Question: What coverage on my own car insurance policy protects my vehicle if it’s damaged? I heard that liability can only be used for others that I damage in an auto accident.
Answer: What you heard is correct. Your liability coverages are there to help repair the damage you inflict on other people and their vehicles.
Property damage liability coverage pays out, up to your stated limits, when you damage another person's personal property like a vehicle, house, fence, or mailbox. It also covers city or state-owned property like a guardrail, sign, or lamppost. (See “You hit it, you bought it”) Bodily injury liability coverage pays out, up to your stated limits, for injuries you cause to anyone who wasn't riding in your car.
Neither of these types of insurance will cover your own vehicle in any way.
Your own auto insurance policy won’t cover your vehicle if it’s been damaged unless you have physical damage coverages of collision, comprehensive or uninsured motorist property damage (UMPD). Each coverage type is different, so make sure you purchase the right coverages for your needs.
Collision and comprehensive are not a part of any state’s minimum car insurance requirements; however, if you have a financed or leased vehicle then it most certainly will be required by the lender or leaseholder.
Coverage to fix your car
Collision covers your vehicle if it hits, or is hit by, another vehicle, or object. It also covers the upset of your car. So whether you accidentally hit another vehicle, a tree or flip your car on the freeway, your vehicle would be covered if you had collision insurance coverage.
Comprehensive coverage is also known as other-than-collision or OTC because it covers your vehicle for incidents that aren’t collision related.
Comprehensive pays for your vehicle if it’s damaged due to theft, vandalism, fire or an animal strike. It also covers glass damage and damage sustained due to severe weather, such as wind, floodwaters, hail, hurricanes or tornadoes.
UMPD is required in some states and not even offered in others. In general, it covers damage to your vehicle (up to its limits) that was sustained due to an at-fault uninsured driver. Typically, the driver has to be known and found to be uninsured to use the coverage, so hit-and-run accidents aren’t usually covered. This coverage may come with a deductible.
Collision is preferable to UMPD since it can be used for any type of collision and regardless of fault. So, even if your state requires UMPD we’d also recommend that you carry collision coverage if you can afford it.
Collision and comprehensive each will pay for repairs or the actual cash value of your vehicle if it’s determined to be a total loss. You must also choose a deductible for each. This is the amount you’ll be responsible for before your physical damage benefits kick in. (See “Will higher deductibles save you money?”)
It can be confusing to determine what coverage is needed for what type of auto accident, so try our Crash-o-matic tool. Here, you can click on six common accident scenarios to find out what type of insurance coverage is needed to pay for the damage.
If you currently only have liability coverage, then adding protection for your car in the form of collision and comprehensive (some insurers won’t let you purchase one without the other) will cost more To find the best price for full coverage, make sure to comparison shop with multiple auto insurance companies.