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UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020
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Imagine you are walking out to your car one night from work and you notice that something is wrong. As you approach the car, you realize that two windows are smashed and someone has spray-painted words on the side. Vandalism! You quickly call the police, who come and make a report, but there is little chance the vandals will be caught or brought to justice.
Now imagine hearing from your insurance company, “I am sorry, but we cannot pay to repair your car. You see, you only have state-required liability coverage, and not comprehensive insurance.” This is a scenario no one wants to imagine! Unfortunately, it happens every day as people cut back on coverage to try to save money on insurance premiums.
When you purchase insurance for your car, you have options about the amounts and types of coverage you are going to carry. Many people opt for only the state-required liability insurance, forgetting or not understanding that liability only pays for the other person’s car if you cause a wreck—it does not pay to fix your car. Likewise, liability pays nothing if your car is damaged in something other than an accident; in this case, vandalism.
In order to have coverage for these types of incidents, you must have coverage which is called “comprehensive.”
As the name implies, comprehensive coverage gives you protection from almost every imaginable type of damage which can be inflicted on your vehicle, including vandalism. Your comprehensive policy will be written as a separate policy from your liability insurance, and will have its own deductible which you can adjust according to your needs and ability to pay.
Comprehensive insurance not only protects you from loss due to vandalism or theft, but from other types of non-accident damages such as wind damage, hail destruction, fire, flood, and random “freak” occurrences, such as a flying object breaking your windshield. If you do not have comprehensive coverage, you will be responsible for paying for all of the costs associated with these types of accidents.
How much is comprehensive insurance?
Can you actually afford “full coverage” on your vehicle? In most cases, the answer is “yes,” especially when you compare what you will be out of pocket if your car is stolen, vandalized, or destroyed by a weather-related incident. Comprehensive insurance generally runs approximately 15 to 20 percent of the cost of your liability insurance, and standard deductions for comprehensive tend to be lower than those of collision or liability. This is because fewer claims are filed under comprehensive policies than under liability and collision, so insurers can afford to give you a better price for this coverage. Comprehensive claims also tend to be less expensive overall than those filed under liability and collision policies.
Of course, this is not to say that you might not end up paying quite a bit for your comprehensive policy if you have a poor driving record or claims history. It is also not to say that you cannot find great deals on “full coverage” from a variety of companies if you are a good driver and are over twenty-five. Where you live, your driving record, your age, and the type of vehicle you drive will all affect how your premium prices are figured.
You can also keep your premiums lower by adjusting coverage levels and deductibles. Raising your deductible from $250 to $1,000, for example, can cut your insurance premiums easily in half. However, you should be aware that if you do this, you will be responsible for the first $1,000 of damages under your comprehensive policy. This means that if you have only minor damage, you are usually better off paying for it yourself, as your insurance company will not pay for anything under $1,000 on that claim. If you are going to raise your deductibles, make sure that you have the cash available to pay the new amount immediately. Otherwise, you could end up owing a repair shop or someone else significant money.