“Full coverage” doesn’t describe an actual type of car insurance. Instead, it refers to a car insurance policy that includes basics like liability coverage, as well as comp and collision to protect the vehicle itself.
Full coverage car insurance isn’t an actual insurance product
Instead, it describes a policy that includes a range of coverages to protect both you and your vehicle
Many drivers choose to get so-called “full coverage” car insurance, which includes comprehensive and collision coverage, to make sure they’re adequately protected
There is actually no car insurance product called “full coverage insurance,” instead, the term refers to insurance that includes a full range of coverage. Each car insurance policy is made up of different types of coverage, and a full coverage policy is one that includes both the basic components, like liability coverage, as well as the ones that protect your vehicle from damage, like comprehensive coverage and collision coverage.
But if you’re shopping for a new car insurance policy, you’ve probably come across the term “full coverage car insurance” a lot. Let’s take a closer look at all the pieces that includes, and whether or not you need full coverage insurance.
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Full coverage car insurance, while not a product itself, can be defined as a car insurance policy that fully protects you when you own a car.
So a full coverage policy would include not only the coverages and coverage amounts required by law but also the coverage limits appropriate for your financial situation and additional, non-required coverage types, too, like collision and comprehensive coverage.
Some drivers may consider roadside assistance, which covers roadside emergencies that leave you stranded, part of a full coverage policy. Let’s take a look at what’s typically included in full coverage car insurance:
|Coverage Type||What It Does|
|Bodily injury liability||The part of your liability coverage that pays for medical bills if you've injured someone in an accident|
|Property damage liability||The other part of liability coverage, covers the cost of property damage you've caused in an accident|
|Personal injury protection||Covers medical expenses for you or your passengers after an accident|
|Uninsured/underinsured motorist||Covers the costs if you're in an accident caused by a driver with little or no car insurance|
|Comprehensive||Covers damage to your car that happens when you're not driving|
|Collision||Covers damage to your car after a car accident, no matter who was at fault|
Here’s a closer look at what, exactly, those different parts of a full coverage auto policy actually mean.
Liability insurance is the backbone of most car insurance policies. It’s also required by law in almost every U.S. state. Liability coverage covers the costs of any damage or injuries you cause while driving. If you’re the at-fault driver in an accident and the other car is damaged, your liability coverage will pay for the repairs, up to your coverage limits.
➞ Learn more about liability coverage
Personal injury protection, often shortened to PIP, is only required in what are called “no-fault” states. Personal injury protection covers medical expenses for you and your passengers after a car accident, no matter who was at fault. It may also cover extra costs related to an injury, like lost wages. If PIP isn’t required in your state, you may not need it, because health insurance and disability insurance can offer you the same protection.
➞ Learn more about personal injury protection
Uninsured/underinsured motorists coverage is required in some states, but even where it isn’t it offers you important protection. Uninsured/underinsured motorists covers the costs if you’re in an accident caused by a driver without car insurance, or whose car insurance policy doesn’t cover the extent of the damage they caused.
➞ Learn more about uninsured/underinsured motorists coverage
Collision coverage pays for damage to your own vehicle after an accident, regardless of who was at-fault. Collision coverage isn’t required by law, but it’s part of what makes up a “full coverage” policy. Collision coverage requires you to choose a deductible. You should get collision coverage if you want to be able to repair or replace your vehicle in case of expensive damage.
➞ Learn more about collision coverage
Comprehensive coverage goes hand-in-hand with collision coverage, and covers damage to your car that didn’t occur while driving. That includes damage from fire, flood, extreme weather, falling objects, animals, vandalism and theft. Like collision coverage, comprehensive coverage requires a deductible.
➞ Learn more about comprehensive coverage
If your car is totaled, comprehensive or collision coverage will pay you the actual cash value (ACV) of the car, which is its value at the time of the damage, accounting for depreciation. But if you have a loan or lease on your car, you may still owe more than the ACV, so gap insurance pays off the difference so you aren’t stuck making payments on a car you don’t even have anymore. Your lienholder or lessor may require you to include this coverage in your policy.
➞ Learn more about gap insurance
The cost of car insurance varies widely, and depends on lots of individual factors like your age, driving history, ZIP code, credit score, and the make and model of car you drive. That said, we can still look at average costs as a guideline for what many drivers pay for full coverage car insurance.
The average cost of full coverage auto insurance in the U.S. is $1,099 per year (or about $92 per month), according to a 2017 report from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
According to the NAIC, this is the average annual premium broken down by different types of car insurance coverage:
|Type of coverage||Average annual cost nationwide|
However averages can only tell you so much. The truth is that costs will depend on individual factors like the ones we mentioned above, as well as by coverage limits and car insurance company. Here’s what a sample full coverage policy auto policy might look like:
|Basic Coverages||Policy Limits|
|Bodily injury liability||$50,000 each person, $100,000 each accident|
|Property damage liability||$50,000 each accident|
|Personal injury protection||$20,000 each person|
|Uninsured/underinsured motorist||$50,000 each person, $100,000 each accident|
When we chose these coverage limits for our sample driver, a single, 30-year-old woman in Minneapolis, Minnesota who drives a 2014 Toyota Camry. Progressive quoted her a total of $578 for a six-month policy, which would be $1,156 for a year at the same rate. GEICO quoted her slightly less for near identical coverage, $1,028 for a 1-year policy.
State Farm quoted her significantly more, State Farm quoted her significantly more, at a total of $270.14 a month, which is $1,620.84 for a six-month policy and $3,241.68 for an annual policy.
As always, the best way to find cheap full coverage car insurance that still gives you the protection you need is to shop around and compare car insurance quotes from multiple carriers.
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There isn’t a one-size-fits-all car insurance policy — the right amount coverage has to do with your personal financial situation and your own comfort with risk.
But an independent insurance broker can help you understand your coverage needs and ensure that you have the right amount of insurance so that you’re not overinsured or underinsured.
Many people don’t find out that they are underinsured until they make a claim and realize it’s not covered, or if someone else makes a claim against them and they end up with a big bill to pay. But being overinsured means you’re paying more each month than you need to be, and that’s not a great outcome, either.
A so-called full coverage policy is one that covers a range of possible costs, from accidents you cause behind the wheel to damage that happens to your car when you’re not even present. Many drivers choose a full coverage policy, one that includes comp and collision, to ensure they’re well protected.
However, if you drive an old clunker and don’t care about repairing or replacing it if it’s damaged, you may not need comp and collision, and might be comfortable with a limited policy that only covers liability.
➞ Learn more about full coverage vs. liability coverage
Logan Sachon is the co-founder of The Billfold, a groundbreaking personal finance site for millennials that was named one of Time's 25 Best Blogs of 2012. Her work has been published in New York Magazine, Glamour, The Guardian, BuzzFeed and more.
Anna Swartz is a Managing Editor at Policygenius, where she has been since 2018. An expert in home, auto and renters insurance, she loves making tough concepts easy to understand and helping readers feel confident about their insurance options. Before joining Policygenius, she was a senior staff writer at Mic. Her work has appeared in The Dodo, AOL, HuffPost, Salon and Heeb.
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