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What does comprehensive auto insurance cover?


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Question: What is comprehensive insurance? 

Answer: Comprehensive auto insurance isn't really comprehensive.

If you choose to buy it, comprehensive coverage pays to repair your car after it suffers physical damage.  Together with collision coverage, it comprises what some refer to as full coverage.

Comprehensive coverage may sound all-encompassing, but actually it isn’t.  It covers certain situations (called perils) as defined by your auto insurance policy that don't stem from a collision. That is why this coverage is also known as “other than collision” or OTC. 

The exact perils covered by comprehensive car insurance vary from one auto insurance provider to the next, however; in general it includes coverage for:

  • Theft of your vehicle (but usually no coverage for personal items within your vehicle)
  • Glass damage (such as a broken windshield, sunroof, rear or side window)
  • Vandalism to your vehicle
  • Damage from falling objects or missiles (such as a tree)
  • Damage sustained from hitting a bird or animal (such as a deer, dog, etc.)
  • Damage from water (such as floodwater)
  • Fire
  • Damage sustained due to certain natural disaster events or severe weather (such as hurricane, hail, wind storm, tornado, dust devil, etc.)

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Collision insurance covers you when your vehicle hits, or is hit by, another vehicle or object -- regardless of fault.  Some car insurance carriers will require you to have collision along with comprehensive on your policy.

Comprehensive coverage comes with a deductible. This is the amount that you will pay out-of-pocket before your auto insurance benefits will kick in.  To save money you can choose a higher deductible amount, though you don’t want the amount to be so high that you couldn’t afford it if you needed to make a claim. (See “Will higher deductibles save you money?”)

Comprehensive auto insurance coverage is optional coverage, meaning your state won’t require you to carry it.  However, if you have a financed or leased vehicle, then your lender or lessee can mandate that you include both insurance coverages as part of your auto insurance policy, and it may state what your deductible amount should be set at.

In spite of its name, comprehensive car insurance doesn’t cover all of your insurance needs. Even if you pair comprehensive with collision coverage as part of "full coverage" you remain exposed to financial loss. 

If you don't have health insurance, for example, you may need medical payments coverage to pay bills if you are injured in an accident that you have caused. If you are injured by someone who doesn't have liability coverage, you would need uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage.  If you require towing or roadside assistance, then look into a towing and labor plan.  If you want a rental car when your vehicle is getting repaired after a claim, then include rental reimbursement coverage as part of your policy.  And if you have customized your car, then obtain a custom parts and equipment endorsement.

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