Collision vs. Comprehensive: What Coverage Do I Need?

by Quiana Darden Updated October 5th, 2021

woman hurt after car accident wondering whether collision vs. comprehensive insurance will cover her costs

What’s the difference between collision vs. comprehensive coverage? While these car insurance terms might sound similar and are often grouped in conversation, they offer different levels of coverage for your vehicle.

We’ll help you better understand these types of car insurance coverage, so you know exactly what you’ll need to adequately protect your vehicle from some of the most common situations drivers experience, such as a collision, natural disaster, or theft.

What Is Collision Coverage?

In the event your vehicle overturns or collides with another object or vehicle: this is where collision coverage comes in. Collision coverage insures your vehicle against damage done to your car when a collision occurs. Depending on the details of your policy, a non-owned rental vehicle may also be covered.

Let’s walk through an example of how collision coverage works.

You get into an accident by crashing into another car carrying a family. Two of the family members are injured, their car needs some repair work, and your vehicle is damaged too. Which coverage protects you and the other party involved in this accident?

  • The family’s injuries: This is covered by your insurance policy’s bodily injury liability coverage, up to your coverage’s limits. Any costs after your maximum limits are met will fall under your financial responsibility.
  • The other car’s damage: The other vehicle is covered by your property damage liability, up to your policy’s limits. In this case, you’re also financially responsible for expenses after your coverage limits are met.
  • Your car’s damage: After you meet your collision deductible, the insurance company will cover your damages in full. If your vehicle is totaled, your insurance company will pay the vehicle’s value minus the deductible.

In short, liability coverage pays for the people hurt and the damage you do to others’ vehicles and property in accidents in which you are at fault.

Collision coverage for your car helps you pay for costly repairs or bodywork if you are involved in an accident and another driver is not at fault.

But don’t be fooled: collision insurance won’t pay for all damages to your car. Damage to your vehicle from wind, rain, fire, floods, and theft is not covered under collision. That’s where comprehensive car insurance coverage comes in.

What’s Covered by Collision Insurance?

Collision coverage will cover you if you:

  • Have a collision with another vehicle
  • Have a collision with another object, such as a mailbox, fence, or light pole
  • Have a single-car rollover accident
  • Crash into a ditch or pothole
  • Are involved in a hit and run and can’t use uninsured motorist coverage

What Are the Benefits of Collision Coverage?

There are 4 primary benefits of having collision coverage.

Save on repair costs

The main one is that you don’t have to worry about costly vehicle repair costs after an accident since your insurance coverage will kick in.

Get Your Vehicle Repaired Quicker

Also, you can start the repair process for your vehicle sooner than if you were to wait for the other party’s liability coverage to kick in if someone else is involved in the accident. If you use your coverage and investigators later find the other party was liable for the accident, the insurance company will generally reimburse you.

Don’t Have to Work With Other Insurance Companies

When you have collision coverage, you don’t have to worry about working with other insurance companies, which can be a significant hassle since they don’t want to pay for your claim in the first place.

Often Cover Rental Insurance

Finally, you can usually use your insurance claim to cover the cost of a rental car so you can avoid paying that costly bill.

What is Comprehensive Coverage?

Comprehensive insurance helps pay to replace or repair your vehicle if stolen or damaged in an incident that’s not a collision. Comprehensive, sometimes called “other than collision” coverage, typically covers damage from fire, vandalism, or falling objects (like a tree limb or hail). If you’re financing or leasing your car, your lender likely requires comprehensive coverage. However, if you own your vehicle outright, it’s optional coverage on your car insurance policy.

If you’re shopping for auto insurance or are reviewing your current policy, you may want to consider comprehensive coverage. Learn what comprehensive insurance helps protect, how it is different from collision coverage, and how limits and deductibles apply to the coverage.

Comprehensive generally covers ‘everything else’ that isn’t an accident. If a tree falls on your car, a rock slide demolishes your vehicle, or a hail storm damages your windshield – you’re covered. This coverage protects you from the cost of repairs or replacement needed should any of these events damage your vehicle. It’s important to note that this coverage also covers theft. If your car goes missing, your comprehensive coverage should payout if you can’t find it.

Damage resulting from fire, floods, and debris from severe storms are the kinds of damage typically covered under comprehensive car insurance. These are sometimes referred to by auto insurance providers as “Acts of God” in your policy contract and should also be covered.

Let’s use another example. Let’s say a tornado sweeps through your neighborhood, lifts your car, and throws it through your neighbors living room. While no one is injured, your neighbor’s home is destroyed, and your vehicle is totaled. Which coverage protects you in this scenario?

  • Your neighbor’s home: This is covered by your property damage liability, up to your policy limits. Any leftover expenses after your limits have been met are now your responsibility.
  • Your car’s damage: Since a tornado would be considered an ‘Act of God,’ the insurance company will reimburse all your damages under your collision coverage. If you total your vehicle because of this incident, your payout will be the total value of your car minus your comprehensive deductible amount.

What’s Covered by Comprehensive Insurance?

