What Is Comprehensive Insurance?

Comprehensive insurance pays for damage to your car from causes like hail, flooding and fire. Here's what it is and when you need it.
Ryan Brady
By Ryan Brady 
Edited by Ben Moore Reviewed by Brenda J. Cude

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Nerdy takeaways
  • Comprehensive insurance reimburses you to fix or replace your car after damage from non-traffic-related causes, like fires, vandalism or running into a deer. The coverage also pays to replace your car if it’s stolen.

  • Most lenders require you to have comprehensive coverage if you finance or lease your car.

  • Comprehensive insurance could be worth it if you’d have a hard time coming up with cash to repair or replace your car on your own if misfortune strikes.

Think of comprehensive insurance like bad luck coverage for your car. It pays for damage to your vehicle from just about anything except a traffic accident or rollover. That includes an array of random events outside your control, from a chipped windshield or hail dent to explosions or damage from vandalism.

Comprehensive insurance is optional if you own your vehicle. But if you finance or lease it, your lender will likely require it.

Here’s what we’ll cover in this article:

Here are some common terms you’ll likely see associated with comprehensive coverage.

Actual cash value

The market value of your car in its current condition (before the damage).

Collision insurance

Pays for car repairs from traffic-related accidents. Many insurers package collision and comprehensive coverage (i.e., you can’t buy one without the other).


The amount you're on the hook for before your insurance company pays to cover car repairs or replacement costs. The higher your deductible, the lower your car insurance cost — but the more you’ll pay out of pocket if you make a claim.

Full coverage insurance

A combination of car insurance coverage types. Typically, it includes comprehensive, collision and liability car insurance. Other state-mandated coverage types may be included.

What is comprehensive insurance?

Comprehensive insurance pays for damage to your vehicle from events outside your control. Unless you lease or finance your car, this coverage type is optional. It pays out up to the current market value of your car, minus your deductible.

Comprehensive insurance is part of what is referred to as “full coverage insurance,” a combination of coverage types that typically includes:

  • Collision insurance, which covers damage to your car caused in a crash.

  • Liability insurance, which pays for damage and injuries you cause others while driving, and protects you financially if you’re sued. Almost every state requires a minimum amount of liability insurance to drive legally.

What does comprehensive insurance cover?

Comprehensive insurance covers damage to your car caused by a variety of accidents that aren't traffic-related. Here’s a table to use as a reference.

Comprehensive insurance pays for damage to your car caused by:

Comprehensive insurance doesn't pay for:

Weather events, such as hail, floods or tornadoes.

Damage or injuries you cause to others while driving.

Falling objects, such as tree limbs.

Your own injuries after an accident.

Fire or explosions.

Damage to your car from a collision with another driver or object.

Hitting an animal.

Personal belongings inside your car.

Car theft and broken windows.

Damage from potholes.


Normal wear and tear.

Vandalism or civil disobedience, such as a riot.

Do you need comprehensive insurance?

Comprehensive insurance becomes less useful the older your car is. That's because it reimburses you for repairs only up to the actual cash value of your car, minus your deductible, and that value declines as your car ages.

So as long as you aren’t financing or leasing your car and you have enough cash to cover unexpected repair or replacement costs, you may want to consider ditching comprehensive insurance if your car isn’t worth much. Otherwise, it may be good to hang on to.

🤓Nerdy Tip

The number of extreme weather events in the U.S. is rising along with reports of car thefts. Comprehensive car insurance covers both of these scenarios.

National Centers for Environmental Information. Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters. Accessed Feb 6, 2023.

To make the decision easier, use NerdWallet’s comprehensive insurance calculator below.

Even if you decide comprehensive insurance is worth it for now, revisit this calculator as your car ages and you get new car insurance quotes.

How comprehensive insurance works

Let’s say you wake up one morning to find your car’s front end crushed by a rogue tree limb that snapped after a particularly nasty storm. Here’s how comprehensive car insurance would work:

  1. You take pictures of the damages and call your insurer. You discover you’ll be reimbursed for repairs if you file a claim. Because you also pay for roadside assistance (a fairly inexpensive add-on to your policy), your insurer will even pay to tow your car to a repair shop.

  2. Your comprehensive insurance deductible is $500, so you decide it’s worth filing a claim.

  3. Your insurance company sends an insurance adjuster to inspect your car and estimate initial repair costs. The adjuster's estimate is $2,900.

  4. You accept the estimate and allow your insurer to tow your car to the company's preferred repair shop. While you can select your own mechanic, you decide it’s worth going with your insurance company’s recommended garage because your insurer will guarantee the repairs for as long as you have the car and can pay the garage directly.

  5. Because you also pay for rental reimbursement coverage on your car insurance policy (an add-on that’s typically only available after you buy comprehensive and collision insurance), your insurer covers the cost of a rental car while yours sits in the shop.

  6. You’re notified that your car is repaired and ready to be picked up. Hooray! But before you can drive your car home, you pay the auto repair shop $500 to cover your deductible.

One thing to note: Your rates may go up at renewal time if you file a comprehensive insurance claim. NerdWallet recommends that drivers shop around and compare car insurance quotes regularly to get a lower rate, especially after a claim is filed.

How much does comprehensive coverage cost?

In many cases, comprehensive and collision coverage are sold as a package deal and combined with state-mandated coverage types, like liability insurance. To get a sense of how much it will cost, it’s best to look at full coverage insurance when comparing the cost of comprehensive car insurance. According to NerdWallet's January 2024 analysis of auto insurance rates, the median national cost for full coverage insurance is $1,982 a year.

Your own price may vary, because insurers base their rates on several factors outside of the insurance policy you buy, such as what car you drive, where you live and theft rates in your area.

Read more about both types of coverage in our comprehensive and collision insurance explainer.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Not sure how much you’re paying for comprehensive coverage? Check your policy’s car insurance declaration page or your online insurance account for an itemized list of how much you’re paying for each type of coverage.

The bottom line: Is comprehensive insurance worth it?

Not everyone has a choice about whether to get comprehensive car insurance. If you’re leasing or financing your vehicle, it’s likely required. But if you can drop the coverage, consider the value of your car plus these pros and cons:



Covers a variety of unexpected events.

Costs more than minimum required coverage.

Could save you a lot of money on repair or replacement costs if your car is newer and has a high value.

Isn't worth the price if your car is older and has little value.


NerdWallet averaged rates based on public filings obtained by pricing analytics company Quadrant Information Services. We examined rates for 35-year-old men and women for all ZIP codes in any of the 50 states and Washington, D.C. Drivers had good credit and a good driving history. Although it’s one of the largest insurers in the country, Liberty Mutual is not included in our rates analysis due to a lack of publicly available information.

In our analysis, “good drivers” had no moving violations on record; a “good driving” discount was included for this profile. Our “good” credit rates are based on credit score approximations and do not account for proprietary scoring criteria used by insurance providers. These are average rates, and your rate will vary based on your personal details, state and insurance provider.

Sample drivers had the following coverage limits: $100,000 bodily injury liability coverage per person. $300,000 bodily injury liability coverage per crash. $50,000 property damage liability coverage per crash. $100,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage per person. $300,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage per crash. Collision coverage with $1,000 deductible. Comprehensive coverage with $1,000 deductible.

In states where required, minimum additional coverages were added.

We used a 2021 Toyota Camry LE and assumed 12,000 annual miles driven.

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