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Comprehensive vs. collision insurance

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Getting a new car is always an exciting experience. But whether you buy, lease, or finance, a new car is a major investment. It’s important to have the right type of insurance to protect your investment from the financial repercussions of accidents and other damage.

While you’re shopping for auto insurance, two types of coverage you’ll come across are comprehensive and collision coverage. These coverages aren’t state-mandated requirements, but they are beneficial for many drivers. Here’s a deeper look at comprehensive and collision coverage, and the reasons why you should consider them.

What is comprehensive coverage

Comprehensive coverage pays to repair your car if it’s damaged in a situation other than an accident. It includes coverage for non-collision events, like theft, vandalism, fire, falling objects and damage from animals. Comprehensive coverage is optional, but if your car is leased or you have a loan, your lending company will likely require it.

As of 2019 data from the Insurance Information Institute (III), the average cost of including comprehensive coverage on your car insurance policy in the United States was $171.87 per year. That might sound expensive, but it’s significantly cheaper than some other types of coverage, including collision and liability coverage.

What is collision coverage

Collision coverage is just what it sounds like—it covers your vehicle if it’s damaged or totaled in an accident with another driver. It also helps pay to repair or replace your car if you hit a stationary object, like a fence or tree. Collision coverage also covers single-car roll over accidents. Like comprehensive coverage, collision coverage is usually required if you lease or finance your car.

The III reports that collision coverage costs drivers an average of $381.43 per year. It can be a valuable coverage for drivers to have, but it will increase your premium. However, collision coverage could save you thousands of dollars or more if your car is totaled or severely damaged in an accident.

Comprehensive versus collision coverage 

The main difference between comprehensive vs. collision is what each covers. Comprehensive coverage covers most damages that aren’t caused by an accident. Collision coverage, on the other hand, only covers damage from an accident. Collision coverage is also more expensive than comprehensive.

Both coverages are optional additions to liability coverage, meaning they will raise your premium, and they each have a separate deductible. Drivers who fully own their car can choose to purchase comprehensive and collision coverage, but they both are usually required for leased or financed cars. Some drivers may opt to purchase both coverages, or one or the other. 

Here are the main features of comprehensive vs. collision coverage:

Comprehensive coverageCollision coverage
Covers non-collision damage and theftCovers accident-related damage only
Cheaper addition to your policyMore expensive addition to your policy
Requires a deductibleRequires a deductible
Optional for car ownersOptional for car owners
Usually has actual cash value coverageUsually has actual cash value coverage
Doesn’t cover medical bills or damage to another carDoesn’t cover medical bills or damage to another car

Which one is best?

When comparing comprehensive vs. collision, there isn’t one coverage that is necessarily better than the other. If you are leasing or financing your car, assume that your lender will require both coverages. But if you fully own your car, the option is yours. 

The type of coverage that is best for you depends on the age of your car, its value and the amount of money you could afford to pay out-of-pocket towards a covered loss. It may also depend on your driving habits and whether you are more likely to damage your car in a collision or non-collision incident. Below are a few of the common reasons your circumstances might merit comprehensive or collision: 

Why choose comprehensive insurance

  • You can’t afford to repair or replace your car if it’s stolen or damaged.
  • You live in an area with a high rate of car theft.
  • You live in an area with extreme weather, including hurricanes, floods, or earthquakes.
  • You want the ultimate protection from unforeseen events, like vandalism or civil unrest.

Why choose collision insurance

  • You can’t afford to repair or replace your car if it’s damaged or totaled an accident.
  • You have a history of accidents.
  • You drive a newer car.

Where to go to get comprehensive or collision coverage

Although comprehensive and collision coverage are both optional if you own your car, almost every car insurance company offers them. You can purchase comprehensive and collision insurance from national providers, like Allstate, Nationwide, State Farm and Geico. Regional and local insurance providers will also offer these coverages. 

The takeaway

  • Comprehensive covers damage from non-collision incidents.
  • Collision only covers accident-related damage.
  • Comprehensive and collision coverage are optional if you fully own your car.
  • Most major insurance providers offer both types of coverage.

If you’re shopping for car insurance, you’ll want to consider comprehensive and collision coverage and how they might provide additional financial protection. These coverages are optional if you fully own your car, but they are usually required for leased or financed vehicles. 

Either way, collision and comprehensive insurance are usually a good investment if you can afford them. Both coverages can save you a significant amount of money out-of-pocket if your car is damaged in an accident or gets stolen. Without them, you’re on the hook financially for buying a new car or making repairs. 

Elizabeth Rivelli

Elizabeth is an insurance writer for coverage.com, where she covers insurance providers and reviews policies to help consumers find comprehensive and affordable coverage for every area of their life. She has more than three years of writing experience for top online insurance and finance publications.

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