Comprehensive Vs. Collision Car Insurance: Here's What You Need To Know

Liability insurance is the foundation of auto insurance policies. It pays for the damage you cause to others–and is required in nearly all states.

But two other important components of a good auto insurance policy are collision and comprehensive insurance. They do something liability insurance doesn't do—pay for damage to your own vehicle or compensate you if it’s stolen.

That damage may come from a source you wouldn't expect—animals. A recent State Farm study found that drivers struck over two million animals between July 2020 and June 2021. That was a 7.2% spike over the previous 12 months.

The top five states with the most animal collisions in that period were Pennsylvania, Michigan, Texas, California and North Carolina. Those crashes included 1.4 million involving deer.

What Do Collision and Comprehensive Insurance Cover?
Collision and comprehensive coverage are important supplements to liability insurance:

Collision coverage pays for your vehicle’s damage if you hit an object or another car.
Comprehensive insurance pays for non-crash damage, such as weather and fire damage. It also reimburses you for car theft and damage from collisions with animals.
Collision and comprehensive car insurance are often sold together as a package by auto insurances. Here’s how the coverage types compare.

Nationwide, 74% of drivers with auto insurance buy collision coverage, and 78% buy comprehensive coverage, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

Examples of When You Could Make a Collision Claim
Your car slides on ice and hits a guardrail.
You swerve to avoid a squirrel and hit a pole.
Someone dents your car and drives off.

Examples of When You Could Make a Comprehensive Claim
You hit a deer and dent your fender.
A fire in your garage damages your car.
A hail storm damages your car.
A thief steals your car and it's not recovered.

What's a Deductible?
Both collision and comprehensive insurance generally have deductibles. A claim on collision or comprehensive coverage will be reduced by the deductible amount.

Common deductibles are $250, $500, $1,000 and higher. So, if you get into an accident and your vehicle suffers $2,000 worth of damage and your deductible is $500, the insurance company would pay $1,500 for the claim.

Some auto insurances offer “diminishing deductibles” to customers as a reward for good driving. Under these programs, your deductible goes down over time if you don't make certain claims.

The Maximum Insurance Payout
For both collision and comprehensive insurance, the maximum possible payout is the value of the vehicle right before the accident if it's totaled, minus the deductible amount. A car can be considered totaled if:

It can't be repaired to make it safe to drive.
Repairs would exceed the value of the car.
Repairs would exceed a certain percent of the car's value. In many states, a car is totaled when the repair costs exceed 75% of the car's value.
And if you have a new car, don't assume that it will be harder to reach a threshold for totaling it. The technology in new cars is so expensive to repair that it's making cars more likely to be totaled in an accident.

Do I Need Collision and Comprehensive Insurance?
If you have a car loan or a car lease, you're likely required to buy collision and comprehensive by the lender or leasing company. That's so you don't walk away from your loan or lease if your car is totaled or stolen.

Once your car loan is paid off, collision and comprehensive will become optional.

If you're not required to buy collision and comprehensive, you may still want them. Ask yourself this: If your car was damaged or stolen, could you easily pay for repairs or to buy another car. If the answer is no, collision and comprehensive offer some financial protection.

But as vehicles get older, collision and comprehensive coverage may become less valuable to you compared to the cost. As your vehicle's value discussed, so does your maximum possible insurance payout if it's totaled or stolen, especially if you have a high deductible.

For example, let's say you have a 2005 Honda Accord that's worth about $3,300. If the car is totaled in a flood, and you have a $1,000 deductible, your insurance check will be $2,300. You can judge whether the price you pay for collision and comprehensive over several years is worth the potential benefit.

The average collision claim is $4,412.31, according to the latest data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. The average comprehensive claim is $1,359.04.

How Much Are Collision and Comprehensive Insurance?
Nationally, the average cost for collision coverage is $378 a year and the average cost for comprehensive insurance is $168, according to the latest data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. See the average in your state below.

What If Someone Else Damages My Car?
Collision insurance is good for situations where you've accidentally damaged your own car, such as backing into a pole. But it can also come in handy if someone else crashes into you. If that happens, you have two choices:

Make a claim against the other driver's liability insurance. If the accident was someone else's fault, their liability insurance should pay for your car damage.
Make a claim on your own collision insurance. Perhaps you don't want to go through another person's insurer. Instead, you can make a claim on your collision insurance. The downside is that the insurance check will be reduced by your deductible amount.

What's the Average Repair Time for a Damaged Car?
The average repair time—the time you drop off your car at the auto body shop to the time you pick it up—is almost 11 days for cars, according to CCC Information Services, a provider of data and technologies to the automotive, collision repair and insurance industries.

The average repair time has increased over the years, which CCC attributes to greater vehicle complexity and “many sophisticated vehicles” that take more time to repair.

What About Insurance for Rental Cars?
If you rent a car, your personal auto policy will typically extend to the rental, including liability, collision and comprehensive car insurance. That means you won't need to buy the coverage offered at the rental counter, such as the collision damage waiver, unless you want to avoid possible claims on your own policy. Ask your car insurance agent to confirm that your policy will also cover a rental.

Rental auto insurance reimbursement will help pay for that rental. This is an optional coverage type that helps cover the cost of a rental car if your car is damaged in an accident covered by your insurance policy.

You will need to cover any rental costs over the rental reimbursement coverage limits. For example, if you have a $30 per day limit for a maximum of 30 days, you'll have to pay out-of-pocket for any amount over the daily limit or that exceeds 30 days. You may be able to purchase higher limits.

What Collision and Comprehensive Insurance Won't Cover
While collision and comprehensive coverage, along with liability insurance, provide a broad spectrum of coverage, they still don't cover:

Injuries that you sustain in an accident. (Depending on the situation, injury could be covered by another driver's liability insurance, or by your own personal injury protection or medical payments insurance, or your own health insurance.)

Items stolen from your car, such as a laptop or wallet. (Instead, look to your homeowners insurance or renters insurance).

Auto Insurance Spotlight: Stolen Vehicles
A car is stolen every 36 seconds, according to the latest National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) Hot Spots report. COVID-19 didn't hamper vehicle thieves. After a year of a decline in car thefts in 2019, car theft figures increased to 880,595 vehicle thefts in 2020 compared to 794,019 in 2019.

Vehicle Theft Rates by State
The Hot Spots report uses a theft rate based on the number of stolen cars per 100,000 people. Despite the increase in thefts in the U.S.,10 states saw a decrease in vehicle thefts from 2019.

The comprehensive coverage portion of an auto insurance policy pays the value of your vehicle if it's stolen, but the best defense may be a few preventive steps. The NICB recommends these four points of protection:

Common sense. Always remove your keys from the ignition, lock your doors and windows, and park in well-lit areas.
Warning devices. Consider car alarms and visual devices like column collars, steering wheel locks and brake locks.
Immobilizing devices. These prevent thieves from bypassing your car's ignition system (such as hot wiring). Examples include smart keys, fuse cut-offs, kill switches, wireless ignition authentication, and starter, ignition and fuel pump disablers.
Tracking devices. These systems typically use GPS and wireless technology to alert you if the car has been moved, and they will track and monitor the vehicle's whereabouts.