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UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020
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If you own a car, you know that you are required to carry a liability insurance policy on that vehicle. Liability insurance pays for damage that you cause to another person’s vehicle or property. You may also choose to carry first party coverage on your policy. If you carry both first party and liability coverage, you have what most people call “full coverage” auto insurance.
Is it worthwhile to buy full coverage insurance? What does the coverage do? How much does it cost? Once you understand what you’re paying for, you can make an informed decision about your auto insurance policy.
What is Comprehensive Car Insurance Coverage?
Comprehensive coverage pays for damage caused to your vehicle by something other than a collision accident. There are several things that are paid for under comprehensive:
— Damage from falling or flying object
— Weather-related damage such as hail or flood damage
— Vandalism and theft
— Glass damage such as rock chips or broken windshields
— Damage caused by an animal, including hitting that animal with your car
— Paint overspray or tar stains from driving on wet asphalt
Generally, comprehensive claims do not have any liability assigned to them, meaning that your rates should not be affected by claims filed against your policy under this coverage. Comprehensive coverage is also usually cheaper to buy than collision coverage, and often has a lower deductible. It’s not uncommon to purchase comprehensive coverage with a $50 or $100 deductible, and you may even be able to carry comprehensive with no deductible. Some states offer full glass coverage, which allows you to have any glass damage repaired for free.
Do I need comprehensive car insurance?
If you are making payments on your vehicle, you will need to maintain full coverage auto insurance until the vehicle is paid off. Even if you own the car outright, you may want to carry full coverage insurance if the vehicle is new or would be expensive to replace. Once a vehicle has aged substantially or would cost more to repair than to replace, you can consider removing full coverage insurance from the vehicle.
In some cases, individuals will choose to carry comprehensive coverage even if they do not have collision on a vehicle. The comprehensive coverage is more affordable and pays for damage that may occur frequently. Depending on your situation, it might be worthwhile to maintain comprehensive coverage solely for the glass protection, especially if you are able to use obtain full glass coverage in your state.
Vehicles in storage may benefit from carrying comprehensive coverage, even if collision is unnecessary. If a vehicle has no chance of being involved in an accident, it can still be damaged by vandalism, falling objects or weather events. For example, if you park your car in your garage and your house catches fire, the damage to the vehicle can only be paid if you have comprehensive coverage.
When should I not buy comprehensive car insurance?
Depending on your situation and the age of your vehicle, buying full coverage insurance may no longer be financially sound. For example, if you pay more in premiums each year than your vehicle is worth, you should consider lowering your coverage or replacing the vehicle. Similarly, if your deductible costs nearly as much as the vehicle is worth, you should not carry full coverage insurance.
Additionally, if you own a vehicle on a salvage title, you should not carry full coverage insurance on that car. The reason for this is that vehicles that have been salvaged have already been deemed a total loss; vehicles that have been totaled are considered worthless by the insurance company. The company will not pay to repair damages sustained by a vehicle with a salvage title.
Whether you decide to purchase comprehensive car insurance or not, you should take the time to familiarize yourself with your policy and what each coverage does. By fully understanding what you are paying for, you can make informed decisions about your policy; this way, if you choose to drop a coverage, you will not be unpleasantly surprised in the event of a claim.
If you decide to retain your comprehensive coverage and need to find other ways to lower your policy premiums, you can ask your customer service representative or agent to see if there are any discounts you might qualify for.