Comprehensive coverage will cover you in the event of:

  • Theft
  • Vandalism
  • Fire
  • A natural disaster such as a tornado or flood
  • Falling objects such as hail, rocks, or tree branches
  • Damage done by animals
  • Civil disturbance such as a riot leading to damage to your vehicle

What are the Benefits of Comprehensive Coverage?

Having comprehensive auto insurance provides coverage if any events damage your vehicles, such as fire, natural disaster, or vandalism.

That way, you can have greater peace of mind about your vehicle even when you’re not driving your car.

What’s the Difference Between Collision vs. Comprehensive Auto Insurance?

Both collision and comprehensive auto insurance will protect your vehicle if an unfortunate event occurs, but there is one primary difference – what they cover. The state requires neither insurance, but they’re popular because of the peace of mind they can provide you.

  • Comprehensive insurance covers the cost of damages typically not associated with driving the car, such as theft and damage resulting from fire, fallen tree limbs, natural disasters, and similar occurrences.
  • Collision insurance covers the cost of damage to your vehicle if you cause an accident with another car or hit an object. It also covers the cost of damage to your car if someone hits you.

Do You Need Collision and Comprehensive Insurance?

Neither collision nor comprehensive insurance are legally required in most situations, so they’re not needed.

However, you want to consider how much it would cost to repair your vehicle in the event of an accident, fire, natural disaster, or theft.

Based on how much risk you’re willing to take and how much you have in savings, consider whether you’re willing and able to cover the cost of damage done to your car if you don’t have an insurance payout to help you.

What Collision and Comprehensive Insurance Won’t Cover

While both collision and comprehensive insurance will cover certain things, others are not covered.

Here are some items that aren’t covered by comprehensive and collision coverage.

What’s not covered by comprehensive insurance?

  • Damage to your vehicle from a collision
  • Damage to another person’s vehicle from a collision
  • Your medical expenses after an accident
  • Your passenger’s medical expenses after an accident

What’s not covered by collision insurance?

  • Damage to another person’s vehicle
  • Your medical bills
  • The medical bills of your passengers, other drivers, and other passengers

How to Save on Comprehensive and Collision Insurance

Having comprehensive and collision insurance will add to your monthly insurance premium, but there are ways to save.

Are Comprehensive and Collision Coverage Required by Law?

In short, no, you are not required by law to carry comprehensive insurance or collision insurance. However, if you’re financing or leasing a vehicle, your lienholder may require you have these coverages as part of the terms of your agreement with them.

Additionally, both will help you to pay for damage to your vehicle if something happens to it. Auto repairs can be expensive, ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Review your current car insurance policy to determine if your coverage levels are high enough to cover future accidents, or contact your agent to learn more.

Do These Coverages Affect Your Car Insurance Premium?

The type of coverage and limits you set for each coverage type affect how much you pay in car insurance premiums each month. Lowering your coverage limits, raising the deductibles, or removing coverage altogether can lower car insurance payments. Raising your limits, lowering your deductible, or adding coverage will increase your car insurance premium.

The best way to see what works for you and your budget is to get quotes from multiple insurance companies. At Compare.com, we do just that. You can compare rates and packages for free, side by side, then choose the policy that’s right for you. Weigh out the risks and decide whether cheaper car insurance or better coverage is more of a fit for your lifestyle. Save time and money by comparing quotes today!

Collision vs. Comprehensive Insurance FAQs

When should I drop collision coverage?

It’s a good rule of thumb that the best time to drop collision coverage is when your annual full-coverage payment equals 10% of your car’s value. Once that happens, the value of your vehicle is decreasing, and it doesn’t make the same financial sense to pay for this higher level of coverage.

Is it better to have collision or comprehensive insurance?

Collision coverage pays for the cost of your car’s damage if you’re involved in a collision with a vehicle or other object. On the other hand, comprehensive coverage covers the cost of damages not related to a crash, including theft.

Is hitting a parked car covered by collision or comprehensive insurance?

If you hit a parked car, your collision coverage will pay for the damage to your vehicle.

Is comprehensive the same as collision?

Comprehensive and collision coverage are often packaged together, but they offer different levels of coverage. Typically you use your collision coverage when driving and are involved in a collision with another vehicle or object.

On the other hand, comprehensive coverage pays for the cost of various damages not caused by driving, such as fire, hail, fallen tree limbs, or theft.

What happens if I hit a deer?

Hitting an animal can be a murky middle ground. Whether you hit a deer on your ride home from work; hit a moose while looking at the Tetons; or run into a Bison in Yellowstone, those things can indeed cause some damage. An average male deer weighs around 100 lbs, and when you’re traveling at 45mph, that is a surefire recipe for a hefty repair bill.

You’d think that hitting an animal would be covered under your collision coverage, right? Wrong. This gets covered under your comprehensive coverage. If you swerve to prevent hitting the deer and instead hit another car or a tree, then it comes under your collision. Confusing, right?

If you live in an area where deer frequently run in front of your car, you may want to make sure your deductible is lower to prevent racking up big bills after a season of claims.

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