Protect your wheels from flooding, hailstorms and deer, oh my.
Auto insurance is made up of several types of coverage, some that are required by law and some that are optional.
One type of optional coverage is comprehensive insurance, which pays for damages to your car from incidents other than collisions (that’s what collision insurance is for).
Leaseholders and people who finance their cars are generally required to have comprehensive coverage, but for everyone else, do you need comprehensive auto insurance?
Comprehensive insurance pays to repair or replace your car if it is damaged or destroyed in an event that isn’t a collision.
This can include things like theft, vandalism, fire, natural disasters (like tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes and floods), falling objects (like hail or a tree falling on your car), and animal damage (like hitting a deer or being invaded by some ravenous woodchucks.
Some insurance companies in some states sell collision and comprehensive bundled together (see below). Others treat them as two separate products.
In the event your car is a total loss, comprehensive pays the actual cash value of your car, meaning its replacement cost minus depreciation. Many people use the Kelley Blue Book to estimate the actual cash value of their vehicles, though your insurance company will have its own estimation.
Auto insurance is made up of several types of coverage. Here’s what the other types of insurance cover, and how comprehensive compares to those types:
Collision insurance — Pays to repair or replace your vehicle if it’s totalled in a wreck with another vehicle or in a single-car accident (like you hit a tree). Like comprehensive, pays actual cash value. Optional.
Liability insurance: bodily injury liability (BIL) and property damage liability (PDL) — Liability insurance pays for the expenses of people you hurt while driving your car. Bodily injury liability (BIL) pays for other people’s medical expenses; property damage liability (PDL) pays to repair damage or replace their vehicle. Required (in states that require insurance).
Personal injury protection (PIP) — Helps cover some of the costs — including medical expenses and lost wages — if you or your passengers are injured in a car accident, regardless of fault. Many people who have good health insurance choose to skip personal injury protection or just purchase the minimum amount. Sometimes required (in states that require insurance).
Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM) — Usually when a driver hits you, you can make a claim to their insurance company and get compensated by their liability coverage. But if that coverage isn’t enough to cover your expenses, or if you’re hit by an uninsured driver or a hit-and-run driver, uninsured motorist/underinsured motorist coverage pays you the difference. Sometimes required (in states that require insurance).
Gap coverage — If you finance your car and it’s totaled or stolen, gap insurance pays the bank the difference between the amount your comprehensive or collision coverage would pay you for the car (the actual cash value) and the amount you owe the bank for the car. Optional.
Everyone who owns a car and wants to be fully insured from risk needs comprehensive insurance, but there are some groups for whom it is essential:
1. People who lease or finance their cars Many lenders require that people who lease or finance their cars have both collision and comprehensive coverage.
2. People who cannot afford to buy a new car If you own your car outright, you may think you can skip comprehensive insurance. A good way to think about it is, if your car were stolen or destroyed in a flash flood or fire, would you be able to afford to replace it? For some people, the answer is yes — they have emergency funds or savings set aside for this reason. For other people, the loss of a car could be an impossible blow. For that second group, comprehensive insurance coverage provides essential protection.
3. People worried about natural disasters If you live in an area prone to floods, earthquakes or other natural disasters, comprehensive insurance is the only way to protect yourself if your car is destroyed. Even if it’s in your garage or on your property, your homeowners insurance won’t cover it.
The cost of comprehensive insurance coverage varies greatly by location, but the average annual premium for comprehensive coverage countrywide is $148 per year ($12 per month). The most expensive place for comprehensive coverage is Washington, D.C., where it’s $233 per year ($19 per month). The cheapest state is Maine, where the average cost is $104 per year ($9 per month).
The cost of comprehensive car insurance can be complicated by the fact that many carriers sell comprehensive and collision coverage bundled together and you may not have a choice to just price out comprehensive.
This table gives you an idea of the cost liability coverage, collision coverage, comprehensive coverage, and total (combined) coverage by state (note that the premiums listed are yearly premiums, not monthly).
|District of Columbia||$628.82||$468.67||$233.24||$1,330.73|
If you don’t have reserve funds to replace your car if it’s destroyed or stolen, comprehensive insurance can be invaluable coverage.
But there is one exception: if your car is worth less than the premiums you’re paying.
The Insurance Information Institute (III) recommends that a good formula for deciding if comprehensive coverage is worth it is to multiply your yearly comprehensive premium by 10. If the resulting figure is higher than your car’s value, it may not make sense to buy comprehensive insurance (you’d be better off saving that money in an emergency fund).
But if your car is worth more than than 10 times your comprehensive premium, the protection you get from comprehensive coverage could offer essential protection.
Policygenius can help you decide how much car insurance coverage is the right amount for you, including whether you need comprehensive and collision coverage. Get started by sharing a few details here.
About the author
Anna Swartz is a Managing Editor at Policygenius in New York City, and an expert in auto insurance. Previously, she was a senior staff writer at Mic, writing about news and culture. Her work has appeared in The Dodo, AOL, HuffPost, Salon and Heeb.
Policygenius’ editorial content is not written by an insurance agent. It’s intended for informational purposes and should not be considered legal or financial advice. Consult a professional to learn what financial products are right for you.
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