If you’ve recently purchased a new vehicle, you know that in order to drive in most states, you need to purchase a basic type of car insurance, but you may be overwhelmed by your coverage options. Comprehensive and collision are the two types of physical damage coverage available on car insurance policies. Both play an important role in keeping your vehicle in tip-top shape. Minor dents and dings all the way up to full-blown car crunching can be repaired, or the insurance company can at least pay out enough money to make you whole again.
There is a case to be made for getting just comprehensive and not collision insurance, even if your car is not valuable. Comprehensive covers you for a lot more perils than does collision--including, most importantly, against theft. Regardless of the value of your car, having it stolen is a major inconvenience. Even if your car is worth only $2,000 at the time of the theft, and your insurer gives you $1,500, that sum would go a long way in buying yourself a new vehicle. As we discuss in more detail below, comprehensive insurance generally costs no more than $200 per year, so a $1,500 reimbursement would make the coverage valuable.
If your car is worth more than $3,000 and/or is less than 10 years old, we'd also suggest both collision and comprehensive coverage, too. Our estimates suggest drivers can buy comprehensive and collision insurance for an average of $600 to $700 per year (however, the cost may be higher for some cars), so you would spend $3,000 to $3,500 in premiums over five years. If your car is currently worth less than $3,000, you will have spent more on insurance than your car is worth. You can obtain the estimated value of your car from sites like Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds. Once you have both the value and a quote for coverage, you can determine whether collision insurance will be worth it.
The best car insurance companies have a few things in common: They have straightforward shopping experiences, take good care of policyholders after a crash and treat their customers with respect and courtesy. That means only insurers with high customer satisfaction scores and relatively few complaints to insurance commissioners make it to the top of our list of the best auto insurance companies.
Next, take a good hard look at your driving record and credit report, and clean both up if they’re not in good shape. Moving violations, citations for driving under the influence, accidents, and a low credit score all tell car insurance companies you’re at higher risk of being in an accident, making a claim, and costing them money. Some car insurance companies will give you a discount if you can prove you’re a safe driver by installing a tracking device in your car, which can lead to lower rates over time (however, if the tracker shows you routinely drive in an unsafe manner, your rates might go up). A few years without a citation or an accident, as well as a steadily improving credit score, can help you save on car insurance.
Cost is another major consideration you’ll have when choosing the best car insurance company for you. After all, you need insurance you can afford. While you should compare rates from several companies, make sure you’re comparing rates for your situation. Insurance companies can charge drastically different rates depending on a person’s age, gender, driving record, credit history, ZIP code, the number of miles they drive per year, the value of their car, and other factors. It makes no sense to compare rates for a 16-year-old male from one company with the rates for a 60-year-old female from another – especially if you’re neither a 16-year-old male nor a 60-year-old woman. It’ll take some time to gather quotes to compare rates, but rates can vary by several hundred or even a few thousand dollars per year from company to company. The time you spend can pay off in the end. When comparing rates, make sure you consider any car insurance discounts you may qualify for.
Personal injury or bodily injury protection, which is often a part of full coverage car insurance, covers medical costs for you, your passengers, or other people injured in an accident. This type of coverage is required by most states, but keep in mind that the legal requirement may be too low for real world application. As medical costs soar, a policy that only pays out $30,000 is not likely to be enough, and you will be responsible for any difference between what your policy pays and what the actual medical costs are. It’s tempting to skimp on this coverage, but that can be a costly mistake.
Another good way to get the cheapest auto insurance rates is to use as many car insurance discounts as you can. Car insurance companies offer many discounts, including good student discounts, paperless billing discounts, discounts for multiple policies, and discounts for going a certain period of time without making a claim. Some also offer discounts for things like having a tracker in your car. Read more about the car insurance discounts that can help you get the cheapest car insurance.
Comprehensive car insurance covers damage to your car if it collides with something other than another car, like an animal or a tree, or if it’s damaged by vandalism, theft, or natural disaster. Again, if you lease your car or have an outstanding loan on it, this type of coverage will be required, but if you pay your car off, or it becomes worth less money than it would cost to repair, you can decline this coverage.
Collision coverage is probably the most important coverage you need to have in order to protect your vehicle against physical damage. It is not difficult to accidentally hit something when driving. Somebody is always at fault, and that someone could be you. Some of the most significant damage to your vehicle can come from a collision with another vehicle, tree, pole or guardrail. In order to purchase collision coverage, you’ll need to purchase basic coverage as well. The higher your deductible (the amount you pay if you do get into a collision), the lower your monthly payments will often be — and this can be the best way to get the coverage you need and the savings you deserve at the same time.
Progressive has a slew of available discounts — including one for adding a newly licensed teen driver to your existing auto policy (surprising, given that teenage drivers are among the riskiest to insure). But a policy loaded with discounts isn’t necessarily cheaper than a non-discounted policy, and the Texas Department of Insurance’s data on premiums show that Progressive is, on average, the most expensive for young drivers among the top five in Texas.
At U.S. News, we’re all about helping people make life’s important decisions. Our college rankings, launched in 1983, set the standard in educational rankings. Our ranking in other fields, like healthcare, government, and the automotive sphere, help people and thought leaders make choices that make lives better. Now we’re continuing to empower you with the information you need to make the right choices for your life with our Best Car Insurance Rankings.
Car insurance helps provide financial protection for you, and possibly others, if you are involved in an accident. Auto insurance for your vehicle is usually required by all states. Review our state car insurance guides to see the different laws and auto insurance minimum required coverages. You can customize your auto policy to fit your needs. There are different coverages and limits you can choose to create your auto insurance policy. Check out our car insurance coverage page to learn more about each type of coverage.