What Is Comprehensive Car Insurance and Do You Need It?
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Comprehensive car insurance reimburses you to fix or replace your car after 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 the coverage if you finance or lease your car.
Comprehensive coverage 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 uncertainty strikes.
Think of comprehensive coverage like bad luck insurance 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 riots.
Comprehensive car 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:
Key terms 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 an accident).
Pays for traffic-related accidents. Most insurers package collision and comprehensive coverage (i.e., you can’t buy one without the other).
An amount that’s subtracted from the money your insurer gives you to repair or replace your vehicle. 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, but other state-mandated coverage types may be included.
What does comprehensive car insurance cover?
Comprehensive car insurance covers a variety of accidents that are not traffic related, and it’s not always cut and dried. Here’s a table to use as a reference guide.
Comprehensive car insurance pays for
Comprehensive car 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.
» MORE: Does car insurance cover theft?
Do you need comprehensive insurance?
Comprehensive coverage 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.
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 worth hanging on to.
Remember: 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.
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:
You document 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), your insurer will even pay to tow your car to a repair shop.
Your deductible is $500, so you decide it’s worth filing a claim.
Your insurance company sends an insurance adjuster to inspect your car and estimate initial repair costs. The adjuster's estimate is $2,900.
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.
Because you also pay for rental reimbursement coverage on your car insurance policy (an add-on that’s typically only available after purchasing comprehensive and collision insurance), your insurer covers the cost of a rental car while yours sits in the shop.
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?
You can’t buy comprehensive coverage on its own for a car you’ll be driving. And in many cases, you can’t buy it without collision coverage or vice versa. This can be because your auto lender requires both or your insurer requires one to purchase the other. That’s why it’s best to look at full coverage insurance (which includes comprehensive, collision and state-mandated coverage types) when comparing the cost of comprehensive car insurance. When NerdWallet analyzed auto insurance rates, we found that the average national cost for full coverage insurance is $2,148 a year.
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, your own price may vary.
Read more about both types of coverage in our comprehensive and collision insurance explainer.
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 2020 Toyota Camry LE and assumed 12,000 annual miles driven.