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.
NerdWallet averaged rates for 40-year-old men and women for 20 ZIP codes in each state and Washington, D.C., from the largest insurers, up to 12 in each state. “Good drivers” had no moving violations on record and credit in the “good” tier as reported to each insurer. For the other two driver profiles, we changed the credit tier to “poor” or added one at-fault accident, keeping everything else the same. Sample drivers had the following coverage limits:
Policies typically use vague language when referring to acts of terrorism, but they are generally insured by the comprehensive portion of your policy. For example, if there is an act of terror and you need to make a claim on your car, that can only be made if you have comprehensive coverage. Since some circumstances are out of our control, comprehensive insurance is certainly important to have in your policy.
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To calculate the added cost in purchasing comprehensive and/or collision coverage we looked at annual insurance quotes for a 30 year old male from New York across four different insurance companies, and the ten best-selling vehicles in the US. We look at the range of rates you could pay from basic liability to policy plans with comprehensive and collision coverage. Collision typically costs more than comprehensive, although some companies require you to carry both rather than just one. Comparing quotes across at least three companies can get you lower car insurance rates.
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Data was obtained from the Texas Department of Insurance for a thirty year old single male driver across 78 cities. He owns his car and uses it primarily for work purposes, averaging about 12,000 miles annually. Insurance policies include Texas’s minimum auto insurance liability requirements: $30,000 for bodily injury liability per person (up to $60,000 per accident), and $25,000 of property damage (30/60/25 coverage) liability insurance, 50/100/50, as well as 100/300/100. Car insurance costs are based on a 2011 Toyota Camry four-door sedan, with 2.5 liter/4 cylinder engine.
Our research found that paying for car insurance in Houston can cost $2,881 per year, making it the most expensive city in our study of Texas auto insurance. Houstonians can potentially save money by considering Texas Farm Bureau, Progressive, and State Farm. These three companies' rates are 34-51% less than the average Houston auto insurance rate, according to our study.
Because her car’s so old, her savings are less: $168 to $204 in a year. But in this case, it could be wise for the driver to drop collision. If she were at fault in an accident, collision coverage would pay for repairs only up to the value of the car minus the deductible, or about $1,750. Is it worth repairing a car that wasn’t in great shape to begin with?
Let's use the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy as an example to illustrate the differences between collision and comprehensive. Within that storm, let's consider two events that might have happened: 1) a heavy tree branch fell on your car, or 2) you swerved to avoid a falling tree branch and wound up crashing into a tree. In the first event, you had no control over when or why a tree branch would fall on your car. This kind of accident would get reimbursed under your comprehensive policy. In the second situation, you were driving the car and ultimately swerved into the tree, which makes it a collision, and collision insurance therefore pays for the damages. Events like the hypothetical ones stated above are why it's important to differentiate between the two types of coverage.