Comprehensive Auto Insurance (The New & Ultimate Guide)

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Joel Ohman
Founder, CFP®

UPDATED: Mar 9, 2020

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Here's what you need to know...

  • Comprehensive coverage is included in full coverage, but the two are not the same thing
  • You should carry comprehensive coverage if your vehicle is new
  • State laws do not require you to carry comprehensive insurance but many lenders do

Comprehensive car insurance can easily be misunderstood to mean coverage for everything, especially when you consider that according to Webster’s dictionary, “comprehensive” means covering completely or broadly.

When we’re talking about car insurance, however, comprehensive coverage provides a specific type of protection, and is included in, but is not synonymous with, “full coverage.”

So what exactly is comprehensive car insurance? What isn’t it? Perhaps most importantly, what options do you, the consumer, have?

We’ll cover all this, and more!

Once you know what you need as far as car insurance goes, you can compare quotes for free right here. Enter your ZIP code to get started.

In this article we will give you everything you need to know about comprehensive car insurance.

Table of Contents

Comprehensive Car Insurance Explained

Comprehensive car insurance is a type of coverage that provides financial protection for specific damage. It covers your own vehicle after non-collision damage.

What does comprehensive insurance cover?

Comprehensive covers pretty much all accidental damage to your vehicle that’s not related to collisions. It covers the damage done to your own car only.

Without comprehensive car insurance, your car is not covered for any of the above-listed events.

What does comprehensive insurance NOT cover?

  • Collisions with another vehicle
  • Maintenance issues and wear and tear
  • Roadside assistance and towing
  • Mechanical difficulties or breakdowns unless it is the result of an event that is insurable
  • Medical expenses for you or passengers
  • Loss of income for you or passengers
  • Legal fees for you or passengers

How much does comprehensive coverage cost?

Like any coverage, there are many variables that affect your coverage, but we’ve collected the average annual premium for every state. Here are the highlights:

Bar chart of five-year average of comprehensive coverage premiums by state

The Top 10 Cheapest States

  • Oregon – $89.66
  • Maine – $96.66
  • California – $99.29
  • Hawaii – $100.09
  • New Hampshire – $103.03
  • Washington – $104.11
  • Utah – $106.57
  • Florida – $110.12
  • Idaho – $110.78
  • Ohio – $112.74

The Top 10 Most Expensive States

  • West Virginia – $195.04
  • Montana – $199.87
  • Oklahoma – $201.56
  • Nebraska – $206.24
  • Louisiana – $208.59
  • Wyoming – $222.86
  • Kansas – $225.34
  • North Dakota – $227.64
  • South Dakota – $228.59
  • District of Columbia – $230.25

Overall Comprehensive Losses (Claims and Vehicles, 2015–2017 Model Years)

The loss rate may not seem interesting to some consumers, but it is important because higher loss rates get passed on to a consumer as higher premiums. Carefully consider your vehicle and the type of claim you make and if the claim is worth the possible increase in premium.

Below you’ll see how much each type of claim and vehicle type cost the insurer:

