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.
Therefore, a very basic and often incorrect answer to the wrong question is that auto liability coverage generally follows the driver, while auto physical damage coverage generally follows the vehicle. However, more often than not, you will be asking the wrong question. As long as a driver has the vehicle owner’s permission to operate the vehicle, the owner’s policy will provide coverage no matter who the driver is. The vehicle owner’s policy should cover injuries and property damage. However, exceptions do exist. In most cases, therefore, the right question to ask would be “Is there insurance coverage under these specific facts?”
The main difference between collision and comprehensive coverage comes down to the question of what the driver controls. Collision insurance will cover events within a motorist's control or when another vehicle collides with your car. Comprehensive coverage generally falls under "acts of God or nature," or things that are typically out of your control when driving. These can include events such as a spooked deer, a heavy hailstorm, or a carjacking.
Collision coverage is generally sold with a separate deductible. Even if you are at fault for the accident, your collision coverage will reimburse you for the costs of repairing your car, minus the deductible. If you're not at fault, your insurance company may try to recover the amount they paid you from the other driver’s insurance company and, if they are successful, you'll also be reimbursed for the deductible.
Auto insurance premiums depend on the insured party's driving record. A record free of accidents or serious traffic violations typically results in a lower premium. Drivers with histories of accidents or serious traffic violations may pay higher premiums. Likewise, because mature drivers tend to have fewer accidents than less-experienced drivers, insurers typically charge more for drivers below age 25.
In order for insurance to cover an accident when the insured is not present, there will need to be comprehensive auto coverage. The facts of each such case definitely matter. If the driver is a relative, then most likely the absent insured’s insurance will cover the accident. The driver also needs to have had permission, express or implied, or the insured’s insurance may not cover the claim, unless the vehicle was stolen. Individual insurance companies and policies may vary in regard to these rules.
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Collision coverage is generally sold with a separate deductible. Even if you are at fault for the accident, your collision coverage will reimburse you for the costs of repairing your car, minus the deductible. If you're not at fault, your insurance company may try to recover the amount they paid you from the other driver’s insurance company and, if they are successful, you'll also be reimbursed for the deductible.
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Liability insurance coverage on a personal auto policy follows the driver no matter whose vehicle is being operated, provided it is an eligible vehicle. All states, except for one (New Hampshire), require at least liability coverage. Liability coverage protects the insured (i.e., follows the driver) when the insured operates a vehicle owned by someone else. In such a situation, they will still usually be covered under their own auto insurance policy. However, the best rule of thumb in looking for coverage under a policy is to begin with the exclusions.
While an “insured vehicle” may include a friend or neighbor’s vehicle or a rental car, if the vehicle was available for regular use, it might be excluded. A “replacement” vehicle will probably be covered, but in some cases only under circumstances where the insured’s vehicle cannot be operated for some specific reason, such as a repair. Coverage might not follow anyone if the insured is driving a vehicle other than a “private passenger vehicle not owned and listed on the insured’s policy.” There really is no such thing as a standard auto policy anymore and coverage for non-owned autos will be different under some policies and non-existent under others.
Underinsured motorist coverage reimburses you, a member of your family, or a designated driver if one of you is hit by an uninsured driver or a driver who doesn’t have sufficient insurance to pay for your total loss. This coverage also offers protection in the event a covered driver is the victim of a hit-and-run or if, as a pedestrian, you are struck by an uninsured or underinsured motorist.
While there are a couple of benefits of collision insurance, the main one is that you can file a claim and receive reimbursement regardless of who was at fault. Collision claims usually get processed faster than property damage claims because the insurance company does not have to spend time investigating who was at-fault. Another benefit is that you only deal with your own insurance company, rather than another insurer with less incentive to pay for your claim. Collision insurance can also be used toward your rental car in most cases, which can spare you from having to buy rental car insurance.
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