Clear the confusion around full coverage insurance to learn what it does and doesn’t protect.
Car insurance is legally required in most states, but that doesn’t mean it’s simple to shop for. You’ll see full coverage when narrowing down your options, but the term might confuse you.
And for good reason: Full coverage doesn’t exist.
Full coverage is used to describe policies that include a combination of protection for your car in an accident or collision. Compare full coverage car insurance policies to protect you and your car above and beyond most policies.
What’s full coverage car insurance?
Full coverage car insurance isn’t a specific type of insurance. Rather, it refers to policies that include liability, collision and comprehensive coverage. By bundling these types of coverage, your policy provides solid protection in case of an accident.
Liability insurance is legally required in most states. It helps to pay for the injuries and damage you cause to other people and their property in an accident. It’s also called bodily injury and property damage liability.
Liability coverage doesn’t cover the costs of repairing your own vehicle. That’s where collision and comprehensive coverage step in.
Collision coverage pays to repair or replace your car if you collide with another car or object, like a tree or telephone pole. It covers you regardless of who’s at fault.
Comprehensive coverage pays to repair or replace your car if it’s stolen or damaged by incidences beyond your control, like vandalism, flooding, a falling object or an animal.
Together, these three types of coverage check a bunch of boxes: They protect your car and take care of any damage you cause to other people and their property
But the term full coverage is misleading, because most car insurance companies offer a long list of other coverage.
What’s not included in full coverage car insurance?
Full coverage typically doesn’t include:
- Medical payments coverage. Covers postaccident expenses for you and your passengers, and it can supplement your health insurance.
- Uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. Kicks in to help pay for the bills if you’re in accident with someone who has little to no insurance.
- Emergency road service coverage. Provides towing, labor and other roadside assistance after an accident or collision.
- Customized parts and equipment coverage. Have you updated your car with a sophisticated sound system or special rims? Full coverage insurance won’t replace or repair those features after an accident, but this policy add-on will.
- Rental car coverage. Reimburses you for rental car costs after an accident.
- Gap coverage. If you finance your car, this helps pay off your auto loan if your car is totaled.
Who should consider full coverage car insurance?
If these situations apply to you, it may be worth investing in full coverage car insurance:
- You have a brand-new car.
- You have a luxury, classic or expensive car.
- You own a car with a high theft rate.
- You live in a place where car theft, vandalism or animal collisions are common.
- You live in a place that’s often hit with extreme weather, like heavy snow, hail or storms.
- You commute long distances or in heavy traffic daily.
- You have an outstanding loan on your car.
- You can make the monthly payments. Above all, your car insurance has to be affordable.
Why do I need extra coverage with a car loan or lease?
To protect their own interests, most lenders require you to maintain full coverage insurance if you’re still paying off a loan. The insurance covers the asset they still technically own.
After you’ve paid off your car, it’s all yours, and lenders won’t care how you choose to cover it.
Who should avoid full coverage car insurance?
Because it’s more expensive than standard coverage, full coverage might not make sense if:
- Your car is old or has a low value, since the cost may outweigh the worth of your car itself.
- You don’t drive often.
- You’ve paid off your car.
- You’re on a tight budget.
How much does full coverage car insurance cost?
Car insurance rates vary by driver and providers. The premium you pay is based on where you live, the car you drive and how often you drive it, as well as your driving record and credit history.
Shopping around can help you nail down the best possible deal for your needs. But let’s talk averages.
Because full coverage combines the costs of liability insurance with comprehensive and collision coverage, it tends to be on the pricey side.
Compare the costs of full coverage car insurance
Price hikes for full coverage are steep in select states with difficult driving conditions, heavy traffic or lots of cars on the road.
|State||Average annual premium for liability only||Average annual premium for full coverage|
How can I save on full coverage car insurance?
These tips may help you save on full coverage insurance while getting the protection you want:
- Compare providers. Rates change all the time. In many cases, you can save simply by switching insurance companies.
- Look into local companies. A provider down the block may be more sensitive to the driving conditions and laws of your state and could offer a better deal.
