What Is Comprehensive Coverage and What Does It Cover?

This grab bag of coverages can protect you and your vehicle from theft, fire and forces of nature.

Illustration of a red car and hand holding a clipboard with paper that says insurance.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Comprehensive insurance coverage is optional coverage that protects you against damage to your vehicle caused by non-collision events that are outside of your control. The uptick of extreme weather events has increased the chances of wind, rain, flying debris and flood waters causing damage to your car. Don’t be caught short when the next storm rolls though.

Remember when shopping and pricing for comprehensive coverage that this coverage is not a separate type of car insurance policy but refers to a specific coverage on an existing policy.

What is comprehensive insurance?

You'd think that combination of liability, collision and uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance would seem to take care of all conceivable risks — but it doesn’t. None of that other insurance would necessarily cover damage to your car from riots, collapse of a parking garage or kids playing baseball. Comprehensive insurance is a car insurance policy that covers certain damages to your vehicle that are not caused by a collision with another car.

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For instance, you leave for school in the morning and as you’re driving, you are hit by a frightened deer that damages your front-end and brakes a headlight. Is this an accident covered under your basic required auto insurance? Not a chance. This is the type of one-off accident that comprehensive insurance would cover. 

Comprehensive auto insurance is supplementary, meaning it’s usually an optional coverage which can be added to an insurance policy. This coverage is usually required if you are leasing or financing your car. 

What does comprehensive insurance cover?

Here are a few types of damage that may be covered by comprehensive insurance:

  • Theft of car
  • Vandalism, fire, and explosions
  • Windshield and glass damage 
  • Falling trees, limbs and other objects 
  • Rocks and objects kicked up by or falling off cars 
  • Storms, hail, wind, floods, lightning, and earthquakes 
  • Accidents with animals (e.g., hitting or being hit by a deer) 

Comprehensive coverage also entitles you to some compensation for renting a car if yours is stolen. Check your policy to see how much the policy would pay per day and for how long.

What does comprehensive insurance not cover? 

  • General wear and tear of a vehicle 
  • Intentional damages
  • Mechanical or electrical failure unrelated to an accident
  • Damage to your vehicle caused by failing to take proper preventative measures

Is comprehensive insurance worth it?

The exact price of comprehensive insurance on your policy depends on a number of factors unique to each driver. This includes the year, make, model, and age of the vehicle, if you park on the street or in a garage, the vehicle’s rating symbols, loss history, as well as the driving history of the drivers operating the vehicle. 

On average, drivers pay $263 per year for comprehensive coverage and $723 per year for collision insurance, according to the most recent rate analysis by Insurance.com.

What's the difference between comprehensive and collision insurance?

What is comprehensive coverage compared to collision? Basically, they’re two halves of a whole. Collision insurance covers you if your car is damaged by another vehicle, a stationary object or by rolling over. If you’re in a collision, you’re covered by collision insurance. Conversely, comprehensive insurance covers damage to your car caused by almost anything but a collision. So if kids use your car as a soccer net or rats chew on electrical wires or make a nest — you’re covered.  

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Donna LeValley
Personal Finance Writer

Donna joined Kiplinger as a personal finance writer in 2023. She spent more than a decade as the contributing editor of J.K.Lasser's Your Income Tax Guide and edited state specific legal treatises at ALM Media. She has shared her expertise as a guest on Bloomberg, CNN, Fox, NPR, CNBC and many other media outlets around the nation.