What is comprehensive insurance and what does it cover?

An abandoned car with smashed windows and a door ripped off

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Comprehensive car insurance provides auto coverage from an array of situations outside of collisions, including fires, severe weather damage, vandalism, or even theft. Designed to work with collision insurance, comprehensive car insurance allows you to make claims through your insurance to cover costs of repairs or even settlement if the repair estimates exceed the value of the vehicle itself. It is optional, but you will be out of pocket if your car gets vandalized or stolen. Keep reading to find more about how you’re covered and not covered with comprehensive.

What is comprehensive insurance?

What does comprehensive mean? Essentially, while collision insurance provides coverage to your vehicle when it is involved in a collision with another vehicle or object, comprehensive insurance considers many factors outside of your control. Scenarios include:

  • Your car gets stolen and later recovered
  • Someone spray paints across the side of your vehicle
  • A severe hailstorm damages the roof of your car
  • A fire or tornado renders your car a write-off
  • Lightning hits a tree and it falls on top of your car

“Comprehensive in and of itself covers you for things like theft of the vehicle, vandalism. We’ve seen situations where vehicle owners had their vehicles parked, and [the] tires were slashed. Or, maybe a shopping cart in a mall parking lot damages the vehicle on a windy day—that’s covered by comprehensive,” says Pete Karageorgos of the Insurance Bureau of Canada. “If your vehicle is damaged, comprehensive and collision are important to help you fix or replace your vehicle.”

In many of these scenarios, you can start a claim with your insurance provider to recuperate the majority of the costs, minus any deductibles set on your policy.

What is not covered?

Comprehensive coverage doesn’t reimburse you for everything outside of your control. For example, if you are not at fault, your claim will go through direct compensation property damage (DCPC) in provinces where this exists or third-party liability insurance. Keep in mind, too, that comprehensive insurance only covers costs related to the vehicle itself, so don’t expect it to cover any medical bills related to a collision. It’s important to remember that this coverage applies only to your vehicle on the policy, not someone else’s. However, comprehensive insurance works with collision insurance and other elements of provincially mandated protection in your overall insurance package to cover you for many of the above scenarios. 

“If your vehicle is a leased vehicle or if you have a loan on your vehicle, the leasing company or the finance company [may] ask and request that as a condition of that lease or loan payment that you insure it for those events for all events,” says Karageorgos. “It’s always best to speak to your insurance representative to get a sense of what the savings might be.”

Comprehensive vs. collision 

As you decide whether or not to purchase optional collision and/or comprehensive insurance, it’s important to know a few key differences. While collision insurance covers damage to your vehicle related to accidents, there are non-collision-related factors that can also cause damage to your vehicle, including hail events, storm damage, fires and even theft. These are covered off by comprehensive coverage.

Both collision and comprehensive insurance coverages work together, but you can opt out of collision. For instance, some may people drop collision coverage for a car that may not be worth covering. This quick rule of thumb can help: If the cost of your collision insurance is 10% or more of the value of your car, then you could save money by not paying for collision. Say collision insurance costs you $400 a year and your vehicle is only worth $4,000, cancelling collision will save you money. Comprehensive insurance tends to be cheaper, so people may keep it in case their car is stolen. This car insurance might pay for a rental until yours is recovered or repaired.

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