Comprehensive vs. Collision: Definitions and tips on how to choose coverage

Today we’re telling you all about how to choose collision and comprehensive car insurance coverages.

Yep, it's Part II of our series, Car Insurance in Everyday English. In Part I, we told you all about liability coverage and how it covers the other person and their car when you cause an accident. And that’s all well and good (and required). But what about your car? How do you pay to get your own car fixed when it's damaged in an incident?

Well. Funny you should ask.

"What exactly are collision and comprehensive coverages?"

If something happens to your car, these are the coverages that will help to pay for it to get fixed. Hurrah!

Car doodle

Collision coverage pays for covered damages to your vehicle from an accident, regardless of fault. So, it comes into play in a few different situations:

  1. You hit another vehicle. Hey, accidents happen. This covers the damages to your car, and knowing you have a way to get your car fixed can (hopefully!) make it sting a little less. If your car is totaled, this also covers the costs of a replacement vehicle.

  2. Another car slams into your vehicle and then takes off. Collision covers the damages to your car from a hit-and-run.

  3. You run into an inanimate object and ding up your car. Collision will pay to get the dings out. (It can’t do much, however, for your pride.)

Remember—if someone else causes the accident and your car is damaged, their liability insurance will cover those costs (you can find a refresher on liability here). But if the other party doesn't have car insurance, your collision would cover this too. It’s a pretty handy coverage.

Comprehensive coverage pays for covered damage to your vehicle that is caused by pretty much anything that is not an accident. This could be hail, flood, or fire damage, vandalism, or even an unfortunate run-in with a deer. It will cover small issues like a cracked windshield, and it will cover the bigger problems—like if your car is stolen.

Run-in with a deer - comprehensive insurance coverage example

"Is there anything collision and comprehensive coverages don't cover?"

Yep, there are certain things collision and comp don't cover. Collision only covers damages from an accident, so it wouldn't cover car problems that are due to simple wear and tear, like needing new brake pads, for example.

And while comprehensive really does cover almost anything the universe could throw at your car, there are some exceptions. For example, while it's got your back if your car is stolen, it doesn’t cover items that are stolen from your vehicle, like your purse or phone. Also, comp doesn't cover intentional acts. So don't go push your car off a cliff, OK?

"Do I need collision and comprehensive coverages?"

Welp, that depends. If you lease or finance your car, your lien holder–the bank you lease your car from—may actually require you to have collision and comprehensive coverages. (We suggest you check with them to see.)

But—that's really the only time you have to get these coverages. Otherwise it's up to you. And the best way to decide if you should get them is how you answer this all-important question: could you afford to replace your car if it was stolen or totaled in an accident?

If you can afford to replace your vehicle on your own, then you may not need these coverages. If you can't, collision and comprehensive car insurance will make sure you're able to get that replacement vehicle.

Waterlogged car - comprehensive insurance example

"Got it. So just how much will collision and comprehensive cost me?"

That actually depends on the amount of your deductible.

A deductible is the amount you pay toward repairs (or maybe a replacement car) before your insurance pays for the rest (no limits here!). And you guessed it–collision and comprehensive both have deductibles.

The good news? You choose your deductible.

The lower your deductible, the higher your insurance rate will be. That's because you would pay a lower amount toward the repairs of your vehicle, and your insurer would pick up the rest. For example, your deductible could be as little as $100.

And of course, the opposite is true. You could choose a higher deductible—say, $1,000—and pay less for your insurance. But if you ever need to use your collision or comp, you'd have to pay this higher amount first before your insurance kicks in and covers the rest of the costs.

So, it’s all about finding what works best for you: what you’re comfortable paying out of pocket for your deductible and what you’re good with paying for your car insurance rate.

There is one other thing you'll need to consider when it comes to deductibles (we promise we're almost done). Deductibles are per incident. It's not like health insurance where once you pay your deductible for the year, insurance covers the rest. If you needed to use your comprehensive coverage three times in a year, you would have to pay your deductible each time.

"Just tell me what to do!"

Here’s the thing. We don’t know how much your car is worth or what you can afford to spend on it if it needed repairs. So we can’t tell you what to do. But by knowing what to consider, we do hope we’ve made this collision and comprehensive decision a whole lot easier.

Like insurance coverages in everyday English?

Try insurance in everyday English. The Root car insurance app is designed to help great drivers get great insurance at a great price—no insurance speak allowed.

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Plus, our app makes choosing your coverages super simple. You can see just how much different deductibles would change your rate, and that’s a pretty handy way to help you choose the right options for you.

Okay, then. Want to learn about MedPay or PIP coverages? On to Part 3!

Already an expert on medical payments coverage? Skip ahead to Part 4 - Rental & Roadside Assistance Coverage.

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