Overall Comprehensive Losses
(Claims and Vehicles,
2015–2017 Model Years)
Two-door cars – micro-$8.64$43.59$55.17
Two-door cars – mini$4.29$16.49$94.03$114.80
Two-door cars – small$7.64$12.17$120.77$140.58
Two-door cars – midsize$13.52$12.62$124.90$151.04
Two-door cars – large$42.64$8.17$192.12$242.92
Four-door cars – micro$7.16$7.35$125.18$139.70
Four-door cars – mini$5.74$8.70$95.06$109.50
Four-door cars – small$7.05$11.11$106.98$125.14
Four-door cars – midsize$12.07$12.39$115.13$139.60
Four-door cars – large$22.66$13.23$152.52$188.41
Station wagons – mini$4.75$7.62$87.19$99.56
Station wagons – small$5.51$15.38$97.27$118.16
Station wagons – midsize$4.57$31.97$89.01$125.56
Station wagons – large$5.34$20.07$122.61$148.02
Station wagons – very large$6.58$16.59$92.81$115.98
Sports cars – mini$1.77$17.26$105.62$124.65
Sports cars – small$10.76$18.77$146.01$175.54
Sports cars – midsize$18.39$17.18$152.83$188.39
Sports cars – large$28.76$13.70$157.76$200.23
Luxury cars – small$3.62$28.99$104.24$136.85
Luxury cars – midsize$11.38$25.09$160.42$196.90
Luxury cars – large$16.50$34.07$198.83$249.40
Luxury cars – very large$37.46$94.72$303.32$435.50
Pickups – small$9.19$15.16$88.43$112.79
Pickups – large$18.23$14.16$113.14$145.53
Pickups – very large$35.36$11.97$130.15$177.48
SUVs – mini$4.80$10.34$92.56$107.70
SUVs – small$6.04$17.09$86.34$109.47
SUVs – midsize$9.18$18.77$91.46$119.42
SUVs – large$10.31$15.61$102.12$128.05
SUVs – very large$15.59$22.91$119.54$158.04
Luxury SUVs – small$6.38$18.14$101.39$125.91
Luxury SUVs – midsize$8.30$30.38$114.23$152.91
Luxury SUVs – large$29.41$49.73$154.08$233.23
Luxury SUVs – very large$20.52$24.25$127.94$172.72
Vans – midsize$3.04$18.03$111.02$132.09
Vans – large-$21.24$122.50$159.80
Vans – very large$11.66$19.39$115.47$146.52
Source: Highway Loss Data Institute

Liability Versus Comprehensive — Coverage Compared

Liability coverage is required in almost every state. If you drive a car, you absolutely must have liability coverage to avoid breaking the law.

Each state makes its own laws regarding car insurance. Required coverage amounts are usually written in the following format with the numbers differing according to the requirements: 25/50/25. What this represents is:

  • $25,000 Bodily Injury – The maximum payment per person injured in an accident for which you are at fault
  • $50,000 Total Bodily Injury – The maximum total payment per accident for which you are at fault
  • $25,000 Property Damage – The maximum payment for property damage per accident you cause to another party

Liability coverage only provides protection for damage you cause to another party. It will not reimburse you for any of your own losses.

If you want your own vehicle to be covered, you’ll have to get first party car insurance protection, such as comprehensive and collision coverages.

Comprehensive will reimburse you for damage your car sustains from non-collision events like natural disasters, hail, vandalism, theft and more.

Comprehensive coverage will not pay for damages done to another party.

Collision Versus Comprehensive — Coverages Compared

Collision and Comprehensive coverages do not overlap. There are similarities between them, but the coverages they offer are distinct.

Subjects for comparisonComprehensiveCollision
Collision with an animalCoveredNot covered
Coverage limitVehicle valueVehicle value
Damage to another vehicleNot coveredNot covered
DeductibleTypically, yesTypically, yes
Fire damageCoveredNot covered
Medical costsNot coveredNot covered
RequirementOnly required if vehicle is leased or financedOnly required if vehicle is leased or financed
Single-car accidentNot coveredCovered
VandalismCoveredNot covered
Vehicle damage after a collision with non-vehicle propertyNot coveredCovered
Vehicle damage after an at-fault accident with another vehicleNot coveredCovered
Weather damage (hail, fallen tree limbs, tornadoes, etc.)CoveredNot covered

Comprehensive Versus Full Coverage — What Are the Facts?

There’s no coverage specifically called “full coverage.” However, in common usage, many people refer to full coverage as a policy that includes basic liability, comprehensive coverage, and collision coverage.

Full Coverage Explained

  • Basic liability covers the other driver in the case of an incident
  • Collision coverage will pay for your damages after you cause a collision
  • Comprehensive covers your damages after non-accident events

Comprehensive and collision car insurances are usually packaged together, but they can also be bought separately.

