Let's use the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy as an example to illustrate the differences between collision and comprehensive. Within that storm, let's consider two events that might have happened: 1) a heavy tree branch fell on your car, or 2) you swerved to avoid a falling tree branch and wound up crashing into a tree. In the first event, you had no control over when or why a tree branch would fall on your car. This kind of accident would get reimbursed under your comprehensive policy. In the second situation, you were driving the car and ultimately swerved into the tree, which makes it a collision, and collision insurance therefore pays for the damages. Events like the hypothetical ones stated above are why it's important to differentiate between the two types of coverage.
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The key difference in collision vs. comprehensive coverage is that, to a certain extent, the element of the car driver's control. As we have stated before, collision insurance will typically cover events within a motorist's control, or when another vehicle collides with your car. Comprehensive coverage generally falls under "acts of God or nature," that are typically out of your control when driving. These can include such events as a spooked deer, a heavy hailstorm, or a carjacking.
NerdWallet compared quotes from these insurers in ZIP codes across the country. Rates are for policies that include liability, collision, comprehensive, and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverages, as well as any other coverage required in each state. Our “good driver” profile is a 40-year-old with no moving violations and credit in the “good” tier.
Insurance terms, definitions and explanations are intended for informational purposes only and do not in any way replace or modify the definitions and information contained in individual insurance contracts, policies or declaration pages, which are controlling. Such terms and availability may vary by state and exclusions may apply. Discounts may not be applied to all policy coverages.
If your car is worth more than $3,000 and/or is less than 10 years old, we'd also suggest both collision and comprehensive coverage, too. Our estimates suggest drivers can buy comprehensive and collision insurance for an average of $600 to $700 per year (however, the cost may be higher for some cars), so you would spend $3,000 to $3,500 in premiums over five years. If your car is currently worth less than $3,000, you will have spent more on insurance than your car is worth. You can obtain the estimated value of your car from sites like Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds. Once you have both the value and a quote for coverage, you can determine whether collision insurance will be worth it.
Policies typically use vague language when referring to acts of terrorism, but they are generally insured by the comprehensive portion of your policy. For example, if there is an act of terror and you need to make a claim on your car, that can only be made if you have comprehensive coverage. Since some circumstances are out of our control, comprehensive insurance is certainly important to have in your policy.
Once you know the approximate value of your car and the cost to carry collision coverage, then you can make an informed decision about purchasing that coverage. Many people find that it's a good idea to cover newer cars, but as cars get older, their values decrease, and you might consider omitting or dropping this coverage to save money on your auto insurance.
In the states with no-fault insurance, insured drivers are typically paid for medical expenses by their own insurers, regardless of who caused the accident. Nonetheless, BI liability coverage is still required in no-fault states because if injuries are bad, the at-fault driver may be sued by the injured party. If that happens, your BI coverage can help cover your liability expenses.