What is comprehensive car insurance?

Comprehensive car insurance covers damage that happens to your car when you’re not driving it, like damage that’s caused by fire, weather, animals, and more.

Andrew Hurst

By

Andrew Hurst

Andrew Hurst

Senior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance Expert

Andrew Hurst is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. His work has also been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, USA Today, NPR, Mic, Insurance Business Magazine, ValuePenguin, and Property Casualty 360.

Edited byAnna Swartz

Anna Swartz

Senior Managing Editor & Auto Insurance Expert

Anna Swartz is a senior managing editor and auto insurance expert at Policygenius, where she oversees our car insurance coverage. Previously, she was a senior staff writer at Mic.com, as well as an associate writer at The Dodo.

Updated|6 min read

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Comprehensive car insurance is a type of coverage that pays for damage that’s not caused by a collision. That includes theft, as well as damage from things like fire, weather, falling objects, animals (including if you hit a deer), and vandalism.

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Comprehensive coverage is optional, meaning it’s not required in any state. But if you lease your car or are still paying off a loan, you’re probably required to have comprehensive coverage.

What does comprehensive auto insurance cover?

Comprehensive coverage, sometimes called other than collision, covers the cost of repairing or replacing your car after it’s damaged by something that’s not a collision. That includes car theft, plus damage from:

If you don’t have comprehensive coverage as part of your car insurance policy and your car is stolen or damaged by fire, weather, theft, or any other non-collision peril, it won’t be covered by car insurance and you’ll have to pay for repairs out of pocket. 

Unlike other types of car insurance coverage, comprehensive coverage isn’t required anywhere, but if you lease your car or you’re paying it off with a loan you’ll have to get full-coverage car insurance, which includes comprehensive coverage.

What does comprehensive auto insurance not cover?

Comprehensive coverage is just one part of a car insurance policy, and it only covers non-collision damage to your own car. That means it doesn't cover:

  1. Damage to your car from a collision with an object or another car. That would be covered by either your collision coverage or the other driver’s liability insurance, if they were responsible for the accident.

  2. Damage to other cars. Any damage to other vehicles you cause in an at-fault accident would be covered by your liability insurance, which can also pay for injuries to other drivers.

  3. Medical bills. Your own medical bills after a car accident might be covered by your personal injury protection (PIP) if you live in a no-fault state, or your MedPay coverage or health insurance, or the at-fault driver’s liability insurance — but comprehensive coverage never pays for injuries.

  4. Anything that violates the terms of your policy. Comprehensive coverage won’t cover any kinds of damage that are specifically excluded from your policy, like if you damage your car on purpose for the insurance payout.

Comprehensive coverage vs. collision coverage

While your comprehensive auto insurance doesn’t cover damage from crashes, your collision insurance does. 

Comprehensive and collision insurance are usually talked about together — and some companies even sell them as a bundle — but they’re actually two different types of coverage that each cover your car in different ways.

Collision insurance covers damage to your car after a collision, no matter who was at fault (hence the name). This includes accidents with other cars, like if you accidentally back out into oncoming traffic, or single-car accidents, like if you hit a post and dent the front of your car.

Like comprehensive insurance, collision coverage is required by lenders and leasing companies.

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How your comprehensive coverage works

Unlike liability coverage, comprehensive coverage covers damage to your car. There are no coverage limits to comprehensive insurance. Instead, you’re covered up to your car’s actual cash value.

“Actual cash value” is a term that means your car’s value at the time of an accident, taking into account its age and any wear and tear. So, if the market value of your car was $20,000 when you bought it, its actual cash value (and the amount you’re covered for) might be closer to $15,000 after a few years.

When your car is damaged by something like a falling tree branch and you want to use your insurance to fix it, you can make a comprehensive claim and your insurance will cover the cost of repairs, or send you a payout for the value of your car.

Every company has its own process for filing a comprehensive claim, but generally you will have to:

  1. Let your insurance company know about your car’s damage

  2. Document the damage to your car with pictures and notes

  3. Work with your insurance company while it investigates the claim

  4. Accept the claim settlement (or dispute it if you don’t think the amount is correct)

Fortunately, comprehensive claims often take less time than claims involving another driver, since you don’t have to wait while the insurance company figures out who was at fault.

What is a comprehensive deductible and how does it work?