If comprehensive coverage is warranted for your vehicle (see below for guidance on whether comprehensive coverage is a smart financial move for your situation), collision coverage is probably warranted as well.

While comprehensive car insurance covers non-collision incidents, collision and liability cover accident-related incidents.

There are few circumstances where it would be a smart move to only purchase comprehensive coverage as opposed to full coverage.

Should you buy comprehensive? Find out below…

Who should buy comprehensive insurance?

You need full comprehensive car insurance anytime you want to protect the investment you have in your car. Comprehensive car insurance can be great to have and might save you a lot of money should your car be severely damaged by a covered event.

Although it is a good idea to have it in many situations, it is not necessary for everyone.

Leasing a Vehicle

If you are leasing a vehicle or have your car financed, your lender will almost always require you to carry comprehensive coverage. They need assurance that their financial risk is secure and that they will be paid back even if you can’t continue driving the vehicle due to damage.

Vehicle Purchased With Loan

If you have purchased a new car and had to take a loan out for it, your lender will probably require that you have full coverage which includes comprehensive. If you leased a new car, the company that leased it to you will also more than likely require you to show proof of full coverage.

New Car Purchased Outright

Even if you paid cash for a new, or fairly new, car, it would be a good idea to have full coverage car insurance.

If your car is damaged or declared a total loss after a non-accident-related event, and you don’t have comprehensive coverage, you will experience the full impact of the loss.

If your car is old and not valuable, that loss may be something you can financially handle. If your car is valuable, you may not be able to easily recover.

Important Considerations

One way to help you decide whether or not to continue your comprehensive coverage policy is to figure out how much your deductible is, as well as the amount you pay for your coverage. Next, look up the cash value of your car. You can find this in Kelly’s Blue Book.

Most experts agree that if the annual cost for full coverage is 10 percent or more of your vehicle’s value, the cost isn’t worth the protection. Now, full coverage will cost more than comprehensive alone. You will have to weigh the costs with the benefits to decide if it’s a good choice for you.

Comprehensive car insurance coverage is least necessary when your car is of little value.

A better way to protect yourself against damage expenses when your car has little monetary value is to open a separate savings account for your car.

If you decide to cancel your full coverage policy, take the money that you were paying your insurance company and put it into your account instead. This way, if you are in an accident, you will have some money available to help pay for it.

Comprehensive Deductibles and Limits

To figure out if you really need comprehensive insurance, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you want to pay less for insurance or have coverage for repairs?
  • Can you afford to buy a new car?
  • How likely are you to have a claim?

A higher deductible will equal lower monthly premiums. If you can afford to pay a higher deductible out of pocket, you may be able to lower your rates for comprehensive or full coverage enough to fit more comfortably into your budget. For more info on deductibles, watch the video below:

If your vehicle is damaged to the point that you can’t drive it anymore, can you afford to buy a new car? If that wouldn’t be a problem, you probably don’t need comprehensive insurance.

Consider your odds of making a claim. Does your area get hail storms every summer? Is there a large deer population where you live? If you think your chances of comprehensive-covered damages are low, you may consider foregoing coverage.

The limit of your comprehensive plan will be the actual cash value of your vehicle.

How do I find the cheapest comprehensive coverage?

The best way to find the cheapest comprehensive coverage is to compare car insurance quotes for identical coverage levels and identical deductible levels.
We have a comparison tool that allows you to compare multiple providers at one time. You can enter your information below to receive several quotes to compare.

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Once you find the ones that are cheapest, make a short list of three or four and compare their customer satisfaction results and financial stability scores.

You want to make sure you go with a company that has good rates AND has a good reputation.

To make sure it is a financially stable company, you can look up an insurance company’s financial rating from A.M. Best Company.

Check with J.D. Power and Consumer Reports to find how they rank insurance companies for customer satisfaction. Also, ask friends and family members how their insurance dealings have been.

