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Compare full coverage vs. liability car insurance

One policy offers more coverage, while the other brings down your insurance rate.

If you’re looking for lifelong insurance coverage, consider either whole life insurance or variable life insurance. Both are permanent policies, but whole life insurance grows its cash value more reliably than variable life insurance.

Full coverage vs. liability car insurance

Full coverage is a car insurance term used by consumers that means a policy with liability coverage as well as comprehensive and collision. Liability car insurance refers to a policy with only liability coverage.

Get an idea of what both policies cover before deciding which one suits you:

Type of coverageFull coverage policyLiability only policy
Injuries, car or property damage you cause to another driver
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checkmark
Physical damage to your car when you’re at fault
checkmark
x
Theft or vandalism
checkmark
x
Weather damage
checkmark
x
State minimum requirementsNot always—some states also require underinsured motorist or personal injury protectionNot always—some states also require underinsured motorist or personal injury protection
GapOnly if added separately
x
Rental car reimbursementOnly if added separately
x
Roadside assistanceOnly as a free perk or if added separately
x

Extras included with full coverage

Buying a full coverage policy means you’ll get liability protection, plus:

  • Comprehensive to cover damage from theft, vandalism or storms like hail or windstorms
  • Collision to cover repairs or replacement of your car if you’re at fault in an accident
  • Towing or roadside service is included as a free perk with some companies
  • Windshield damage may get repaired without upfront costs to you

How much does full coverage vs. liability cost?

If you go for a full coverage policy, expect it to set you back $1,430 per year or $119 per month. That cost accounts for an extra $130 for comprehensive and $300 for collision coverage.

A car insurance policy with only liability insurance costs around $1,000 each year, or $83 per month.

When do I need full coverage or liability car insurance?

A full coverage policy works best if you:

  • Want protection for your own car’s physical damage
  • Have a car loan or lease that requires it

A liability policy works best if you:

  • Can’t afford more coverage
  • Premium is high from violations or lack of experience
  • Drive an old car and full coverage isn’t worth the cost
  • Have another way of getting around in a pinch

When you’re deciding between well-stocked coverage or the bare minimum, balance these three main factors:

1. What’s required

If your state or car loan requires coverage beyond liability insurance, you must buy the coverage required. Otherwise, you risk getting uninsured driver penalties or your lender using forced-place insurance.

2. Your car’s value

Consider the cost of the extra coverage compared to your car’s value and your chance of using that coverage. If you’ve only filed one claim in your life and currently own a low-dollar car, extra coverage might not be worth the higher price tag.

And if adding comprehensive and collision would cost more than your car’s worth, you may be better off without them.

3. Your bank account

Keep a balanced perspective on what you can afford. Even if you don’t own the fanciest car, wide coverage could benefit you if you can’t pay to replace your car after an accident.

In this case, you might add extras like full coverage until you save enough to comfortably drop the coverage from your policy. Re-evaluating your policy yearly helps you determine the right time to adjust your coverage.

Pros and cons of full coverage vs. liability

Other benefits and drawbacks:

Full coverage

Pros

  • Covers your car’s damage, no matter who’s at fault
  • May include free perks, like windshield repairs
  • Should meet your car loan or lease requirements

Cons

  • Can add over $400 to your premium over liability
  • You may not use the extra coverage
  • Could cost more than an older car is worth
  • May require you to pay a deductible upfront before insurance kicks in

Liability only coverage

Pros

  • Protects you if other drivers or passengers take you to court
  • Typically comes with a low premium
  • Eliminates coverage you may not use

Cons

  • May not cover serious damage to your car
  • Won’t cover your car for at-fault accidents, theft or weather damage
  • May not meet your state’s car insurance requirements

When should I drop full coverage on my car?

Full coverage is meant to protect you financially if your car gets damaged, whether you or another driver causes the damage. Reasons you might consider dropping full coverage:

  • Most or all of your car loan is paid
  • You drive an older or less valuable vehicle
  • You have other ways of getting around
  • You can take on the financial risks of repairing or replacing your car

Compare car insurance companies and their coverage

Name Product Roadside assistance New car protection Accident forgiveness Safe driver discount Available states
Progressive
Optional
30%
All 50 states
Discover coverage that’s broader than competitors, valuable discounts up to 30% off and perks like shrinking deductibles that reward no claims.
The AARP Auto Insurance Program from The Hartford
Optional
Yes
All 50 states
Enjoy low rates for mature drivers, plus perks like new car replacement and lifetime repair guarantees. Only for drivers over age 50.
USAA
Optional
Yes
All 50 states
Affordable car insurance with highly rated customer service. Only available to military members and veterans and their family.
Savvy
Savvy
Optional
Optional
Yes
All states & DC
Enter your current policy and get quotes in 30-seconds from 100+ companies, then get help to switch insurers for free.
Root
52%
Available in 30 states
Track your driving to receive a low rate that reflects your driving skills, and enjoy a fully app-based policy experience.
Gabi
Optional
Optional
Yes
All 50 states
Upload your current policy info and get quotes from 40+ companies. Switch and save an average of $961 a year.
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Compare up to 4 providers

Bottom line

Full coverage and liability-only policies serve different purposes for car insurance. A full coverage policy offers broad physical damage protection, while liability-only insurance stands as a low-cost option with less coverage for your car’s physical damage.

Shop for the coverage level of your choice or get quotes for both full and liability coverage to see which companies give you the most bang for your buck.

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