What Is Comprehensive Car Insurance (and Do You Need It)?

Comprehensive car insurance isn’t typically required, but it could be helpful to have. See what it does (and doesn’t) cover.

Updated May 13, 2024
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It’s important to research different insurance options to ensure you’re financially protected in case of an accident or similar event. But it’s not always easy to figure out what types of insurance to get — especially with car insurance — which offers loads of policies to cover you in specific scenarios.

If you’ve been researching auto insurance policies, you may have wondered what comprehensive car insurance is and whether you need it. This guide will show you what this type of policy covers and how it works so you can decide whether the coverage is worth the cost.

In this article

What is comprehensive car insurance?

Comprehensive car insurance is an auto insurance product that typically covers non-collision incidents, such as your vehicle being stolen or hit by a falling tree. It’s typically optional coverage, which means you likely aren’t required by your state to have it.

However, you may be required to purchase comprehensive and collision insurance if you don’t own a car outright. If you’re financing a vehicle, your lender or car dealer could require these additional policies to help ensure their investment is protected. In addition, most states require a minimum amount of liability insurance coverage, which is a separate policy from both the comprehensive and collision products.

What comprehensive car insurance covers

Although collision insurance covers most collision-related damages, which is when your car collides with an object, comprehensive insurance focuses on non-collision damage to your vehicle. However, it’s important to note that a comprehensive policy might cover theft of your car or its parts.

Here are some of the common damages covered by many comprehensive insurance policies:

  • Theft of car or parts
  • Vandalism
  • Riots
  • Natural disasters, such as hurricanes, floods, or tornados
  • Falling objects, such as trees or branches
  • Contact with animals
  • Fire
  • Broken windshield

Overall, a comprehensive policy may cover several things you may not often think about, such as glass damage to your windshield because a rock cracked it or a tree fell onto your car during a storm. These types of events could typically have a low chance of happening to you, but it might be worth it to have a safeguard in place so you don’t have to deal with a potential financial headache down the road.

Even if you aren’t required to get comprehensive insurance, it could make sense to consider purchasing a policy if you’re worried about certain things. For example, the area you live in could be prone to natural disasters, such as floods or hurricanes. Or hail storms might be common in your area, which could cause severe damage to your vehicle. If there’s a higher likelihood of these or similar events happening, it’s likely in your best interest to research what’s available from different providers.

What comprehensive car insurance doesn’t cover

Although comprehensive car insurance might be the right option for certain natural disasters and having your car stolen, it’s not going to help you in every scenario. Here’s a list of things that a comprehensive policy doesn’t typically cover:

  • Damage to your car from a collision with another vehicle or object
  • Damage to another car or piece of property resulting from a collision
  • Medical expenses that result from a car accident
  • Mechanical breakdown
  • Normal wear and tear
  • Routine car maintenance
  • Theft of personal items within your vehicle

There’s a lot that a comprehensive policy won’t cover, which is why it’s likely best to have multiple policy types if you want more complete coverage, or full coverage car insurance. To be clear, full coverage isn’t an actual insurance policy, but rather a combination of liability, collision, and comprehensive insurance.

If you specifically want coverage for theft of items within your vehicle, check with auto insurance companies to see what they provide. And keep in mind that your personal items may already be covered through a homeowners or renters insurance policy.

How much does comprehensive car insurance cost?

According to driving costs by AAA, the average annual cost of car insurance is about $1,342. This cost is based on a full coverage policy for an experienced driver who has no accidents.

Comprehensive coverage typically accounts for a low percentage of your full car insurance costs. For example, the Insurance Information Institute’s page on collision and comprehensive coverage states the average cost of comprehensive insurance is just over $134 per year.

But you do have a few factors to keep in mind that could affect your insurance costs, including:

  • The type of car you drive
  • The value of your vehicle
  • Your driving record
  • Where you live
  • How often you drive
  • Where you park your car
  • Your age
  • Your gender
  • The types of policies you want and the limits you choose for coverage
  • The deductible amount on your comprehensive policy

As you can see, you have plenty of factors that could affect your insurance rates, including how much you pay for comprehensive coverage. However, many of these factors will be out of your control. But if you do purchase a comprehensive car insurance policy, you’re typically able to choose the car insurance deductible amount on the policy.

This deductible is the amount you would pay before your insurance kicks in. For example, if you have a $500 deductible and your car needs $2,000 in repairs resulting from falling objects during a windstorm, you would have to pay $500 and your insurance would cover the remaining $1,500. Choosing a higher deductible might decrease your monthly insurance premiums.

How to get the right auto coverage

Knowing how to get car insurance can be considered as important as knowing how different insurance policies work. You want to make sure you get the right coverage for your situation while saving money when possible. Here are a few tips to keep in mind during your search:

  • Understand different policies. Liability, collision, and comprehensive coverage are all different. Knowing what these and other policies cover could help you decide what you need.
  • Know your state requirements. Most states require a minimum amount of liability coverage, but the amount of necessary coverage can vary depending on where you live. Certain states may also require additional insurance, such as personal injury protection and uninsured motorist or underinsured motorist coverage.
  • Know the factors that can affect your rate. You can’t control your age and don’t always have much control over where you live. But certain factors, such as deductible amounts and coverage limits are often chosen by the policyholder.
  • Review your coverage needs. How much auto insurance coverage do you need? What types of coverage do you feel are necessary? For comprehensive coverage, consider where you live and whether certain natural disasters or weather patterns are more common.
  • Compare insurance providers. Rather than looking at rates from one company, compare multiple companies to see who offers the best coverage at the lowest prices. To compare rates from top providers in your area, check out our tool for the best car insurance.

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Is comprehensive car insurance required?

Comprehensive car insurance isn’t typically required by state law, though most states do require some form of liability insurance. However, you might be required to have comprehensive insurance if you’re financing a car. This will depend on the lender you’re working with.

What's the difference between comprehensive and collision coverage?

Collision insurance covers damages resulting from collisions with other vehicles or objects, whereas comprehensive insurance covers non-collision damages. Examples of things typically covered by comprehensive insurance include contact with animals, fire, natural disasters, windshield breakage, vandalism, and theft.

Does comprehensive insurance offer full coverage?

Comprehensive insurance is a single auto insurance policy and shouldn’t be considered a full coverage policy. The term “full coverage” refers to a combination of multiple policies, often including liability, collision, and comprehensive coverage.

Bottom line

Comprehensive auto insurance isn’t required for everyone, but you might have to get it if you’re financing a new car. However, it’s still worth looking into getting this coverage even if it’s not required for you. Depending on your situation, a comprehensive policy could come in handy, and it’s typically not too expensive.

As you research different insurance coverages, remember to compare coverage options and car insurance quotes from multiple companies. This will help ensure you get the available information from insurers in your area and make it easier to negotiate lower rates if needed.

Keep in mind that all car insurance policies typically offer similar coverage, even from different companies. So it’s in your best interest to compare quotes and find the best deal from a reputable provider.

  • You could save up to $600 with some companies
  • Compare dozens of providers in under 5 minutes
  • Fast, free and easy way to shop for insurance
  • Quickly find the perfect rate for you

Author Details

Ben Walker, CEPF, CFEI®

Ben Walker, CEPF, CFEI®, is credit cards specialist. For over a decade, he's leveraged credit card points and miles to travel the world. His expertise extends to other areas of personal finance — including loans, insurance, investing, and real estate — and you can find his insights on The Washington Post, Debt.com, Yahoo! Finance, and Fox Business.