Comprehensive vs. collision coverage: What's the difference?

We break down the differences between comprehensive and collision car insurance coverage.

Shopping for car insurance can be overwhelming. It’s hard to know how much coverage you actually need, especially since you’re paying for protection from things that might not even happen. But it’s a smart idea to get a fairly robust policy, and for many drivers, that means including comprehensive coverage (sometimes referred to as comp coverage) and collision coverage in their auto policy, often paired together.

  • Collision covers physical damage to your car when it collides with something, like a car or another object, no matter who’s at fault.
  • Comprehensive covers you for damage or loss to your car when you’re not driving it, like damage from extreme weather or falling objects.

When you hear the term “full coverage” auto insurance, that usually refers to a policy that includes standard liability coverage along with comp and collision. We’ll get more into specifics later, but for now, it’s important to remember that comp and collision coverages complement each other, and for many drivers, it makes sense to have both.

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What is collision insurance?

Collision insurance, as we mentioned earlier, exists to cover damage to your car after a collision with another car or an object, regardless of who was at fault. Typically, collision insurance has a maximum limit of liability, aka a cap on the amount you’ll be paid out. You also have to pay a deductible before the coverage kicks in, which is usually $500 or $1,000. The lower your deductible, the higher your premiums will be and vice versa.

Collision insurance is optional for most drivers, but if you lease a car or are still paying a loan on it, then your lienholder or lender likely requires you to have collision insurance.

What is comprehensive insurance?

Comprehensive insurance covers you for most kinds of damage that collision won’t cover. Sometimes called “other than collision” coverage, it covers damage caused by things like weather or vandalism. Like collision insurance, comp insurance may be required if you lease or owe money on your car. Below are just some of the possible scenarios that would be covered by comp insurance:

➞ Want more? Read our full guide on comprehensive car insurance here.

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What isn’t covered by comprehensive and collision coverage?

Together, comp and collision coverage give you a wide range of protection. But there are some things they don’t cover. Regular mechanical issues and repairs wouldn’t be covered, and most carriers won’t extend comp or collision coverage to modifications you’ve made on your car, like a custom decal or non-manufacturer stereo. If you’re particularly worried about covering a car with customizations, a Policygenius expert can help you choose a carrier that offers special coverage for customized cars.

How much car insurance coverage do I need?

When it comes to car insurance coverage, you want to be in the Goldilocks zone. Too little coverage leaves you unprotected, and too much coverage means you’re paying for things you don’t need.

Most states require you to at least have liability insurance, which covers property damage or injuries that you cause with your vehicle. Some states also require you to have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, often shortened to UM/UIM. Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage protects you if you’re in an accident caused by a driver who doesn’t have insurance, or whose insurance doesn’t pay for the full extent of the damage they caused.

If you have liability insurance and UM/UIM coverage, you may be meeting your state’s minimum insurance requirements, but there’s still a lot that could happen to your vehicle for which you wouldn’t be fully protected. That’s where comp and collision coverage come in. Combined, they can round-out your coverage. If you’re still unsure about how much coverage you need, a Policygenius expert can walk you through the process and help you figure out exactly how much car insurance coverage makes sense for your lifestyle and driving habits.

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.

Updated March 6, 2019
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