Your comprehensive car insurance is one of the types of coverage that requires a deductible. A comprehensive deductible is the amount of money that you have to pay toward a claim.

You choose your comprehensive deductible amount when you buy insurance, but it’s usually set at $500 or $1,000. A higher deductible means lower rates, but it also means you’re agreeing to pay more out of pocket if your car is damaged.

Let’s say that you set your comprehensive deductible to $1,000. That means you’ll have to pay that amount out of pocket towards a comprehensive claim, so it wouldn’t be worth it to file a claim on any damage that would cost less than $1,000 to fix.

If a tree falls on your car and causes $2,000 worth of damage, you’d use your comprehensive coverage to pay for it — you’d just be responsible for paying $1,000 of the bill yourself in order to have the rest of the repairs covered by insurance.

Is comprehensive insurance full coverage?

Although comprehensive and full-coverage can sound like they’re the same thing, that’s not true. Instead, comprehensive coverage is just one part of a full-coverage car insurance policy

A full-coverage policy isn’t actually a type of car insurance you can buy, it just refers to a policy that includes:

  • Liability coverage

  • Comprehensive coverage

  • Collision coverage

  • Any other types of car insurance required in your state

Is comprehensive coverage required?

There are no states where you’re required by law to have comprehensive insurance, but there’s a good chance that you’ll still need to get it. That’s because anyone who leases or finances a car needs to have comprehensive coverage (along with collision coverage).

Lenders and lessors require drivers to have comprehensive coverage in order to protect their interest in your vehicle. Technically, your lender or lessor owns some (or all) of your car while you’re paying off your loan or leasing a vehicle, so they want to make sure all kinds of damage are covered.

If you own your car outright, it’s still a good idea to get comprehensive insurance. Without comprehensive insurance, you’ll have to pay out of pocket for any of the damage that can happen to your car while you’re not driving it.

When is comprehensive insurance worth it?

Comprehensive insurance is worth it for drivers who couldn’t afford to replace their car themselves if it were totaled. Even if you’re not leasing or financing your car with a loan, the cost of paying for comprehensive coverage is less than what you’d pay to replace most cars.

But there are some drivers who can safely drop comprehensive coverage (and save some money). You probably don’t need comprehensive car insurance coverage if you own an old car that you could replace yourself if it were damaged, or that you wouldn’t bother replacing at all.

If you have an old, beat-up car that you use for errands, or that your teenager drives to school, there’s a good chance the cost of adding comprehensive coverage — and paying a deductible if you need to make a claim — isn’t worth it. 

Remember, you can have comprehensive coverage on one car and not another, even on the same policy.

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How much does comprehensive car insurance cost?

While adding comprehensive insurance to a policy does raise your rates, comprehensive insurance costs less than other types of car insurance. 

The national average cost of comprehensive insurance is about $13 per month (or $160 a year). That’s less than the average for collision and liability coverage, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). [1]

Coverage type

Average monthly cost

Average annual cost

Comprehensive

$13

$160

Collision

$30

$358

Liability

$50

$605

Analysis of 2022 report from the NAIC, rates from 2015 to 2019.

The cost of comprehensive coverage varies by state. If you’re finding that comprehensive insurance costs more where you live, it’s even more important to compare quotes when shopping so you can find the cheapest rates.

State

Average monthly cost

Average annual cost

Alabama

$14

$169

Alaska

$12

$144

Arizona

$17

$200

Arkansas

$18

$216

California

$8

$98

Colorado

$20

$234

Connecticut

$11

$133

Delaware

$11

$132

District of Columbia

$19

$228

Florida

$11

$136

Georgia

$14

$170

Hawaii

$9

$105

Idaho

$11

$131

Illinois

$11

$136

Indiana

$11

$131

Iowa

$17

$205

Kansas

$22

$264

Kentucky

$13

$156

Louisiana

$20

$234

Maine

$9

$109

Maryland

$13

$162

Massachusetts

$12

$143

Michigan

$13

$158

Minnesota

$17

$199

Mississippi

$19

$228

Missouri

$17

$203

Montana

$22

$267

Nebraska

$21

$250

Nevada

$10

$117

New Hampshire

$10

$115

New Jersey

$11

$130

New Mexico

$16

$197

New York

$15

$176

North Carolina

$11

$129

North Dakota

$21

$246

Ohio

$11

$128

Oklahoma

$21

$251

Oregon

$8

$102

Pennsylvania

$13

$161

Rhode Island

$11

$138

South Carolina

$16

$197

South Dakota

$25

$305

Tennessee

$13

$158

Texas

$20

$242

Utah

$10

$120

Vermont

$12

$141

Virginia

$12

$145

Washington

$9

$114

West Virginia

$18

$215

Wisconsin

$13

$151

Wyoming

$24

$292

Analysis of 2022 report from the NAIC, rates from 2015 to 2019.

