If you’ve recently purchased a new vehicle, you know that in order to drive in most states, you need to purchase a basic type of car insurance, but you may be overwhelmed by your coverage options. Comprehensive and collision are the two types of physical damage coverage available on car insurance policies. Both play an important role in keeping your vehicle in tip-top shape. Minor dents and dings all the way up to full-blown car crunching can be repaired, or the insurance company can at least pay out enough money to make you whole again.
Once you know the approximate value of your car and the cost to carry collision coverage, then you can make an informed decision about purchasing that coverage. Many people find that it's a good idea to cover newer cars, but as cars get older, their values decrease, and you might consider omitting or dropping this coverage to save money on your auto insurance.
The main difference between collision and comprehensive coverage comes down to the question of what the driver controls. Collision insurance will cover events within a motorist's control or when another vehicle collides with your car. Comprehensive coverage generally falls under "acts of God or nature," or things that are typically out of your control when driving. These can include events such as a spooked deer, a heavy hailstorm, or a carjacking.
There is a case to be made for getting just comprehensive and not collision insurance, even if your car is not valuable. Comprehensive covers you for a lot more perils than does collision--including, most importantly, against theft. Regardless of the value of your car, having it stolen is a major inconvenience. Even if your car is worth only $2,000 at the time of the theft, and your insurer gives you $1,500, that sum would go a long way in buying yourself a new vehicle. As we discuss in more detail below, comprehensive insurance generally costs no more than $200 per year, so a $1,500 reimbursement would make the coverage valuable.
If your car is worth more than $3,000 and/or is less than 10 years old, we'd also suggest both collision and comprehensive coverage, too. Our estimates suggest drivers can buy comprehensive and collision insurance for an average of $600 to $700 per year (however, the cost may be higher for some cars), so you would spend $3,000 to $3,500 in premiums over five years. If your car is currently worth less than $3,000, you will have spent more on insurance than your car is worth. You can obtain the estimated value of your car from sites like Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds. Once you have both the value and a quote for coverage, you can determine whether collision insurance will be worth it.
Auto insurance premiums depend on the insured party's driving record. A record free of accidents or serious traffic violations typically results in a lower premium. Drivers with histories of accidents or serious traffic violations may pay higher premiums. Likewise, because mature drivers tend to have fewer accidents than less-experienced drivers, insurers typically charge more for drivers below age 25.
Financial experts often say it’s smart to drop collision when you drive an old car, then put your car insurance savings in a fund earmarked for emergency repairs or buying a new car. However, when you’re trying to decide when to drop collision coverage, the answer really comes down to your personal finances. “If you’re not absolutely sure that you could deal with paying for repairs or completely replacing your vehicle at a moment’s notice, or else going without a vehicle until you could save for a replacement, it’s best to err on the side of caution and pay the extra premium for collision coverage,” The Simple Dollar advises.
Please note that this website provides only a summary of auto insurance, written to illustrate in general terms how auto insurance works. Your insurance policy is the legal contract that contains the terms and limitations of your coverage. You should carefully review the contents of your policy. All products and coverages are subject to availability and limitations. Whether an accident or other loss is covered is subject to the terms and conditions of your insurance policy.