Collision vs. Comprehensive Auto Insurance?

By Ryan Hurlbert on June 30th, 2010

Auto Insurance

According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), collision and comprehensive insurance are the most commonly recognized types of auto insurance coverage after liability. Although many consumers know about collision and comprehensive coverage, these two types of auto insurance are often confused or mistaken for one another.

So, what are collision and comprehensive coverage?

Collision coverage pays for damage when your vehicle collides with another car or stationary object. Many people think that collision coverage only covers damage from crashing into another car, but if you scrape your car on the side of the garage or back into your neighbor's mailbox you would file a collision claim.

Comprehensive coverage, sometimes called "other than collision" coverage, pays for damage to your vehicle caused by means other than collision. Losses resulting from theft, fire, vandalism, animals and falling objects are covered by comprehensive coverage. Damage caused by natural disasters and broken glass--like windshield damage--are also covered under comprehensive coverage.

So, what if . . .

While on a road trip a deer jumps out in front of you, and you can't stop or swerve in time. The deer bounces off the hood of your car and runs away, but your car is not going anywhere without a tow truck.

Because you collided with a deer, you may assume that you would file the claim under your collision coverage. But damage caused by animals is paid through comprehensive coverage. Think of it this way--comprehensive coverage pays for damage caused by things that are unpredictable or out of your control, like deer, car thieves and hail storms.

If you swerve to miss the deer and hit a tree instead, is it still a comprehensive claim? After all, the deer did cause the accident. Although the deer may have contributed to the accident, the damage was caused by colliding with the tree--a stationary object--and for that reason the damage would be covered by your collision coverage.

You aren't required to carry both types of auto insurance

In most states you can carry comprehensive coverage on your auto insurance policy without collision, but you cannot carry collision coverage without comprehensive coverage.

How is liability coverage different?

When you are at-fault in an accident, you are legally obligated to pay for damage you cause to another person. The liability portion of your auto insurance policy provides financial protection, including bodily injury liability and property damage liability.

Liability coverage pays for damage you cause to other people and their property; however, liability does not pay for your car to be repaired. If your car was damaged in an accident and you were at fault, the collision portion of your auto insurance policy pays for repairs.

Importance of collision and comprehensive coverage

Collision and comprehensive insurance are important because if you are in an accident or you are the victim of vehicle theft, your basic liability coverage does not pay to have your vehicle repaired or replaced. Collision and comprehensive insurance provides financial protection by covering the expenses associated with damage to your vehicle.

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