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How to save on comprehensive insurance

While adding comprehensive coverage to your policy is relatively cheap, there are still plenty of ways that you can save. 

The best way to be sure you’re getting the lowest rates for comprehensive insurance you can (even if you have a claim on your record) is by comparing quotes and then going with the cheapest company when you first shop for car insurance, or when you re-shop at renewal.

Other ways to save include:

  • Bundle insurance policies: You can usually bundle your auto insurance with your home insurance or another type of policy and save on both. 

  • Avoid accidents and tickets: Having a clean driving record free of accidents and driving violations makes it easier to find cheaper insurance. If you’ve already had to make a claim, avoiding other hits to your record means your rates will go back to normal sooner.

  • Keep your car in a garage: Companies offer discounts to drivers whose cars are kept in a garage or another safe spot where they’re less likely to be damaged. After a comprehensive claim, moving your car to a garage may also help lower your rates slightly since it lowers the chance of future claims.

  • Raise your comprehensive deductible: You can save some money by increasing your comprehensive deductible. It won’t change your rates by much, but if you can spare the cost of smaller repairs, raising your deductible is a good way to get a slightly cheaper policy.

  • Reduce your coverage on a car you’re not driving: If you won’t be driving your car for a long stretch (at least a few months) you may be able to reduce your coverage to just storage insurance instead of a full policy. This is basically a comprehensive-only policy, so you won’t be able to drive (even if you wanted to), but it’s a cheap way to protect a car you don’t use from damage while it’s in storage.

Lastly, make sure that you really need to get comprehensive car insurance. You can consider dropping comprehensive coverage when your vehicle is no longer worth enough to justify the extra cost.

Frequently asked questions

Is it better to have comprehensive or collision coverage?

You should have both comprehensive and collision coverage to be fully protected. Even if you own your car outright and don’t have to get both types of coverage, by only getting one you take the chance of having to pay thousands of dollars to replace your car after a serious crash or after it’s stolen.

Is hitting a pothole covered by comprehensive or collision coverage?

Damage from hitting a pothole, like misalignment or tire damage, is covered by collision coverage, not comprehensive. However the damage must be a direct result of the pothole. If the damage was a result of regular wear and tear or another maintenance issue, then collision insurance won’t cover it.

Can you have comp only coverage?

Yes, depending on your carrier, you may be able to reduce your coverage to just comprehensive. Some carriers offer comp-only coverage, but only for cars that are in storage for months at a time. Before you drive your car again you’ll have to update your policy with all the necessary types of insurance.

Will my insurance go up for a comprehensive claim?

Your rates can go up after any type of claim, but they're less likely to go up significantly after a comp claim than after an at-fault accident.

Is comprehensive coverage the same as full coverage?

Comprehensive coverage is a specific type of car insurance, it isn’t the same as full-coverage. But comprehensive coverage is one part of what’s usually referred to as a full-coverage policy.

References

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Policygenius uses external sources, including government data, industry studies, and reputable news organizations to supplement proprietary marketplace data and internal expertise. Learn more about how we use and vet external sources as part of our

editorial standards.
  1. National Association of Insurance Commissioners

    . "

    2018-19 Auto Insurance Database Report

    ." Accessed November 21, 2022.

Author

Senior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance Expert

Andrew Hurst

Senior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance Expert

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Andrew Hurst is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. His work has also been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, USA Today, NPR, Mic, Insurance Business Magazine, ValuePenguin, and Property Casualty 360.

Editor

Senior Managing Editor & Auto Insurance Expert

Anna Swartz

Senior Managing Editor & Auto Insurance Expert

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Anna Swartz is a senior managing editor and auto insurance expert at Policygenius, where she oversees our car insurance coverage. Previously, she was a senior staff writer at Mic.com, as well as an associate writer at The Dodo.

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