Most states only require you to purchase liability coverage in order to protect others from damage you do to them in an accident, whether that is physical injury or damage to property. While comprehensive and collision coverage is available, it is not required by state law.
What are the differences?
Collision coverage will pay for any damages you cause to your own vehicle. This applies in the event you cause damage to your own car in an accident you caused, and it also applies in situations where you are the only vehicle involved; for example, if you lose control and hit a pole. Multiple claims under your collision coverage could have a negative effect on your rates but it depends on the circumstances and how your overall insurance history has been.
Comprehensive coverage will pay for the loss of your vehicle, or damage to your vehicle, caused by theft, vandalism, or fire. It also covers damage to your car caused by deer. This type of claim does not generally raise your insurance rates but is also dependent on the particular scenario and overall history.
It is important to note, in both cases, that insurance companies generally do not include aftermarket accessories or the contents of your vehicle under comprehensive and collision. They will pay to restore the car to what is considered its original condition. There are a few companies that make exceptions, but you’ll have to discuss this with your insurance agent. If you live in Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax or Falls Church you should talk with your agent about how your car insurance policy responds to items in your vehicle after an accident.
Are these coverages ever required?
While your state may not require you to carry these coverage options, there are instances where they may be mandatory. If you purchase or lease a new car with financing, your lender will require you to carry both comprehensive and collision coverage throughout the term of your loan. They may also stipulate the size of the deductible you can carry; for example, nothing higher than $1,000. This stipulation will be a part of your car loan or lease contract and is legally enforceable.
Do I have to carry both?
Insurance companies will normally offer comprehensive by itself (without collision) for those that only want comprehensive, but collision cannot be purchased without also including comprehensive coverage. You can, however, alter the deductibles separately, so you may be able to lower your auto insurance rates if you are more concerned about one coverage option than the other.
The only exception is on policies written to cover classic cars. Because these specialty policies have special rules concerning the number of miles driven, storage, and seasonal use, you may be able to have comprehensive coverage all year while only adding collision coverage during what is considered “driving season.”
Questions? Need more information to make a good decision? Talk with your insurance professional about your coverage and about your particular policy.