What Is Commercial Insurance?

Commercial insurance protects businesses and their assets from liability, property damage and other risks.
Rosalie Murphy
By Rosalie Murphy 
Edited by Ryan Lane

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Commercial insurance protects companies and their assets in case of lawsuits, natural disasters, theft, auto accidents and other shocks. Commercial insurance and business insurance are interchangeable terms for the same types of coverage.

Commercial insurance coverage will look different for every business depending on what it does, where it operates and many other factors. To protect your business, look for potential risks to figure out what policies you need, then shop around to find the most complete, cost-effective coverage.

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What types of commercial insurance are there?

The most common types of commercial insurance are general liability coverage, commercial auto insurance and workers’ compensation. But there are lots of types of business insurance that protect against different risks. Many businesses need these types of commercial coverage:

Type of insurance

When it protects your business

Who needs it

Find a provider

If a third party or their property is harmed as a result of your business activity.

All businesses. May be required by a landlord or contractor.

If you’re in an auto accident while working or in a company vehicle.

Businesses that use vehicles in their operations. May be required by law.

If an employee is injured on the job.

Businesses with employees. Required by law in most states.

If a client accuses you of making a mistake or giving them bad advice. This is also known as errors and omissions insurance.

Businesses that provide services for a fee. May be required by law or industry regulation.

If your manufacturing or retail space, office, or assets like equipment or inventory are damaged and need to be repaired or replaced.

Businesses with owned or rented space or a significant amount of property. May be required by a landlord.

If your business can’t generate revenue for a period of time.

Most businesses with recurring expenses.

General liability insurance, commercial property insurance and business interruption insurance are often packaged together and sold as a business owner’s policy. Bundling coverage can help you save money and simplify your shopping experience.

What is commercial health insurance?

Commercial health insurance refers to health insurance that isn't provided by the government. Business owners may offer their employees this type of coverage, typically via small-business group health insurance plans. These plans distribute risk among the whole group of employees, resulting in lower premiums than each employee would pay if they bought individual coverage.

In general, small-business health insurance is provided by health insurance companies, not commercial insurance companies. To provide health insurance for your employees, you’ll have to get quotes directly from those providers or get help from a health insurance broker.

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How does commercial insurance work?

Commercial insurance is meant to ease your financial burden when the unexpected happens. You’ll file a claim explaining what happened and what you lost. Then, your insurer will issue a payment to help you recover your losses. If you’re being sued, your insurance company may handle your legal representation too.

Commercial insurance policies are made up of components that you may recognize from your personal insurance policies. These include:

  • Premium: The amount you pay monthly or annually to maintain your coverage.

  • Deductible: The amount you’ll have to pay before your insurance policy begins kicking in. In general, the higher your deductible, the lower your premium.

  • Policy limits: The maximum amount your insurance policy will pay out during the policy period. You may have a per-occurrence limit, which is the total amount your insurer will pay out for one particular incident, as well as a total policy limit.

  • Exclusions: Incidents your policy will not cover. Earthquake damage, for instance, is often excluded from commercial property insurance policies. And intentional damage or injury caused by your employees is usually excluded from general liability insurance policies.

  • Endorsements and additional coverages: Add-ons to an insurance policy that extend its coverage. Endorsements and additional coverages will usually increase your premiums.

In most cases, you’ll need to already have a policy when an accident happens in order to be covered. Your policy period can usually begin the day you buy commercial insurance or the next day.

Where can you buy commercial insurance?

You can get commercial insurance from many business insurance companies.

If you already have personal insurance, getting a commercial insurance quote from that provider is a good place to start. It may offer a discount if you buy both types of coverage. Carriers like State Farm, USAA and Travelers offer personal as well as commercial insurance.

But there are also insurance companies that exclusively focus on commercial insurance. Some of NerdWallet’s picks include:

The Hartford


NerdWallet rating 

This long-standing commercial insurance provider could be a good choice for many business owners due to its wide breadth of coverage types. You can get a quote online but will probably need to talk to an agent to purchase a policy. Read NerdWallet’s review of The Hartford business insurance.



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If you’re looking for an insurance provider that can grow with your business, Chubb is a good choice. Chubb was the largest provider of commercial insurance in the U.S. in 2021, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Business owners with simple insurance needs can purchase some policies online, including a business owner’s policy, professional liability insurance and umbrella insurance. Plus, Chubb can provide dozens of more specialized coverage as your business expands or moves into new niches. Read NerdWallet’s review of Chubb business insurance.



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Next is an all-online commercial insurance provider. If you’re in a hurry, you can get quotes and purchase policies for most basic types of commercial insurance coverage — including workers’ comp, professional liability and commercial auto — from Next online in a matter of minutes. Next will also send you an electronic certificate of insurance that you can show to a landlord or contractor when needed. Read NerdWallet’s review of Next business insurance.



NerdWallet rating 

Thimble offers commercial insurance policies for a single job or event, as well as by the month or year. If you need only temporary coverage, like to comply with the requirements of a contract, you can buy a policy from this business insurance startup in a matter of minutes. Read NerdWallet’s review of Thimble business insurance.

If your business insurance needs are complex or feel overwhelming, find a business insurance agent near you for personalized help. Agents and brokers earn commissions and may also charge fees, but their expertise can be valuable.

How much does commercial insurance cost?

The cost of business insurance depends on a variety of factors, including what industry you’re in, how many employees you have, where you operate and whether you’ve filed claims in the past.

Like most insurance policies, you’ll pay a monthly or annual premium for commercial insurance coverage. During the claims process, you’ll have to pay the deductible. Typically, the higher your deductible, the lower your premiums.

Commercial insurance policies also have limits, which are the maximum amount the insurance company will pay out in one year. Policies with higher limits typically cost more.

Compare quotes from several commercial insurance providers to find the best coverage for you.

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