If you’ve heard about full coverage car insurance but aren’t sure what it actually covers or where you can find it, here’s what you should know before deciding whether it’s right for you.
What is full coverage auto insurance?
Full coverage car insurance sounds great, but the term is a bit misleading. “Full coverage” generally refers to policies that include collision and comprehensive insurance, which only cover specific situations, in addition to liability insurance.
What does full coverage car insurance actually cover?
Many states mandate that drivers buy only a small amount of auto liability insurance. If you cause a crash, this coverage helps pay for the treatment of other people’s injuries and repairs to their property. But liability insurance won’t cover your vehicle’s repairs; it only covers damage or injuries you cause others. Collision and comprehensive insurance fill these gaps:
- Collision coverage pays for repairs to your car if you cause a crash with another vehicle or run into an object, such as a tree or a telephone pole.
- Comprehensive coverage pays to repair or replace your car if it’s stolen or damaged by a covered cause, such as an animal collision, weather, a falling object, fire or vandalism.
Comprehensive and collision coverage work differently than liability insurance, too:
- Comprehensive and collision coverages reimburse you only up to the value of your car at the time it’s damaged. Liability coverages pay out up to specified limits, which are typically much higher than the value of a car.
- Both coverages typically come with a deductible, which is the amount your insurer will subtract from a claim payment for you to pay out of pocket. Typical amounts are $500 and $1,000, with higher deductibles translating to lower premiums.
» MORE: Find out what your car is worth
How much is full coverage car insurance?
Comprehensive and collision coverage gives you much better insurance protection than mandated minimums, but having that protection means higher rates.
To get an idea of how much higher, NerdWallet looked at rates for liability-only policies and full coverage auto policies across the country:
|State||Average annual price: Minimum required coverage||Average annual price: Full coverage||Annual difference|
|District of Columbia||$842||$1,558||$716|
These average rates can help you know what to expect, but to get the cheapest full coverage insurance possible, you’ll want to shop around.
» COMPARE: Car insurance quotes
The rate increases are steep in some states, but just one comprehensive or collision claim can make the cost worth it. Replacing a stolen car or repairing your vehicle after a crash could mean paying thousands of dollars out of your own pocket if you don’t have the right insurance.
Where to buy full coverage car insurance
Full coverage is commonly available from any auto insurance company. We looked at average prices from the four largest car insurers for a policy that includes liability, collision, comprehensive, uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage and other state-required coverages where needed.
Who needs full coverage car insurance?
If you have an auto loan, your lender might require you to buy full coverage auto insurance. Aside from that, comprehensive and collision are optional, although some insurers don’t let you add collision insurance without comprehensive.
Comprehensive and collision coverage is a particularly sound investment if:
- You have a new or expensive car.
- You regularly commute in heavy traffic.
- You live in a place with extreme weather, high car theft rates or a high risk of animal collisions.
However, the older your vehicle and the lower its value, the less benefit there is to having full coverage car insurance. Imagine it costs you $600 per year to add comprehensive and collision and you have a $1,000 deductible. If your car is worth only $2,000, a claim check would be $1,000 at most — only $400 more than you paid for the coverage. Checking your car’s current value here can help you decide whether full coverage makes sense.
Even with full coverage, there are other policy options you might need. For example, uninsured motorist coverage, towing and labor service, and medical payments insurance all provide coverage that collision and comprehensive won’t.
How will various policy changes affect your rates? You can get insurance quotes using NerdWallet’s tool and compare estimates to see for yourself.
To recap key questions and answers:
|What is full coverage car insurance?||“Full coverage” generally refers to policies that include collision and comprehensive insurance — which actually cover very specific risks — in addition to liability insurance.|
|Where can I buy full coverage car insurance?||Full coverage is commonly available from any auto insurance company; Geico came out the cheapest among the largest four insurers in our study of rates.|
For the full coverage category, we averaged rates from the largest insurers for 30-year-old men and women in 10 ZIP codes and with 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 2014 Toyota Camry in all cases. These are sample rates generated through Quadrant Information Services. Your own rates will be different.