Comprehensive Auto Insurance Coverage

Comprehensive insurance is coverage that is unrelated to car insurance coverage provided by liability car insurance and collision car insurance. Comprehensive car insurance covers damage to your vehicle that are unrelated to accidents. Damage from theft, fire, vandalism, and other types of non-collision damage are covered by comprehensive. You won't be required to have comprehensive auto insurance in order to comply with state requirements, but you may be required to carry comprehensive if you are financing your vehicle. One way to ensure you have cheap comprehensive car insurance rates is to have a higher deductible.

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Lauren Blair has been practicing law for more than 25 years. Lauren has been a licensed member in good standing of the Illinois bar since 1994, the year she graduated from Illinois Institute of Technology’s Chicago-Kent College of Law. Prior to law school, Lauren obtained a Bachelor of Arts in government from Cornell University. For the first 20 years of her practice, she worked in mid-size l...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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  • Comprehensive coverage is considered “catch-all” car insurance that pays for car damage that is unrelated to vehicle collision accidents, like theft, fire, and vandalism. 
  • Unlike general liability car insurance, comprehensive coverage is not required by law, but some car dealerships and finance companies require new car owners to have comprehensive car insurance.
  • If you have a high-end car, such as a sports car, vintage car, or luxury car with expensive parts and repairs, then adding or maintaining comprehensive coverage as part of your car insurance policy makes good economic sense because it will likely save you money in the long run if your car suffers covered damages.

Life happens. It’s always smart to plan for the inevitable with insurance. Car insurance is particularly important for people who rely on cars to work and live. If you’ve ever had anything happen to your car, you know how important it is to have the right car insurance. Car accident insurance, i.e., general liability and collision coverage, is key, but what about when things happen to your car that has nothing to do with a collision?

If you want complete damage protection for your automobile, you’ll need comprehensive insurance. It’s easy to add comprehensive car insurance to your existing policy by entering your ZIP code here and talking with a knowledgeable insurance provider about the best policy to fit your budget and needs.

Not All Car Insurance Is The Same

Before answering the question of what is comprehensive car insurance, you should know that there are different types of car insurance depending on the kind of protection you want. The most common policies are:

  • General Liability Insurance – pays your liability for injuries and damages caused in the accident
  • Collision Insurance – pays for damage to your vehicle from a collision
  • Comprehensive – pays for damage to your vehicle not related to a collision

There’s often confusion about the interplay between general liability, collision, and comprehensive auto insurance. People also have heard the term “full coverage,” but don’t necessarily know what that means. These types of coverage, and the differences between them, are explained below.

What is the difference between liability and comprehensive insurance?

General liability coverage is the most basic car insurance you can get. Liability insurance only pays for property damage and/or bodily injury the policyholder caused to others in an accident. General liability insurance is also the most common type of car insurance because just about every U.S. state requires motorists to have it in order to drive.

States make general liability car insurance mandatory for public policy reasons: to avoid financial ruin for people involved in automobile accidents. Liability insurance guarantees that accident victims will get some compensation for property damages and personal injuries. It also helps protect at-fault drivers from being sued and having to pay thousands of dollars out-of-pocket.

So, is comprehensive insurance required by law? The answer is no, comprehensive coverage is not required by law. That’s because comprehensive insurance has nothing to do with car collisions.

What is the difference between comprehensive and collision coverage/auto insurance?

Collision insurance will pay for damages to your vehicle from a crash, i.e., a vehicular collision, but does not cover damage to your car from non-collision events.

Comprehensive insurance, on the other hand, protects you from almost all non-collision related car damage. Comprehensive coverage is considered a “catch-all” car insurance policy.

What is the difference between full coverage insurance and comprehensive?

So, is comprehensive the same as full coverage? No. Full coverage is an insurance term. It means your general liability insurance policy comprises both collision and comprehensive coverage. Comprehensive insurance (like collision insurance) is optional, or “add-on,” coverage that can be purchased in addition to your basic car insurance.

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Types of Loss Covered By Comprehensive Auto Insurance

So, what does comprehensive insurance cover? It’s easy to say that comprehensive car insurance provides complete, comprehensive physical damage coverage. However, when you’re contemplating adding comprehensive coverage to your insurance policy, you want to know exactly what types of loss your insurance provider will pay for.

