Finding Cheap Full Coverage Car Insurance

Understanding Full Coverage Car 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 actually cover very specific risks — in addition to liability insurance.

Here’s what you should know about full coverage car insurance before deciding whether it’s right for you.

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 others’ injuries and repairs to their property. But liability insurance won’t pay to repair your vehicle, or cover incidents that don’t involve crashing into other vehicles or pedestrians. 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.

How much is full coverage car insurance?

Comprehensive and collision coverage give you much better insurance protection, but they also mean higher rates.

To get an idea of how much higher, NerdWallet sampled rates for liability-only policies and full coverage auto policies in three states: California, New Jersey and Ohio.

Here’s what we found:

StateAnnual premium (liability insurance only)Annual premium (full coverage)Annual cost to add full coverage
California
$502$1,084$582
New Jersey$1,262$1,868$606
Ohio$359$721$362

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The price of full coverage car insurance isn’t chump change. Adding it raises Ohio car insurance rates by $362 per year, and that was the most affordable state we tested. It raises New Jersey car insurance rates by $606.

However, 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. Below, we looked at average prices from the four largest car insurance companies for a policy that includes liability, collision and comprehensive, uninsured motorists coverage and personal injury protection where required. Our analysis found Geico to be the cheapest option on average. (See full methodology below.)

Geico

AVERAGE QUOTE: $1,297 per year


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State Farm

AVERAGE QUOTE: $2,296 per year


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Progressive

AVERAGE QUOTE: $2,821 per year


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Allstate

AVERAGE QUOTE: $3,182 per year


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Who needs full coverage car insurance?

If you finance your vehicle, your lender might require you to buy full coverage. Aside from that, comprehensive and collision are optional, although some insurers don’t let you add one without the other.

Comprehensive and collision coverage are particularly sound investments 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.

On the other hand, the older your vehicle and the lower its value, the less benefit there is to having full coverage. Imagine it costs you $600 per year to add comprehensive and collision and you have a $1,000 deductible, which is the amount your insurer will subtract from a claim payment. If your car is only worth $2,000, the net value of a claim check would be $1,000 at most — so if you carry full coverage for more than a year, you won’t be able to get back more than you paid. Checking your car’s current value at the National Automobile Dealers Association‘s website 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 protection, 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:

Full coverage car insurance
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.
What does full coverage car insurance 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 others’ injuries and repairs to their property.
Where can I buy full coverage car insurance? Full coverage is commonly available from any auto insurance company; Geico came out the cheapest in our study of rates.

Alex Glenn is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance site. Email: aglenn@nerdwallet.com.

This article was updated April 20, 2016.

Methodology

For the state averages: NerdWallet averaged the three lowest rates for 30-year-old men and women in 10 ZIP codes and from the largest insurers in each of the states above. Drivers carried liability limits of 100/300/50 and had no accidents or violations on record. The minimum required amount of personal injury protection was added in New Jersey. To test for full coverage, we included collision and comprehensive with a $1,000 deductible. We used a 2012 Toyota Camry.

For the national company averages: NerdWallet averaged rates for 30-year-old men and women with no incidents on record across the 12 most populous states in the country in 10 ZIP codes per state and from the largest insurers in each state. Sample drivers had 100/300/50 liability insurance limits, 100/300 uninsured motorist coverage limits and collision and comprehensive with a $1,000 deductible. Where needed, minimum required amounts of personal injury protection were added. We used a 2012 Toyota Camry in all cases.

These are sample rates generated through Quadrant Information Services. Your own rates will be different.