By Allison Hess
Are you protected against unexpected disasters on the road? Are you protected with appropriate comprehensive auto insurance?
Find out what the most common comprehensive claims are and how you can mitigate their risks below.
What is comprehensive insurance?
Comprehensive coverage is a type of auto insurance that covers damage to your car in certain situations.
The name “comprehensive” can be a bit misleading. It’s comprehensive of everything “other than collision.” It also does not include liability, like bodily injury or property damage that you incur on others.
Collision insurance will cover damage to your car when the damage was incurred from a collision. These situations include:
If your vehicle hits another vehicle
If another vehicle hits your vehicle
If your vehicle hits a stationary object (like house, fence, tree, or pole)
If your car unintentionally rolls or flips
Comprehensive insurance includes most things “other than collision.” This includes natural disasters and theft/vandalism. Most comprehensive coverage will include:
Damage from falling objects (especially windshields and windows)
Fire and explosions
Damage from natural disasters (hail, wind, tornado, hurricane, earthquake)
Collision with animal
Acts of terrorism
Comprehensive coverage will usually not cover:
Typical wear and tear
Mechanical or electrical failure (unrelated to an accident)
Custom equipment (not covered under an umbrella policy)
Damage caused by failing to take preventative measures
Intentional damage to the car
Destruction or confiscation of vehicle by law enforcement
Theft of belongings inside your car
Comprehensive coverage can have a broad definition, so talk to your insurance agent to find out what is and isn’t covered in your personal policy.
Do I need comprehensive coverage?
Comprehensive coverage is not mandatory or required, but it’s highly recommended. Comprehensive and collision give you “full coverage” to protect your own property in case of an incident.
However, comprehensive may be required if you are leasing or financing your car.
What are the most common comprehensive claims?
What kinds of dangers do you need to be aware that a comprehensive policy might cover? And how do you protect your car to avoid having to make a comprehensive claim?
1. Cracked windshields
The most common claim under comprehensive coverage is a chipped or cracked windshield. These cracks are usually caused by falling objects, like pebbles, branches, or hail. The damage can be a minor dent or a significant shattering.
Even the smallest chips and cracks on your windshield can eventually turn into more serious damage. Once the glass has a break in it, it starts to crack deeper and longer. In just a few hours, you can go from a small nick to a complete fracture.
Repairing a windshield is often a minor process. Replacing an entire windshield, though, can be expensive and time-consuming. Replacing a windshield also makes the glass more susceptible to future concerns, as it’s not part of the original integrity of the car. Thus, it’s imperative that you repair any small dents or cracks when it first happens.
Some companies will actually waive the deductible for a broken windshield. This is because getting your windshield replaced immediately is critical to preventing future accidents and the integrity of the car. Other companies will require a deductible for the windshield replacement.
Talk to your agent to find out if cracked windshields are covered in your comprehensive policy.
Install a protective glass coating on your windshield. You should especially install a “defective perimeter” on your windshield, which reinforces the structure of the windshield. Repair all small cracks as soon as you can. Minor dents can quickly turn into larger cracks that require a dangerous and costly replacement. Don’t drive during storms or heavy wind. Don’t drive behind an open-bed truck, as items can come flying out and damage your windshield.
2. Hail damage
Hail can cause windshield cracks as well as other dents and breaks in your car. In bad hailstorms, it can even completely ruin your car altogether.
Certain areas of the country are especially prone to hail damage, like Texas, Colorado, Missouri, Illinois, and Nebraska. Hail is also more common in the summer and early fall. In fact, in 2015 Texas had over $4 billion insured losses. The average auto claim for hail was over $4,000 per vehicle.
You can’t prevent hail, but you can prepare for it.
Don’t drive during hailstorms or other types of inclement weather.
Park your car under protective overhands or in indoor garages.
After the storm, assess the damage and take pictures for the insurance company. Cover over any broken glass and vacuum the inside of your car.
In 2016, there were over 765,000 auto thefts in the United States. The highest risk states for auto theft are California, Florida, and Texas. Most cars are stolen for use in other crimes, but some are chopped and sold as parts. If your vehicle is not recovered, comprehensive coverage will help cover the replacement value.
Keep in mind that comprehensive coverage will cover the theft of your car but not what’s inside it. You’ll need a separate umbrella policy to cover specific belongings inside your car, like a laptop or purse.
Keep your keys on you. Criminals have gotten smart about looking for keyless cars, as owners often forget the keys in the center console.
Be aware of whom you give your spare keys. Ask for the keys back when the person no longer needs them.
Close and lock all doors and windows, even if you’re just making a quick trip to the store.
Park smart. Park in well-lit areas and near security cameras or a parking garage attendant.
Don’t leave valuables in your car.
Don’t leave your car running.
Install an anti-theft device. Your insurance company may even offer a discount on your premium.
As with theft, vandalism is a common comprehensive claim that can cause serious damage to your car. Vandalism can be a break-in to steal items in your car as well as keying your car, spray-painting your car, or even pouring sugar in the gas tank.
If you can identify who vandalized your car, you can sue them for damages. Otherwise, your comprehensive policy will likely help cover the costs.
Park in well-lit areas with a lot of people around.
Park near security cameras if possible.
Keep your doors locked.
Keep your car clean.
Follow parking etiquette. Don’t park over the parking lines or with your bumper too far from the curb.
5. Animal collisions
There are nearly 300,000 vehicle and animal collisions every year, costing $1,000 or more in damages. These are especially common in suburban and rural areas. Hitting an animal can cause serious damage to your car and put you and your passengers at risk. It can also upset the natural wildlife balance.
Follow yellow signs. Notice the animal on the sign and be on the lookout. These signs indicate the area is highly populated with that animal.
Take a defensive driving course. This can help you prepare for last-minute incidents. A defensive driving course may also help you get a discount on your policy.
Be more aware at dusk, dawn, and night. Animals are out at a higher rate at night.
If safe to do so, drive no more than 45mph at night. Headlights can only illuminate 200-250 feet ahead, which means going 45mph can give you enough braking time if an animal jumps in the road. Reduce this to 30mph in slick conditions.
Don’t swerve. Swerving around an animal can cause more serious damage, like driving into oncoming traffic.
Slow down if you see an animal crossing. There are likely other animals nearby.
Be especially aware of bad weather.
You can’t avoid natural disasters and unexpected incidents, but you can be ready for them. Simple prevention methods can mitigate your risks and costs, while comprehensive coverage takes care of the rest.
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