Once you’ve found the right insurance company for your needs, you may still be trying to find ways to lower your premiums. If you choose a higher deductible, your premium will be less. Just remember that if your car is damaged, you are responsible to pay that deductible.

Scenarios to Consider — Finding the Right Coverage

We’ve written up a few scenarios below. Where you fall on this list will help you determine what’s right for you. But here are a few things to keep in mind first:

  • If your car is not worth much money, full coverage probably isn’t worth the extra cost in monthly premiums
  • If your car is financed or leased, you’ll need to have full coverage
  • If you own your car outright, you can decide based on the risk and reward. If you can afford the increased premiums over basic liability coverage and you don’t want to be in a position where you have to recover from the loss of a vehicle out of pocket, consider purchasing full coverage

If you carry comprehensive coverage, you may still get into a situation where you’re not sure if you should file a claim or not.

Some insurance companies issue the check for repair to the mechanic, while others issue the check to the customer. If your insurer issues you a check, you can decide if you want to use the money to repair the vehicle.

In cases of cosmetic damage, you may decide to continue driving the vehicle without fixing it and use the insurance money for something else.

Below are listed some common scenarios demonstrating when you should or shouldn’t file a claim.

Scenario #1

A deer runs into and dents your fender. Your deductible is $1000, the cost of repair is $800. Obviously, you would not file a claim, and should you decide to repair the damage, you will pay out of pocket.

Scenario #2

The same situation as scenario #1, but your deductible is $500. You could file a claim and your insurer would chip in $300 to fix the fender after you pay your $500 deductible. Your premiums may rise if you make a claim, so you may decide to pay the entire repair cost out of pocket.

The only way to know if and how much your premiums will be raised is to call your insurer and find out.

Scenario #3

You hit a deer head-on at highway speeds. Your car is a total loss and you have a $500 comprehensive deductible. In this situation, you would obviously file a claim and receive compensation from your insurer minus your $500 deductible.

If the actual cash value of your vehicle is $10,000, you can expect a check from insurance for $9,500.

Frequently Asked Questions

You probably still have some questions….that’s great because we’ve collected some of the common questions we get about comprehensive coverage.

We’ll cut to the chase…

Do I need full coverage on a financed car?

Yes. Your lender will most likely require full coverage.

Can I get full coverage on a salvaged title vehicle?

It depends! You can probably find a company that will offer you the insurance coverage you desire, but you may have to switch companies.

  • A few companies will offer full coverage for a salvaged vehicle
  • Some companies may offer collision coverage but not comprehensive
  • Most companies will only allow a salvaged vehicle to carry liability coverage

Even if your insurer offers full coverage, you will need to calculate the decreased vehicle value (due to the salvage title) to decide if the cost of coverage is worth it.

How much is full coverage?

The answer to this question depends on so many variables! The value of your vehicle is one of the biggest variables. A more expensive vehicle will cost more for full coverage.

Where you live will factor into your risk of making a claim and will make a difference in the cost to insure.

Your driving history makes a big difference in the cost of full coverage as well because your history indicates your likelihood of filing a claim.

This data we collected will give you a rough idea of what to expect for costs. The full coverage listed here is an average annual premium, includes bodily and property liability, comprehensive, and collision. Here are the highlights:

Bar chart of five-year average for full coverage premiums by state

The Top 10 Cheapest States

  • Idaho – $656.95
  • Iowa – $672.01
  • Maine – $679.56
  • Wisconsin – $696.11
  • South Dakota – $717.73
  • Indiana – $724.65
  • North Dakota – $737.63
  • Vermont – $737.67
  • Ohio – $741.11
  • North Carolina – $745.17

The Top 10 Most Expensive States

  • Maryland – $1,077.97
  • Connecticut – $1,108.67
  • Delaware – $1,186.33
  • Florida – $1,206.46
  • Rhode Island – $1,219.29
  • Michigan – $1,252.27
  • New York – $1,300.09
  • District of Columbia – $1,307.62
  • Louisiana – $1,326.78
  • New Jersey – $1,353.96

When should I drop full coverage?

