Let's use the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy as an example to illustrate the differences between collision and comprehensive. Within that storm, let's consider two events that might have happened: 1) a heavy tree branch fell on your car, or 2) you swerved to avoid a falling tree branch and wound up crashing into a tree. In the first event, you had no control over when or why a tree branch would fall on your car. This kind of accident would get reimbursed under your comprehensive policy. In the second situation, you were driving the car and ultimately swerved into the tree, which makes it a collision, and collision insurance therefore pays for the damages. Events like the hypothetical ones stated above are why it's important to differentiate between the two types of coverage.
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.
That said, the State Farm quotes we received were shockingly expensive when compared to the competition — typically around three times as much. While the extra cost may be worth the guarantee of good financial strength and customer service, we always recommend gathering quotes from multiple providers to see which strikes the best balance between cost and coverage.
USAA: USAA is the best car insurance company we found. Customers report that they love USAA for its customer service, ease of filing a claim, and frequent updates on claim status. USAA customers also report that USAA is a good value, and USAA’s average annual rates are some of the lowest in the business. The only downside we could find to USAA is that its insurance products are only available to veterans, members of the military, and their immediate families, so not everyone will be able to work with the top-ranked insurance company.
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Auto insurance is financial protection, and not just for the investment you made when you bought your car. After a really serious accident, bills for damage and injuries can easily reach into hundreds of thousands of dollars. If you happen to cause such a wreck, the victims could sue you. In the worst case scenario, assets such as your savings and home could be seized.
Farmers has the fifth-largest market share in Texas at 8.2%. According to J.D. Power, Texans are more impressed with their Farmers claims experiences than they are with Allstate’s. Unfortunately, Consumer Reports readers expressed a bit more annoyance with the timeliness of their payments when comparing Farmers to State Farm and Allstate. Farmers’ financial strength is also a couple of notches lower than the rest. This doesn’t mean that the company's about to go bankrupt — it’s just the difference between “quite stable” and “completely rock-solid.”
These are on the high side, but there are still instances in which they won’t be enough to fully cover you. For example, if you accidentally hit a luxury car, replacing it could easily cost more than the $25,000 legal minimum for property damage coverage. If the other driver is injured, their medical bills could also exceed the $30,000 bodily injury minimum fairly easily. In each case, you’d be responsible for making up the difference yourself.
Comprehensive car insurance covers damages from an "act of God," or events that are not caused by a car driving into something else. An "act of God" can include things like damage from a heavy tree branch falling on your car. Since you have no control over when or why a tree branch would fall on your car, this kind of accident would be covered under your comprehensive policy.
State Farm: State Farm is the third-best car insurance company, though its overall score is very close to second-place Travelers. State Farm gets high marks from its customers for ease of filing a claim, and many State Farm customers say they're likely to renew their policy with the company. State Farm customers report being satisfied with the value they get from the company, and it’s no wonder they say that: State Farm rates are, on average, lower than most of the competition.
American Family: American Family car insurance is the lowest-ranked company on our list. While a fair number of customers said filing a claim with American Family was easy, that was about the only positive thing they had to say, with the company faring poorly on measures of customer service, communication about claim status, value, and claim resolution.
How much car insurance you need depends on how much coverage you are legally obligated to get, as well as how much coverage you need for your situation. Each state has certain legal requirements for car insurance, and not meeting them can result in negative consequences. Check out our car insurance state guides to see the legal car insurance minimums in your state.
If you’re getting turned down by traditional insurers due to a spotty driving record, the Texas Automobile Insurance Plan Association (TAIPA) is probably your best option. It only offers the bare minimum required by law, it’s more expensive than traditional insurers, and you’ll have to show proof that you’ve been turned down by at least two companies. It’s a last resort, but TAIPA will get you back on the road.
But liability coverage levels come in threes — you’ll probably see something like 50/100/50 up to 250/500/250 in typical policies. You can think of these limits like: individual injuries / total injuries / property damage. Insurers are a little more technical, calling them bodily injury liability, total bodily injury liability and physical damage liability.
Policies typically use vague language when referring to acts of terrorism, but they are generally insured by the comprehensive portion of your policy. For example, if there is an act of terror and you need to make a claim on your car, that can only be made if you have comprehensive coverage. Since some circumstances are out of our control, comprehensive insurance is certainly important to have in your policy.
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