Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health insuran...

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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: Aug 17, 2021

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Key takeaways...

  • Comprehensive coverage does not cover all types of damage
  • Comprehensive car insurance covers the car should damage occur from natural forces
  • Comprehensive car insurance usually covers all risks not caused by a collision with another car

Many drivers believe the term comprehensive car insurance implies coverage against all damage. This, unfortunately, is not the case.

The first thing to understand about comprehensive car insurance coverage is that every car insurance company offers a varying degree of coverage so investigate fully before taking on a new policy.

In its basic form, comprehensive car insurance covers the car should damage occur from natural forces, for instance, a tree falling on the windshield, a hailstorm damaging the car, or vandals breaking windows or keying the car.

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What does comprehensive car insurance cover?

Remember that although the car is covered it does not mean that the contents of the car are covered or any additional features that are installed are also covered, such as a top of the range sound system, car seat covers, fancy wheel trims or non-factory installed parts. Those types of things become your responsibility and you’ll have to shell out for repairs.

Many times, car insurance companies will adjust your coverage based on proof extra value has been added to the car.

Also, be aware that some modifications can also lead to a car insurance company canceling your policy or refusing to pay a claim if the modification was never disclosed.

When such a disaster has occurred the recovery process is fairly simple, dial the toll-free number given to you by your insurance company and they will send an insurance adjuster out to assess the damage.

Once a value is arrived at via several quotes, a check is released and you are well on your way to being back on the road. You can always bargain with a car insurance company to get more.

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Is there coverage for fire damage?

There are situations where comprehensive coverage would help cover the repair cost of damage to your car if it catches fire:

  • Mechanical fire – A car that has a mechanical or wiring defect resulting in an engine fire would be covered under comprehensive insurance.
  • Forest fire – If your car is caught in a forest fire, you can make a comprehensive claim to cover the fire damages.
  • House fire – If you have a house fire and your car suffers fire damages as a result, the damages are covered under your comprehensive insurance.

Is there coverage for theft or vandalism?

A big reason to carry comprehensive insurance is to insure against theft or vandalism. If your car is stolen or broken into, the insurance company will most likely have a waiting period so that they can find the car before reimbursing you for the current market value of your car. So yes, there are limits and you might have to wait a while, but it’s better to have the financial protection.

It’s best to look at your policy to see what your company will do for you in the event of theft.

Is there flood coverage?

If your car was flooded due to natural causes, comprehensive insurance would cover the cost of damages. Your car could be flooded due to a hurricane, a heavy thunderstorm, or other water disasters.

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Can you get coverage to protect against wildlife?

A common reason for making a comprehensive insurance claim is hitting a deer. People who live in high traffic animal areas usually like to carry comprehensive coverage for this reason.

Damage due to animal accidents can be very pricey and you don’t want to be stuck with that responsibility. It is always best to double-check your insurance policy to make certain that animal accidents are covered in your policy.

Are there any other situations to look out for?

If a tree limb falls on your car or if a rock is thrown from a lawnmower and hits your car, comprehensive should cover it because it does cover broken windshields.

Damage from nature, like from hail is also covered by comprehensive coverage.

What are acts of God?

There are many forms of Acts of God which could be defined from animals wandering across the road to lightning and freezing conditions.

Look carefully at the small print to understand the extent of coverage given and what is defined as an Act of God. Fire, vandalism, and theft are easy to understand but Acts of God.

Natural disasters are a little trickier and each company sees these two categories in different lights.

You should always ask for comparative quotes from car insurance companies and an explanation of what exactly is covered before making a decision on any car insurance provider.

Collision insurance is a separate policy and one that should be taken in conjunction with comprehensive car insurance, comprehensive covers just about all damage except collision damage.

It is important to remember that should your car be stolen then the Blue Book value of the car will be paid out.

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What else do I need to know?

The best car insurance coverage comes with research so ascertain the cars true value (not the price you paid) and make sure to obtain car insurance for at least that amount.

Should you feel, for whatever reason, the car is more valuable to you than its book value, the consumer usually have the option of taking on further insurance – modified or antique cars would be a good example of owners looking for additional car insurance.

If you are buying a new car or even a second-hand car that requires monthly payments to complete ownership then the sales company will insist you take comprehensive car insurance.

The costs of this policy vary considerably and are determined by the cars age, condition of the car, make, where it will be parked, your driving history, and more.

Car insurance companies also offer many types of car insurance discounts so finding cheap car insurance for young drivers or simply just an affordable car insurance policy that doesn’t come with a ridiculously high monthly payment is completely possible.

One of the most common discounts is a “Good Driver Discount” where if you are an accident and moving violation-free for three or more years you are rewarded with deep discounts on insurance premiums.

Comprehensive car insurance usually covers all risks not caused by a collision with another car.

All companies vary and some are more generous than others so look at the fine print to discover the types of inclement weather considered and natural disasters recognized.

Are there any exclusions?

There are some exclusions when it comes to what comprehensive insurance will cover. Comprehensive coverage excludes:

  • Normal wear and tear
  • Vehicle defects
  • Damage due to collision

It is always best to read your car insurance policy carefully to see what exclusions are specifically outlined with your company. That way if you’ve been misinformed, you’re not landed with a sudden and unexpected financial responsibility.

What is not a required coverage?

Comprehensive coverage is not a required coverage by law. If you own your car outright, you have no obligation to carry comprehensive coverage.

Although, if your car has any value to you, you may want to consider adding it if you do not have it already.

A lot of car owners feel strongly towards their vehicles, so having comprehensive coverage isn’t always looked at as just more money each month. A covered vehicle is a safe vehicle. And there are ways of cutting the costs, too. Taking a defensive driving course, or even simply mentioning that you were thinking of taking one, can help you to lower the average cost you pay each month.

If you finance or lease a car, the bank will usually require that you carry comprehensive coverage. This is simply to protect their asset in case of an accident resulting in damage. It becomes less of a choice, but is no less a necessity for a driver wanting to play it safe.

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How do you file a claim?

When you add comprehensive coverage to your insurance, you are asked to choose a deductible. This is the amount you pay before your insurance company will cover the remainder of the cost.

A deductible can range from $0-$2000 depending on what your insurance company offers.

So if the damages to your car cost $1500 and your deductible is $250, then you would pay the first $250 to your insurance company and the insurance would then cover the rest of the $1250. Not a bad set up if you’re attempting to avoid racking up a high average monthly payment with all of your other bills.

If you are involved in any of the above scenarios, contact your car insurance company immediately. They will record what happened and start the claims process for you.

To find out your insurance company’s exact claims process, give them a call or look through your insurance policy.

To add or not to add?

Adding comprehensive coverage is a good decision for most people. Those with older model cars may choose to skip this coverage.

But if theft, vandalism, fire, flood or hitting an animal is a concern for you, then you may want to reconsider getting the additional coverage.

If you live in a high theft neighborhood, comprehensive coverage is for you. If you live in an area with a lot of deer, comprehensive coverage is for you. If you live in an area with frequent natural disasters, comprehensive coverage is for you.

Depending on the insurance company, comprehensive coverage may be pretty inexpensive to add. For most people, it’s worth the extra cost rather than the financial responsibility of any accidents that occur.

To ensure peace of mind, always compare car insurance companies. We make it easy with a simple zip code search to find local providers nationwide. Enter your zip below to get started!