Collision and comprehensive claims: What's the difference?

Written by Andrew Freiburghouse and Gary Bangstad on December 16, 2011 & Posted in Auto Insurance

Having your car damaged is bad enough, but which of your car insurance's physical damage coverages--collision or comprehensive--does the claim fall under?

Many people carry a lower deductible for comprehensive. If you are among them, you're probably hoping your claim will be covered by a comprehensive auto insurance claim. However, most accidents fall under collision coverage.

What does collision coverage actually cover?

Collision insurance covers you when your car is damaged after hitting an object, or when another object hits your vehicle.

If you hit a car, house, fence, curb, or an item in the middle of the roadway, it's the collision portion of your car insurance policy that covers damages to your vehicle.

So, if you rear-end another car, your newly licensed teen backs into your mailbox or you hit a boulder in the roadway, it's a collision claim.

Collision also covers the "upset" of your vehicle. So, if you lose control and roll or flip your vehicle, it's a collision claim.

What does comprehensive coverage actually cover?

Comprehensive is sometimes referred to as "other than collision" because it covers accidents that aren't covered by your collision insurance.

Comprehensive covers damages to your vehicle that typically are not your fault. Theft of your vehicle, hitting an animal or bird, fire damage and vandalism are covered by comprehensive.

An object falling on your vehicle is a comprehensive claim. So is glass damage, such as a windshield cracked by road debris or a window broken by a thief.

Damages to your car due to natural occurrences, such as hail, floodwaters and wind, fall under comprehensive coverage.

Deciding which coverage it falls under

A good understanding of what each part of your auto insurance policy covers will help you understand how the claims process will unfold. But ultimately, your car insurance company will determine if your claim goes under comprehensive or collision.

Here are some final examples to help you identify what type of claim you have:

  • Hitting a deer is a comprehensive claim. Swerving to miss a deer and hitting a tree is a collision claim.
  • If a tree falls on your car, it's a comprehensive claim. If you are driving, and a tree falls in your path and you hit it, it's a collision claim.
  • If you run into your garage door, it's a collision claim. If your car is parked and the garage door malfunctions and falls on the car, it's a comprehensive claim.

About the Author

Andrew Freiburghouse is a writer and businessman. As a partner at Los Angeles tax preparation firm Pronto Income Tax of California, Inc., Andrew has served thousands of clients both face to face and over the telephone. Currently, Andrew lives in Brooklyn, NY, and is in the process of starting up his own tax practice.

Gary P. Bangstad, Ed. D. is a freelance writer in the area of business and insurance. Previously, he worked for Midwest Financial Planning LTD, selling insurance and investment products. He has also taught music at the university level.

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