Does comprehensive insurance cover theft? Does comprehensive insurance cover flood? Read on to learn more about the types of losses generally covered by a comprehensive policy.

1.  Animals

The Insurance Information Institute estimates that roughly 1 in 100 motorists get into deer-related car accidents each year in the U.S. The Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration reports that more than 95 percent of all animal-vehicle collisions result in property damage at an average cost of $2,451.

Many car owners mistakenly assume that collision insurance will cover hitting a deer, elk, moose or other animal while driving. Although it is logical to think that colliding with an animal would be covered by collision insurance, that is a misnomer. Collision auto insurance does not cover accidents or other damage caused by contact with deer, birds or any other animal.

Comprehensive insurance, however, will cover vehicle damage caused by animals. Keep in mind that deer on highways and roads aren’t the only animals that can damage your car. Bears on the hunt for food are notorious for breaking into cars around national parks. Also, one of the top causes of bird mortality in the U.S. is collisions with vehicles. Whether a deer dents your fender or a bear bangs in your hood, comprehensive insurance is there to protect you.

2.  Auto Theft

According to the III, more than 700,000 cars are stolen each year. The National Highway Transportation Safety Board reports that just about 60 percent of stolen vehicles are recovered each year.

Only comprehensive insurance will cover you if your car is stolen, or for damages to your car due to car theft. A home insurance plan will not cover the theft of a vehicle, even if the car is stolen from a driveway or garage.

When an insurance company pays a stolen car claim, it will pay the actual cash value (ACV) of the vehicle at the time of the theft.  Actual cash value is determined by the cost of the vehicle minus diminished value due to accidents, depreciation, age, and wear and tear. 

3.  Falling Objects

Whether your vehicle gets damaged by a fallen tree branch, a misguided baseball or a meteor shower, you’re covered by a comprehensive policy. Comprehensive coverage extends to most types of falling objects, including hail, trees, bricks and even in the unlikely event of a falling piano.

4.  Fire

Most automobile fires are related to car crashes, but a significant number are caused by car defects with electrical and/or fuel systems. The III points out that nearly every major car company has recalled vehicles due to a fire-related defect. A recent study from the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) revealed that insurance claims related to vehicles with fire-related defects were 23% higher than for other vehicle claims.

5.  Natural Disasters

Earthquakes, tornadoes, and floods, oh my! While your homeowners insurance policy could exclude coverage for earthquakes and floods, your comprehensive car insurance will cover your car in the event of a natural disaster, including hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, floods, and even volcanic eruptions.

6.  Riots/Vandalism

Sometimes public events, like concerts, festivals, rallies and protests, turn from peaceful gatherings into disorderly mobs. Particularly during times of civil unrest, sometimes disruptive individuals and organized crime syndicates see peaceful protests as an opportunity to riot, loot and intentionally damage property.

Acts of vandalism, such as breaking windows, slitting tires, keying, spray painting, egging and other defacement or damage to vehicles, can be committed by a single perpetrator or large groups. Often, classic, sports and luxury cars are targets of vandalism, significantly affecting the value of the automobile. 

Comprehensive insurance covers damage caused by civil unrest, riots, looting and vandalism. Opting for comprehensive coverage as part of your auto insurance policy means damage to your vehicle from riots for flipped cars, explosions, fire and smoke.

7.  Rodent Damage 

Rodents, particularly squirrels, can find their way under the hood of your car to nest or seek warmth in extremely cold weather, and cause serious damage. Rodents like to chew and gnaw on engine wires damaging the automobile’s electrical systems. Extensive damage sometimes requires replacing the entire engine wiring harnesses, which supplies electricity to your car.

If you can’t stop squirrels from chewing on engine wires using taste deterrents, like bitter apple spray, scent deterrents, like wolf urine, or anti-rodent tape treated with hot chilli peppers, at least your repairs would be covered by comprehensive insurance. A homeowners insurance policy, which generally excludes damage caused by pests, wouldn’t apply.

8.  Windshields

Windshield damage is pretty common. It’s often caused by the impact of flying rocks or other debris hitting the windshield while the car is in motion. Not only is a damaged windshield dangerous to drivers and passengers, it could be against the law in your state to drive with a broken windshield.

Even small chips or cracks may need to be repaired right away to prevent the chip from turning into a crack and to stop cracks from getting worse. This is especially true in extreme weather conditions or if the seasons are changing. Any temperature change, but especially cold weather, can cause your windshield to fracture and shatter. 