The best time to drop full auto insurance coverage is when your car is not worth very much. The maximum you could receive from an insurance payout is the value of the vehicle minus your deductible. Figure out how much more you’ll pay for full coverage to see if the premiums are worth the potential payout.

Is comprehensive coverage mandatory or required?

It’s not required by state laws; however, many lenders require it when the vehicle is financed.

When should I purchase comprehensive insurance coverage?

Purchase comprehensive coverage when the cost of the coverage is worth the financial protection offered.

If you purchase a new or a new-to-you vehicle, consider the value. If the vehicle is worth more than you’re willing or able to recoup out of pocket in the event of damage, you should probably purchase comprehensive coverage.

What is fully comprehensive auto insurance?

Fully comprehensive auto insurance is a term people use because they may be confused about the difference between full coverage and comprehensive coverage. The two are different as we have discussed above. Full coverage usually includes your liability, collision, and comprehensive, whereas comprehensive covers damage from incidents other than a collision with a vehicle.

Does an old car need comprehensive car insurance?

Probably not. Not counting classics or antiques, if a car is old, it’s usually not valuable, and the cost to insure it with comprehensive coverage probably isn’t worth it.

Does a new car need comprehensive car insurance?

It may be a good idea to have comprehensive insurance on a new car. New cars are expensive, and having coverage in case something happens is a wise investment. If your new car is financed, you’ll probably be required to carry comprehensive coverage.

Does comprehensive coverage cover a rental car?

Depending on the intent of the question there are a couple of different answers.

  • If you’re wondering if comprehensive coverage will pay for you to rent a car while waiting for your covered vehicle to be repaired, the answer is, no. You can purchase rental coverage as an additional insurance option.
  • If you’re wondering if your comprehensive coverage extends to provide coverage when you’re renting a car, the answer is, yes, as long as you already have it on your personal policy. Your personal policy limits will extend to a car you’re renting with the same limits and restrictions as if you were driving your own vehicle. This includes the coverage territory (typically the US and sometimes Canada). So you may not have coverage internationally.

Does fully comprehensive cover you to drive any car?

No, comprehensive insurance will only cover the car registered under your policy. In the case of comprehensive insurance, the coverage follows the car. However, your comprehensive coverage can offer protection to a rental vehicle.

How do I file a comprehensive damage car insurance claim?

Calling your agent is the best first step to filing a comprehensive coverage claim. They will be able to walk you through the necessary steps. Each insurance company develops their own steps for making claims, so to be sure you’re doing it right, start with a phone call.

Does auto insurance cover lightning strikes?

“It was a dark and stormy night” is not a description found solely in the cliched beginning of a potboiler novel. Such a description would fit a number of accidents that occur on the roads throughout the world.

The worse storm conditions are, the greater the chances that a vehicle could get into an accident. Few would venture out into a thunder and lightning storm due to grave and well-founded safety concerns.

When a vehicle is parked somewhere and exposed to lightning strikes, the damage would be covered under a comprehensive insurance delineation.

What is the definition of “Acts of God” for car insurance?

In the insurance world, an act of God is a particular event in which the human participants have absolutely no influence or control over either cause or effect.

Simply put, acts of God are considered things like earthquakes, hurricanes, hail storms, and even animals that might cross your path and cause an accident.

Most car insurance policies that provide collision and comprehensive coverage will pay for acts of God because there are no other incident participants who can be held liable.

Hopefully, now you have a good working understanding of comprehensive coverage. Whatever you decide is the appropriate coverage for your situation, you can compare rates for that right here.

Enter your ZIP code into our FREE comparison tool below to get started.

Related Articles

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  2. Cheap Full Coverage Auto Insurance
  3. Cheap Comprehensive Auto Insurance
  4. Insurance Coverage for a Car Damaged by a Fallen Tree

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