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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.
The amount of coverage required by law varies from state to state. If you are a cautious person, you might opt for a more expensive policy with better coverage. If you have a lot of assets, experts recommend that you get enough liability coverage to protect them; otherwise, the other party involved in an accident could sue and attempt to collect on those assets.
On average, an at-fault property damage accident will raise your premium by an average of $612 per year. Because most insurance providers will charge you for three years after an accident, this $612 increase equates to more than $1,800 in total fees. If you’re thinking of filing a claim, consider the overall cost of the claim versus what the claim would cost to pay out of pocket. Compare this $1,837 penalty — plus your deductible (if applicable) — to the out-of-pocket expense. While this is nice information to know before filing a claim, it won’t help if you’ve already filed a claim. If you have an at-fault accident on your insurance history, consider USAA or State Farm.
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.