- Ask about discounts. You may be eligible to shave down your premium for safe driving, paying in full or insuring multiple cars. To squeeze the most value from your policy, go for providers with generous discount programs.
- Choose your deductible carefully. The higher your deductible, the lower your premium. Assess your risk for an accident, then settle on a number you’re comfortable with.
- Explore pay-per-mile insurance. Use your car occasionally? You might save money by only paying for the time you drive. Or ask your provider about low-mileage discounts.
- Maintain a clean driving record. If your record is free of major violations, accidents and speeding tickets, you’re likely privy to a lower premium.
- Sign up for a defensive driving class. Most providers reward you with a discount for completing safety courses.
- Combine policies with your spouse. Married drivers tend to file fewer claims, so you could save by bundling your car insurance together.
Pros and cons of full coverage car insurance
- Stronger protection
- Protects you in no-fault states, regardless of who caused the accident
- Protects your car from damage caused by accidents, collisions, weather, vandalism and theft
- Reimburses you at current market value minus your deductible if your car is totaled
- Premiums can be expensive
- Often required for financed vehicles
- You must pay a deductible before claiming benefits
Is full coverage worth it?
It depends on how much risk you’re willing to take on. While full coverage insurance is expensive, it offers extensive protection. Without it, you might have to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket to replace or repair your car after an accident.
When you’re deciding whether to buy full coverage, ask yourself:
- How much is my car worth?
- How old is my car?
- Are my driving conditions dangerous?
- Is car theft and vandalism common where I live?
- Do I drive frequently?
- Do I have a long or traffic-heavy commute?
- Could my savings cover the cost of repairing or replacing my car?
Should I get full coverage car insurance?
In general, if your car is old and you can financially deal with a stolen, damaged or totaled car, your standard liability insurance may be enough. The same goes for if you hardly drive or live in an area where theft and vandalism are rare.
On the other hand, if you have a new or expensive car, it may be worth protecting it with full coverage. Again, it’s all about risk. Say you buy a $50,000 car outright. You might be able to pay the cash to replace it, but that’s a risky move when full coverage insurance might set you back just a couple thousand dollars a year.
The goal is to find the sweet spot between the coverage you need and what you can afford to pay for your premium and in the worst-case scenario.
What should I watch out for?
Insurers interpret full coverage insurance differently. Typically, it encompasses liability, comprehensive and collision coverage, but don’t assume that’s the case with all providers.
Some insurers add medical payments and uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage to their full coverage insurance. To avoid overpaying for insurance you don’t need, ask for a policy breakdown, and make sure you know exactly what you’re paying for.
Watch out for bait-and-switch tactics too. The insurance industry is incredibly competitive, and you could be offered a general insurance quote that doesn’t consider your location, driving record or other vital details. Be as specific as possible for the most accurate quote for your needs.
Which insurance companies offer full coverage?
Some insurers may refuse your request if your car has existing damage that adds up to a specified amount, like $1,000. This protects them financially and from insurance fraud. In many cases, you’re allowed to add full coverage after you’ve made the necessary repairs.
Compare full coverage car insurance
How do I buy full coverage car insurance?
You can buy full coverage insurance directly from providers or through agents, brokers or comparison websites.
- Shop around for quotes. Be as specific as possible about you, your needs and your vehicle, including the coverage you want and any policy extras. Use that sample to compare premiums among providers.
- Hunt for discounts. When you’ve narrowed down your list, find out if you’re eligible for safe driving, military or other discounts.
- Read the fine print. Know the coverage you’re paying for, along with any exclusions that could prevent future claims approvals. Ask questions, if you need to. Insurance companies should be transparent in their answers.
- Apply for the policy that suits you best. Consider costs and the level of protection, and specify the date you want your policy to start.
- Pick monthly, quarterly or in-full premiums. You often can get another discount by paying up front.
For car insurance shoppers, full coverage is a term that’s clouded with confusion. What it encompasses varies by providers, but typically it refers to policies that include liability, collision and comprehensive protection.
To figure out if full coverage is for you, consider your budget, car and driving style. It suits some people, but it’s not worth the cost for others.
Shop around and compare car insurance providers to find the best coverage for you.