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Physical damage coverage: Collision and comprehensive

Collision and comprehensive are two types of insurance that are optional in California unless required by your lender or lessor. Although they’re often discussed together, they are two separate products and you can generally choose to purchase one or both.

The advantages of these coverages can be substantial. Not only may you get paid more fully for your losses, but you may also get paid sooner. This is because these coverages pay out regardless of fault, so you don’t have to wait for your insurance company to determine fault.

It’s important to understand what these coverages provide and what they don’t. It may seem like something called “comprehensive” coverage would mean “full coverage” or coverage for any sort of damage or injury, but comprehensive coverage merely covers damage that is not caused by a collision.

By contrast, collision coverage covers damage that is caused by contact with another car or an object. It also includes damage from rollovers. Collision coverage kicks in regardless of whether you were at fault in the collision. If you were not at fault, your insurance company will attempt to collect its outlay from the at-fault driver. If it is successful, this will be credited to your account and may result in the return of your deductible.

What kinds of things are covered by comprehensive insurance?

  • Theft or vandalism
  • Hail
  • Falling rocks or objects
  • Fire
  • Natural disasters
  • Civil disturbances
  • Windshield repair

Damage from collisions is not covered, which often leads this coverage to be called “other than collision” coverage.

What kinds of things are covered by collision insurance?

  • Striking a tree or telephone pole
  • Collisions with buildings, such as drive through windows
  • Rollovers, flipped cars
  • Pothole damage
  • Crashing with another car
  • Being hit by another car

Sometimes, very similar incidents can be covered by different types of insurance. For example, if you were to hit a rock in the roadway, you would be covered by collision insurance. On the other hand, if a rock rolled into the roadway and hit your car, you would be covered by comprehensive insurance.

Why should I consider collision and comprehensive insurance?

As we mentioned above, these coverages are useful because they pay out regardless of fault. However, they may also be important in getting paid fully for what you lost. If you have only the minimum property damage coverage of $5,000, for example, you would not be covered for any damage above $5,000. Collision and comprehensive give you additional insurance that can help you be compensated fully for your loss.

It can be very tempting to try to cut costs by eliminating insurance that isn’t legally required, or by buying only a low amount of coverage. Unfortunately, it is generally the people who cannot afford a sudden expense who tend to do this. Be careful to take into account the risks of not having enough coverage when you decide how much to buy.

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