Comprehensive insurance will cover windshield repairs or, if necessary, replacement. How do you know if the glass windows on your car can be repaired or should be replaced? A general rule of thumb is that a chip, crack, or fracture smaller than a dollar bill can be repaired; anything larger may need to be replaced.

If for some reason, your particular comprehensive policy doesn’t pay for windshield damage, some providers offer what’s known as “full glass coverage.” But oftentimes it’s part of, or can be added on to your comprehensive coverage. When you’re shopping for car insurance, make sure you ask about coverage for car windshield and window damage. According to the III, some insurance companies offer no-deductible coverage for car windshield and window damage because oftentimes the cost of repairing or replacing a damaged windshield won’t meet the policy’s deductible.

Types of Loss Not Covered by Comprehensive Auto Insurance

Keep in mind that comprehensive coverage does have some exclusions, so ask insurance providers which types of loss are not covered. Also, always read your policy in full and ask questions about terms or provisions you don’t understand and agree with. 

Examples of comprehensive car insurance exclusions for loss or damage include:

  • Custom paint and accessories
  • Wear and tear, freezing, mechanical or electrical breakdowns or road damage to tires
  • Prohibited and/or unauthorized use (e.g., livery, transporting people for a charge)
  • Intentional acts by the owner and/or driver
  • Items of personal property left inside a stolen car at the time it’s stolen

Costs and Benefits of Comprehensive Car Insurance

Comprehensive insurance is complete protection against damages to your vehicle. But maybe you’re still wondering: do I need comprehensive car insurance? Should I keep comprehensive coverage on my car? The answer depends on your individual circumstances.

Some car dealerships and finance companies require new car owners to have comprehensive car insurance. If you have a high-end car, such as a sports car, vintage car or luxury car with expensive parts and repairs, then adding or maintaining comprehensive coverage as part of your car insurance policy makes economic sense. That’s because it’s much more expensive to repair high-end cars than economy cars. The cost to replace a totaled or stolen high-end vehicle is even higher.

Should you carry comprehensive insurance on an older car? If you don’t own a vintage or collector car, then maybe not. If you’re looking to cut expenses because your budget is tight and you want to know when to stop comprehensive car insurance, think about whether you can continue to work and live without a car if it gets stolen or is undrivable due to damages that you can’t afford to pay for out-of-pocket. 

Keep in mind is that comprehensive policies, like general liability policies, have deductibles. What is a comprehensive deductible for car insurance? A comprehensive auto insurance deductible is the out-of-pocket amount that the policyholder has to pay toward a covered claim.

Example A

Take Motorist A who hits a deer causing $2,500 in car damages. If Motorist A has comprehensive coverage with a deductible of $500, she would pay $500 toward the vehicle’s repairs, and her insurer would reimburse her for the remaining $2,000.

Like all insurance, a comprehensive policy also has coverage limits. Coverage limits are the maximum amount your provider will pay for vehicle repairs or replacement. The example below shows you why you wouldn’t want to insure your supercar with coverage limits applicable to an economy car.

Example B

Motorist B’s supercar is stolen and never recovered. Motorist B has comprehensive insurance so his claim will be covered. However, the high replacement cost of the supercar exceeds the maximum amount the policy allows for. The carrier will pay the claim up to the coverage limits, minus the deductible, but anything above that amount would fall to Motorist B as an out-of-pocket expense. Motorist B should consider insurance for supercars.

Questions like “how much comprehensive insurance do I need?” and “how much does comprehensive car insurance cost?” have to be answered by insurance providers. Although policies with higher limits are more expensive, it’s typically worth it for expensive automobiles like sports cars, collector cars or luxury vehicles.

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Adding Comprehensive Insurance

If you don’t already have comprehensive coverage for vandalism, theft and any other damage to your car that isn’t covered under collision insurance, it’s a simple process to have your insurance provider add it on to your general liability policy. Maybe you’re unsure about what coverage they have and are asking: “how do I know if I have comprehensive insurance?” Just talk to your current insurance provider about the details of your existing policy.

Ask about the coverage you currently have as well as your coverage options, rates, and possible discounts or savings programs. You can also enter your ZIP code here and shop insurance companies to get competitive comprehensive car insurance quotes. That way, you can see which providers offer the coverage you need at the rates you can afford.

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