Jessica Sautter is a Content Writer for with a Bachelor’s Degree from Eastern Michigan University in Elementary Education with a Major in Reading and a Minor in Mathematics.

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Chris Harrigan has an economic degree from Limestone College and an MBA from Clemson University. He previously managed auto insurance claims for Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Currently, he is using his business and insurance expertise to provide insurance data analysis and visualizations to enhance the user experience.

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Reviewed by Chris Harrigan
Former Auto Insurance Claims Manager

UPDATED: Sep 26, 2020

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Key takeaways...

  • If you own a car, you’re legally liable for buying auto insurance on that vehicle. If the state has compulsory auto insurance laws, you must comply with these laws or you could be monetarily or criminally penalized
  • When you buy a minimum amount of coverage that’s required by the state, your policy will pay for third-party repairs that you’re negligent for
  • A basic policy won’t pay for repairs to your own car when you’re to blame for an accident
  • If you carry comprehensive, your policy will pay for repairs needed after fire, theft, vandalism and flood losses. If you carry collision, your insurance will pay for repairs to your car after you collide with another car or object
  • If you don’t have full coverage but you do carry Uninsured Motorist Property Damage, your policy will pay for up to $3500 in repairs after your car is damaged by someone who doesn’t have car insurance

You typically don’t think about what your insurance will pay for until after you have a loss. Unfortunately, if you wait until you have a financially devastating loss to understand how your coverage works it’s virtually impossible to be sure that you have a significant amount of protection.

The key is to find out what your insurance covers and what it doesn’t before there’s a risk of having a loss.

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While all insurance policies will pay for some type of repairs, they won’t always pay to fix property that the policyholder owns.

If you don’t know the difference between physical damage coverage and property damage coverage, now is the time to learn how to distinguish between the two. Here’s how your car insurance covers repairs:

What type of insurance are you required to carry?


If you own property, it’s important to comply with the ownership laws in your state.

The laws for owning private passenger vehicles are unique in each state. Typically, insurance officials in the state require all legal owners of vehicles to buy some insurance on the cars that they own. What’s required is referred to as mandatory coverage.

Every state has its own limit requirements, but all states that use fault to determine who pays for damages will require their drives to hold continuous liability insurance.

Liability insurance consists of Bodily Injury coverage and Property Damage coverage. Each of these options, regardless of the limits that you choose, will pay for third-party damages.

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Does a liability-only policy pay for repairs?

If you choose to buy a basic policy that includes only the coverage that’s required by law, you need to understand how that choice limits your protection. Your policy will pay for repairs, but not for repairs to the vehicle that you drive or any vehicle that you or family members in your home own.

A liability-only policy includes Property Damage coverage. Property Damage, which is also called PD, is a basic coverage option that will payout when you are liable for repairing or replacing non-owned property that you damaged while operating your vehicle.

If you’re not labeled as the at-fault party in the loss, your PD coverage won’t pay.

How much will your policy pay for third-party repairs?

Third-party liability coverage is pretty straightforward. When you’re building your policy, you will be asked to choose three different liability limits. The first two limits will dictate how much the insurer will pay for medical bills and the third limit will dictate how much the insurer will pay for repairs.

When you choose a Property Damage limit, the limit that you choose will apply to the entire accident.

If you damage five cars in a single accident, your insurer will only pay up to the per occurrence limit that you selected for PD. Your company will offer the other driver up to the car’s Actual Cash Value to repair it or to pay for a total loss.

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Will your policy pay for your own repairs?

You must carry physical damage coverage under your own auto insurance policy to file a first-party claim for damage.

If you have full coverage or at least comprehensive coverage, there’s a possibility that your insurance will cover repairs that you need to be done after a loss. It depends on the type of loss and the type of coverage that you carry.

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What type of repairs will comprehensive pay for?

If you carry comprehensive coverage, your policy will pay when your car is damaged or destroyed by a fire, a vandal, a thief, a falling object, or a flood.

Many insurers classify comprehensive losses as non-fault losses where vehicles aren’t being driven. The only exception to the rule is that comprehensive pays when you hit a live animal.

What type of repairs will collision pay for?


If you have a full coverage policy, your insurance will also pay if you hit another object or vehicle in your car. Collision insurance pays for damage when you collide with property or your vehicle overturns.

Most of the time, you only file first-party claims against your own insurance when you’re at-fault for the crash or you’re in a single-car accident.

If you’re not to blame for the accident, you can file a third-party claim against the other driver’s insurance. As long as the driver has coverage in place, their Property Damage limits will kick in to pay for your car repair bills.

Is there ever a time where a policy will pay for repairs when you don’t have full coverage?

Getting into an accident with an uninsured driver can affect you in a number of ways. If you don’t have full coverage on your car, you could be left paying for your repairs on your own. Luckily, if your car doesn’t have enough value to buy full coverage you can still buy protection against uninsured drivers.

Uninsured Motorist Property Damage is a special optional coverage that you can add to your policy for a small charge.

When you don’t have full coverage, UMPD will pay for up to $3,500 of repairs on your vehicle or for a replacement. This is a great alternative when you don’t need full coverage.

You don’t always need full coverage, but your protection is limited if you buy a basic insurance policy. If you aren’t happy with the coverage that you have, it’s time to build a policy the adequately protects you.

Use a tool online to compare premiums and then buy a policy that will help you pay for repairs. Enter your zip code below to compare car insurance rates from multiple companies at once!