Istock

Comprehensive insurance is a type of auto coverage that covers the repair or replacement of your vehicle under certain circumstances. Comprehensive insurance is usually combined with other types of auto coverage. 

What Is Comprehensive Insurance? 

Comprehensive auto coverage is a policy that will pay to repair or replace the insured vehicle if it is stolen or is damaged in an incident that isn't considered a collision. Comprehensive coverage is what it sounds like -- it includes damage from a variety of incidents. 

Comprehensive coverage will generally be required by the lender if you finance the purchase of the vehicle or if you lease the car. While comprehensive insurance covers a wide range of incidents that can result in a loss for the policyholder, the name is a bit of a misnomer in that there are a lot of things that it doesn't cover that require a separate policy or rider to an existing policy. 

What Does Comprehensive Insurance Cover? 

Comprehensive insurance typically covers damage from incidents like: 

  • Fire
  • Falling objects
  • Vandalism
  • Theft
  • Natural disasters like a hurricane, tornado, hail and others
  • Damage done by an animal
  • A civil disturbance like a riot if it results in damage to the vehicle. 

Comprehensive coverage typically doesn't cover losses from things like: 

  • Losses from events covered by a collision policy, see below.
  • Towing and labor related to towing the vehicle if needed. This is typically included in a roadside assistance policy that may be available through your auto insurance company or through third-parties like AAA. This coverage typically includes services like:
    • Tire changing
    • The delivery of gas, water or oil to your location.
    • Battery service
    • Help if you are locked out of the vehicle.
  • Rental reimbursement if you need to rent a car while yours is being serviced or if it has been stolen.
  • Losses to personal property in the vehicle, this would generally be covered by your renters or homeowner's policy. 

How Does Comprehensive Insurance Work? 

Comprehensive coverage will carry both a deductible and a maximum coverage limit. 

The deductible is the amount the policyholder is required to pay on a claim prior to the policy's coverage kicks in. if the deductible on the policy is $500, then you would be required to pay the first $500 of any claim before your policy's coverage kicks in. If the claim amount is $2,500, then you would pay $500 and the insurance company would cover the remaining $2,000 for the claim. 

Deductibles are generally per claim. The higher the deductible, generally the lower your premium will be. In selecting a deductible, you should consider how much you would be willing or able to absorb in the event of a claim and compare that to the differences in premiums for different deductible levels. 

Comprehensive coverage will also carry a policy limit defining the maximum that will be paid on any claim. The limit is generally equal to the cash value of the vehicle at the time of the accident. If the car is totaled, the policy limit will generally be the cash value of the vehicle less any depreciation. 

For example, if your car is stolen and the value of the car less any depreciation is $20,000, this is the amount you would receive from the insurance company. If you wanted to replace the car with a vehicle that cost $27,000, the additional $7,000 would come out of your pocket. 

If the car is a collectible or rare vehicle, you may have to obtain special coverage, this will vary based on your insurance company's rules. 

Filing a claim for a loss will vary a bit by your company's process and procedures and the nature of the incident. A few basic thoughts on this: 

  • If the claim involves an accident, it may be necessary to contact the police. Your coverage may or may not require a police report.
  • You will want to contact your insurance company right away as well. They will instruct you as to the next steps.
  • Your insurer may have drive-in claim centers if the vehicle is drivable. They may decide to have a claims specialist come to your location or the location of the vehicle if it needed to be towed.
  • If you obtained coverage through an insurance agent, versus directly online or via an 800 number, contact the agent. They can be an advocate for you in dealing with the insurance company. This is especially true if you have a long-standing relationship with them and if perhaps you have other types of policies with them as well. 

Comprehensive vs. Collision 

Comprehensive and collision are two different types of auto cover that cover different things. Here is a look at the differences between these two types of coverages.

Policy feature

Comprehensive

Collision

Fire

X

 

Falling objects

X

 

Vandalism

X

 

Theft

X

 

Natural disasters

X

 

Damage by an animal

X

 

Civil disturbance

X

 

Collision with another vehicle

 

X

Collision with and object like a fence

 

X

Single-car rollover accidents

 

X

  • Both types of coverages will typically have a deductible amount.
  • The coverage limit for both types of coverage will be limited to the actual cash value of the vehicle at the time of the accident, less any depreciation.
  • If financing the purchase of a vehicle or if you are leasing, both types of coverage will be required. Otherwise, they are generally optional.
  • Neither type of coverage will cover damage to another person's vehicle of the medical bills of others. The latter includes your medical bills as well as those of your passengers, other drivers and other passengers. 

Is Comprehensive Insurance Mandatory? 

If you are financing or leasing your vehicle, the lender may require that you carry both comprehensive and collision coverage until the vehicle is paid off. This will vary by lender so you should ask about what types of auto coverage are required if they don't detail this during the financing process. No state currently requires comprehensive coverage. If not required, you will want to consider a number of factors in deciding whether or not to purchase comprehensive coverage including the age and value of the vehicle.

Introducing TheStreet Courses: Financial titans Jim Cramer and Robert Powell are bringing their market savvy and investing strategies to you. Learn how to create tax-efficient income, avoid mistakes, reduce risk and more. With our courses, you will have the tools and knowledge needed to achieve your financial goals. Learn more about TheStreet Courses on investing and personal finance here.