Collision vs. Comprehensive Car Insurance

Full coverage includes collision and comprehensive insurance. But what's the difference between them? Learn about their key differences here.
Cars in traffic on freeway

Collision and comprehensive are two of the most common types of auto insurance coverages. They are quite similar, sharing key components of any car insurance coverage. But any consumer should know the differences, too. That information is critical for anyone shopping for a new car insurance policy. It’s just as important for those updating their current policies. And if you’ve just financed a new car, you’ll learn that collision and comprehensive are not optional. Many lenders require these coverages to be part of your policy.

This article will help you learn the differences between collision and comprehensive auto insurance. This includes an explanation of what each does and doesn’t cover, as well as a comparison of the two side by side. We’ll also answer some frequently asked questions about both types of coverages.

What is Collision Insurance?

Collision car insurance pays for damages to your car if it’s in a crash or collision. It covers both repairs and the cost to replace your car if it’s a total loss.

Collision coverage isn’t a requirement in any state. For that reason, it’s up to you to decide if you want to add it to their policy. But keep in mind that not having it can end up being very expensive.

You’ll have to pay for all repairs out of pocket if you get into an accident without collision insurance. This is the case whether you’re at fault or not. Accidents can happen when you least expect or when you’re not prepared. So, for most people, it might be a good idea to have that extra layer of protection.

What It Covers

Collision auto insurance covers incidents that are within your control as a driver. Here are some common examples of situations collision insurance covers:

  • Collisions with other vehicles (hit-and-runs, rear-ends, head-on)
  • Rollovers or other accidents only involving your car
  • Collisions with trees, light poles, or other objects
  • Pothole damage

Note that collision only covers the cost to repair damages to your vehicle. It doesn’t cover injuries to yourself or other drivers involved in an incident. Liability coverage or personal injury protection (PIP) will take care of any injuries from the accident.

What It Doesn’t Cover

Collision insurance doesn’t cover situations or incidents that happen without your control. Common examples may include theft, vandalism, or natural disasters. Comprehensive insurance covers these types of incidents.

What is Comprehensive Insurance?

Your life can change in an instant. A natural disaster could come through and cause lots of destruction. Or a vandal could randomly damage your car. Comprehensive car insurance exists to help you in these unfortunate cases.

Since accidents can happen randomly and cost you lots of money, it makes sense to add comprehensive coverage to your policy. Without it, you’d be on the hook to pay out of pocket for any damages to your car.

Much like collision, no state requires comprehensive insurance. The only case where you’d possibly be required to have it is if you’re financing a car. This is because most lenders require buyers to have comprehensive and collision coverage. They do this to protect their asset in case of disaster.

What It Covers

As previously mentioned, comprehensive covers events and accidents that are out of your control as a driver. Below are some common examples of what comprehensive insurance covers:

  • Damage from natural disasters (e.g., volcanos, earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornadoes)
  • Damage from a tree falling on your car
  • Hitting a deer or other animal with your car (or if an animal damages your car while you’re not in it)
  • Theft or vandalism (doesn’t include the personal items inside your car)

What It Doesn’t Cover

Comprehensive insurance doesn’t cover collisions you have with other vehicles and objects while driving. These types of incidents would only get coverage from collision insurance.

Overview of Collision and Comprehensive Insurance

While comprehensive and collision both share the letter “C,” they’re very different from each other. The easiest way to remember the difference between them is that comprehensive handles events that are out of your control and collision handles events within your control.

Comprehensive – Covers accidents and incidents out of your control. This includes vandalism, theft, earthquakes, “acts of God,” and more.

Collision – Covers accidents and incidents within your control. This includes collisions with cars and objects, potholes, and more.

They Both Have a Deductible

One important part of the collision and comprehensive is that they both have a deductible. The two have a deductible because they only apply in cases where your vehicle takes damage.

In auto insurance, a deductible is an amount that you must pay toward the repair of your vehicle before your insurance pays the rest. When you add collision and comprehensive to your policy, you’ll have to agree to a deductible amount with your insurer. This will be the amount of money you’ll pay each time you file a claim.

Do I Need Both Comprehensive and Collision Insurance?

It’s not uncommon to hear collision and comprehensive mentioned in the same sentence as “full coverage.” Full coverage refers to the three primary types of coverage (liability, collision, and comprehensive) being all on one policy. If you have all three, insurers will say you have full coverage.

There could be situations where you might need collision, but not comprehensive, or vice versa. This often depends on many risk factors about yourself. You can check the following about yourself to decide if you need both comprehensive and collision coverage:

  • How often you drive. This can affect your likelihood to get into an accident. For example, you likely have a higher accident risk if you’re a daily commuter. Therefore, getting collision would be a good idea.
  • Where you live. The city you live in adds a lot to your potential risk of an accident. For instance, if you live in a high traffic area, you should get collision because of the higher risk of getting into an accident. Also, getting comprehensive would be smart if you live in an area with lots of natural disasters per year.
  • Your car’s value. You may feel comfortable paying for the repairs yourself instead of the deductible if your car isn’t worth that much. But if your car is expensive, it’d be better to have collision or comprehensive to protect your bank account.
  • How much you can pay out of pocket. You might be able to get by without collision or comprehensive insurance if you have a sizable emergency fund.

As with everything else in the world of insurance, you should carefully consider every factor before buying. Doing your homework could save you money, either through not paying for repairs or not paying for insurance you don’t need. One smart way to ensure you get the best policy for the best price is to compare quote from major insurers.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Are collision and comprehensive car insurance required in my state?

A: No state requires drivers to have collision or comprehensive coverage on their policy. Adding collision and comprehensive to your auto insurance policy is completely up to you.

Q: Do you need to have both comprehensive and collision on a financed car?

A: In almost all cases, the answer is yes. Most lenders require their customers to have comprehensive and collision when financing a new or used car. This is the case if you lease or if you purchase with a loan.

Q: What is full coverage? How are collision and comprehensive insurance related?

A: Collision and comprehensive often show up in the mix when people talk about full coverage. This is because they’re two of the main types of coverages. Full coverage refers to the three main types of insurance all in one policy:

  • Liability coverage
  • Collision coverage
  • Comprehensive coverage

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