expensive than comprehensive coverage and according to Triple-I, it averages about $290 per year.

Deductibles for comprehensive and collision insurance

Comprehensive and collision are separate physical damage coverage options, which usually include separate deductibles. This differs from liability insurance, which has no deductibles for either party when a claim is filed. The deductible is the amount you must pay out of pocket after filing a claim. You may choose your deductible based on options provided by your insurer, which may be the same for both comprehensive and collision. Typically, the higher the deductible, the lower the premium. However, you will have to pay more out of pocket with a higher deductible if you have to use either coverage.

When requesting car insurance quotes, it may be helpful to compare different deductible levels to see how they impact your overall premium. For instance, you might be able to lower your comprehensive deductible for a slight change in premium, but that same deductible could cause a more significant increase in your rate when applied to collision coverage.

Should I get collision or comprehensive insurance?

Although collision and comprehensive coverage are not required by law, the most recent data analyzed by the Triple-I shows about 79 percent of insured drivers buy comprehensive coverage and 75 percent purchase collision coverage. Some scenarios may require you to carry full coverage, such as leasing or financing a car.

You might also want to consider adding comprehensive and collision insurance if:

  • There is a high likelihood of weather events, animal collisions, vandalism or car thefts in your area.
  • You do not have the funds to repair or replace your car after an accident or comprehensive-related scenario.
  • Your car is less than 10 years old or still has a high market value.

If your car is older and not worth much, you may decide comprehensive and collision insurance is not worth the cost. Or, you may decide to keep comprehensive but not collision. For instance, it could be worth maintaining comprehensive if the cost is nominal, and you have a lot of deer in your area. Some people may also choose to keep comprehensive so that their windshield is covered.

To help decide if you need one or both coverage options, it may be helpful to determine the market value of your car and compare that value to the cost of coverage. If your car were totaled, the auto insurance company would only pay the fair market value minus any existing damage and your deductible. Many experts use a general rule: if the average cost of the coverage is 10 percent or more than the payout you could expect to receive, it may not be worth paying for full coverage.

Frequently asked questions

    • Comprehensive and collision cover different scenarios. If you are not required to carry both types of coverage by your lienholder or leasing company, you can usually choose to carry both or just one depending on your needs. Collision coverage could pay if you hit another car or object, or if someone else hits your car and they don’t have insurance. Comprehensive covers non-collision events, including vandalism, theft, fire and weather events.
    • Car insurance may seem complex between liability, collision, comprehensive, and other coverage options. When comparing rates, you might wonder what the difference is between collision vs. liability. Liability coverage only pays out to the other party for their injuries and property damage if you are at fault in an accident. In almost every state, the law requires you to maintain a certain level of bodily injury liability and property damage liability.

      On the other hand, comprehensive and collision may help repair damage to your vehicle if you’re in an at-fault accident or if your car needs fixing due to an “other-than-collision” claim, such as a hailstorm or vandalism.

    • Deciding when to drop collision coverage on your vehicle is a personal decision, but some insurance professionals may advise you to evaluate whether it is worth it to keep these coverage types with the following strategy. When the cost of coverage is equal to or exceeds 10 percent of the car’s value, you might consider dropping collision or comprehensive coverage.

      However, if your car still has some market value, and you cannot afford to pay for repairs or to replace it, you may want to keep collision coverage. You might also choose to increase your collision deductible to lower the premium you pay if you do not want to drop the coverage entirely. When in doubt, it may be best to speak with an insurance agent to explore your options.

    • According to the most recent Triple-I analysis, the average annual premium for comprehensive insurance is less than half the cost of collision insurance, at about $134 versus $290, respectively. If the cost of comprehensive coverage on an older car is considerably more than the car’s market value, it may not make financial sense to continue carrying the coverage.

      You can choose to carry comprehensive coverage on an older car even if you no longer want collision coverage. Having comprehensive on your policy can offer coverage for some physical damage scenarios, but you will not have coverage if your car is damaged after hitting another car or object.