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.
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Med Pay and bodily injury insurance are two other types of coverage that usually follow the person, not the car. Med Pay coverage pays for any injuries that an insured or his passengers may incur in an accident, regardless of who is at fault. Such coverage usually follows the driver. It is based on people, not the vehicle. In fact, such coverage sometimes covers the insured when he is walking or biking. This coverage also usually follows the driver when he rents a car, because the rental vehicle is a substitute for the insured’s own vehicle. However, Med Pay coverage sometimes follows the car. If the passengers in a vehicle don’t have coverage of their own, Med Pay and PIP coverage can extend to their injuries.
Cheap, sub-standard auto carriers write insurance for insureds with bad driving records. They are able to do this by setting their own limited conditions under which they will provide coverage. These sub-standard carriers do not cover claims that would be covered under a more standard policy. These policies can contain “named-driver exclusions” which limit coverage to persons specifically named in the policy. “Step-down” policies often lower liability coverage to a state’s minimum limits for permissive users, even if the insured pays for higher limits. Deductibles can be higher and/or a policy won’t extend coverage to a rental vehicle. Therefore, policy terms vary and directly affect whether a particular coverage follows the car or the driver.
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If your car is worth more than $3,000 and/or is less than 10 years old, we'd also suggest both collision and comprehensive coverage, too. Our estimates suggest drivers can buy comprehensive and collision insurance for an average of $600 to $700 per year (however, the cost may be higher for some cars), so you would spend $3,000 to $3,500 in premiums over five years. If your car is currently worth less than $3,000, you will have spent more on insurance than your car is worth. You can obtain the estimated value of your car from sites like Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds. Once you have both the value and a quote for coverage, you can determine whether collision insurance will be worth it.
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The key difference in collision vs. comprehensive coverage is that, to a certain extent, the element of the car driver's control. As we have stated before, collision insurance will typically 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," that are typically out of your control when driving. These can include such events as a spooked deer, a heavy hailstorm, or a carjacking.