Comprehensive Auto Insurance: What It Is and When to Keep It.

Comprehensive coverage is like bad luck insurance for your car. It pays for damage to your vehicle from just about anything except a traffic collision or rollover. That includes a wide array of random events outside your control, from a chipped windshield or hail dent to explosions or damage from riots.

While comprehensive insurance is optional as far as your insurer and state government are concerned, lenders typically require it if you finance or lease a car. Here’s a little more about what comprehensive car insurance will pay for, plus a quick way to know if the coverage is worth what it costs.

What comprehensive insurance covers

“Comprehensive” doesn’t mean full coverage when it comes to insurance — damage or injuries you cause to others aren’t included, nor are injuries you suffer when you’re at fault in a wreck. Liability insurance, which is required in every state except New Hampshire, covers those events.

Generally, you’d file a comprehensive insurance claim if your car is damaged by:

  • Hail, floods or lightning from thunderstorms, hurricanes or tornadoes.
  • Falling objects, such as a tree limb.
  • Fire or explosions.
  • Hitting an animal.
  • Theft.
  • Earthquakes.
  • Vandalism or civil disobedience, such as a riot.

Comprehensive insurance also pays to repair glass damage to your windshield, in many states.

The cost of comprehensive insurance

In many cases, you can’t buy comprehensive insurance without collision coverage, or vice versa. This can be because your auto lender requires both, or your insurer requires one to purchase the other. But since collision claims are far more common, collision tends to cost a lot more than comprehensive.

Do you need comprehensive insurance?

Comprehensive insurance will never pay out more than the value of your car.

Comprehensive coverage becomes less valuable as your car depreciates since it will never pay out more than the vehicle’s value, minus your deductible. So if you don’t have a financing contract that requires it, at some point you may decide to forgo comprehensive insurance.

To know whether comprehensive coverage is worth what it costs, first consider the value of your car and your deductible. If you have a $1,500 comprehensive deductible on a vehicle worth $1,500, you’re paying for insurance that won’t pay out when you need it.

Even if you decide comprehensive insurance is worth it for your car now, revisit this math as your car ages and you get new car insurance quotes.