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.
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One of the most common ways to lower your car insurance rates is by choosing a higher deductible. The deductible is the amount of money you must pay after an accident before your insurance kicks in. So, for example, if you are in an accident and there is $10,000 worth of damage done and your deductible is $1,000, you pay the $1,000 and your car insurance company pays $9,000. A higher deductible means less risk for your insurance company and lower rates for you. However, it also means that you need to have that much money on hand in case of an accident. If you go for a $2,000 deductible and don’t have $2,000 available after an accident, you won’t be able to get the repairs you need.

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.


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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.
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.
There are many factors that go into determining your car insurance rates. Some, like your age and gender, are out of your control. Others, like where you live and your marital status, are somewhat in your control. Finally, there are several factors that affect your auto insurance rates, like the insurance company you choose to work with, your driving record, your credit score, the kind of car you drive, and the amount of coverage you choose, that are completely within your control.
Collision coverage has a deductible, which is the amount you pay before your coverage helps pay for your claim. You can typically choose the amount of your deductible when you buy coverage. So, if you choose a $1,000 deductible and your car is later damaged in a covered accident, you'd have to pay $1,000 toward repair costs. Your collision coverage would help pay the rest, up to your coverage limit.
To get the cheapest car insurance, start by comparing rates. You can use our list of the Cheapest Car Insurance Companies to see which company has the cheapest rates in our study for your situation. Don’t stop there, however. A company with cheap rates may not have the best service or very satisfied customers. Balance cheap auto insurance rates with the kind of service you want to live with when choosing an insurance company.
For some, the best coverage is the cheapest car insurance policy that makes them able to legally drive on the road. For others, the best coverage is the type that covers the full cost of repairs on your vehicle when you file a claim. The only way to be certain you are fully protected is to purchase both comprehensive coverage and collision coverage. Each coverage has its own job to do.
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.

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.
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.

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Liability auto insurance protects you from that worst case scenario by providing a cushion between your assets and the amount you’re on the hook for. For this reason, choosing the right auto liability limits is the most important part of your car insurance quote comparison. NerdWallet typically recommends having at least as much liability coverage as your net worth.
Deductible: A car insurance deductible is the amount of money you will be required to pay out of pocket to cover a claim. Let’s say a car rear-ends you in traffic, scratching your paint, damaging your bumper and breaking one of your tail lights. The total cost of repairs is $2,500 and your deductible is $500. You will pay the $500 and your insurance will pay out the remaining $2,000 to cover the cost of the repairs. Electing for a higher deductible is one-way drivers can secure cheaper car insurance.
Collision car insurance covers damage to your car if it collides with another car. If you lease your car or have a loan on it, your financing company will require this type of coverage. As your car ages or you pay it off, you can drop it. However, that means that if your car is damaged in a collision with another vehicle, you’ll have to pay for all repairs on your own.
One of the most common ways to lower your car insurance rates is by choosing a higher deductible. The deductible is the amount of money you must pay after an accident before your insurance kicks in. So, for example, if you are in an accident and there is $10,000 worth of damage done and your deductible is $1,000, you pay the $1,000 and your car insurance company pays $9,000. A higher deductible means less risk for your insurance company and lower rates for you. However, it also means that you need to have that much money on hand in case of an accident. If you go for a $2,000 deductible and don’t have $2,000 available after an accident, you won’t be able to get the repairs you need.
Collision and comprehensive insurance are two optional types of auto insurance where your insurer pays for repairs to your vehicle. While there are other optional auto insurance coverages, liability, comprehensive, and collision are three of the most common. These coverages work hand-in-hand to repair or replace most of the damages to your car. It's important to know the difference, and make sure you're adequately covered.

Collision coverage is limited to the actual cash value of the vehicle, and requires a deductible, which is the amount you'll need to pay before receiving benefits. Higher deductibles lower your premium but increase the amount you must pay out of your own pocket if a loss occurs. Ask yourself how much you would be willing to pay on short notice in order to save on your premium, or talk to your agent.


Collision coverage is limited to the actual cash value of the vehicle, and requires a deductible, which is the amount you'll need to pay before receiving benefits. Higher deductibles lower your premium but increase the amount you must pay out of your own pocket if a loss occurs. Ask yourself how much you would be willing to pay on short notice in order to save on your premium, or talk to your agent.
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.
It’s important to note that every company considers credit very differently, and even among insurers this factor fluctuates by state. For example, NerdWallet’s 2019 car insurance rate analysis indicates that while State Farm charges higher rates for poor credit in many states, it doesn’t seem to do so in Maine. Similar variations are true for many other companies as well.
Gap insurance is insurance that may be required if you lease or finance a car. Gap insurance covers the difference between what your car is worth and what you owe on your auto loan should your car be a total loss in an incident. For example, let’s say you have a car loan with a balance of $20,000, but your car is only worth $15,000. If it’s totaled in an accident, your insurance will only pay out $15,000 and you will owe $5,000 to settle your loan. If you have gap insurance, that policy will pay the $5,000 to settle your loan balance.

For some, the best coverage is the cheapest car insurance policy that makes them able to legally drive on the road. For others, the best coverage is the type that covers the full cost of repairs on your vehicle when you file a claim. The only way to be certain you are fully protected is to purchase both comprehensive coverage and collision coverage. Each coverage has its own job to do.
To help you figure out if you should purchase collision coverage, you should estimate the approximate value of your vehicle. While there are a number of online resources that can help with this, including Kelley Blue Book, we recommend you speak with a State Farm® agent. In addition to helping you determine the value of your vehicle, our agents can tell you how much extra you'd pay to add collision coverage.
When comparing car insurance quotes, it helps to compare apples to apples; in other words, you want to be sure that the quotes you get are for identical - or at least very similar - auto insurance policies. Once you have a better idea of the type of coverage you’re looking for in a policy, this will be easy. To better understand coverage types start here
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