How to Choose the Right Comprehensive and Collision Coverage Levels for your Budget and Lifestyle

When was the last time you used “subrogation” in a sentence? How about “telematics”? “Indemnity”? Odds are unless you’re studying your handy insurance jargon glossary on a daily basis, you’re probably not dropping these terms into casual conversation. The world of insurance terms can be confusing, intimidating, and downright frustrating, especially to someone just learning the ropes. Whether your switching insurance companies, changing plans, or just trying to educate yourself on your options, you might quickly find yourself bemoaning the often-confusing, sometimes-convoluted, always-complicated terminology.

How-to-Choose-the-Right-Comprehensive-and-Collision-Coverage-Levels-for-your-Budget-and-Lifestyle

Luckily, Metromile has found a way to make insurance lingo actually make sense—even to the most inexperienced newbie. Finding a plan that fits your budget and lifestyle and keeps you feeling at ease knowing you’re covered is so important—not just for your peace of mind, but for your physical and financial security. Here’s what you need to know so you can choose the plan that’s perfect for you.

What Do “Comprehensive” and “Collision Coverage” Cover Anyways?

Throw the word “comprehensive” on anything and it sounds pretty impressive and all-encompassing, right? What else could you possibly need if you’ve got something “comprehensive” on your side? Well, for starters, collision coverage. If you’re struggling to make sense of how something “comprehensive” could omit an issue as major as collisions (especially when cars are involved), you’re not alone. Before you judge a book by its cover and go with the first seemingly all-inclusive plan you see, get to know the ins and outs of what “comprehensive” and “collision” coverage are really all about:

  • Collision insurance coverage: Collision coverage helps pay for repairs to your own vehicle in case you crash into another car, an object, or you experience a roll-over. This type of insurance will also help cover the cost to replace your car if it is totaled in an accident. In the event of a hit-and-run, your car could be covered with this type of insurance, but it’s not guaranteed in all states. While you might think this type of coverage should be required, it’s not—most states only mandate you to have coverage for injuries or damages you cause to someone else in an accident. There aren’t many states that require drivers to have insurance that covers their own damages.
  • Comprehensive insurance coverage: Comprehensive coverage is also optional in most states, but you’ll want it if you think it’s a good idea to be covered in the event of non-accident-related damages. Comprehensive coverage helps pay to repair or replace your car for damages that occurred in just about anything but an accident. Usually, this type of plan covers damages from events including natural disasters, fires, falling objects, vandalism, theft, and hitting (or being hit) by animals like deer, cows, bears, etc.

While both collision and comprehensive plans cover a lot of ground, neither one truly protects you in all situations across the board. There are certain things neither one cover—take vehicle wear and tear, for example. If you need new brake pads or a headlight bulb replaced, you won’t be able to rely on collision or comprehensive coverage to foot the bill. And while comprehensive coverage will be a huge help if your car is stolen, it won’t help you replace any items that were in that stolen vehicle.

Do You Really Need Comprehensive and/or Collision Coverage?

In most states, no one’s going to (figuratively!) twist your arm to sign up for comprehensive and collision coverage. The majority of states only require liability coverage (which covers damages for the people you hit in the event of an accident that’s your fault). But just because you’re not required to have additional coverage doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t consider it.

When you’re trying to figure out the kind of coverage you really need and want, it’s best to look beyond the bare minimum legal requirements of your state and take stock of several factors in your life:

  • What’s your monthly budget? The more money you pay for your policy and the lower you set your deductible, the less money you’ll have to pay out of pocket in the event of an accident or other event. You don’t want to barely scrape by every month in order to afford your coverage, but you do want to settle on an amount that’s affordable and puts your mind at ease.
  • Do you have an emergency fund? If you don’t opt for collision or comprehensive coverage, could you repair or replace your vehicle in the event of a crash or other incident?
  • Do you own your car? If you lease or finance your car, your bank may require you to have collision or comprehensive coverage (be sure you’ve closely studied your contract!), but if the car is all yours, then you’ll have to decide for yourself whether you have the funds to fix or replace it after a damaging event.
  • How likely are you to file a claim? It’s impossible to predict the future, and the saying “accidents happen” is a saying for a reason. But if you know you’ve gotten into your fair share of fender benders over the years, then that fact is worth taking into consideration.

If you’ve mulled those questions over and come to the realization that collision and/or comprehensive coverage is right for you, then it’s time to figure out how much you need. Here’s where your deductible comes into play—that’s the out-of-pocket expense that you agree to pay for losses up to a set amount, like $250 or $1,000. The lower your deductible, the more you’ll pay for insurance (since your out-of-pocket expense will be lower and your insurer will have to cover the rest). You can also choose to pay a higher deductible and pay less for insurance, but that means if you do want to take advantage of your collision and/or comprehensive coverage, you’ll have to shell out more out-of-pocket before your insurance kicks in to cover the rest.

So while there’s unfortunately no perfect mathematical formula (or magic spell) to reveal your ideal level of coverage, understanding all the factors involved and thoughtfully considering the options that fit your budget and lifestyle will help you land on a plan that leaves you feeling content and comfortable.

Still Have Questions?

Totally understandable—this stuff is tricky. One great way to get more answers to common questions is to visit the Metromile Help Center. There, you’ll be able to comb through content on a variety of topics like billing, pricing, coverage, and more. If you’ve got a question, chances are someone else has it, has had it, or will have it in the future.

If you’d rather talk one-on-one with a qualified specialist, Metromile has plenty of those too. Call 1.888.242.5204 any time from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m .PT, Monday through Friday, and a licensed agent will be able to address any of your concerns, give you a personalized quote, or start your new policy. Already a customer? Awesome. Call 1.888.311.2909 between the hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. PT, Monday through Friday, and a qualified specialist will help you out. Your driving situation is unique—be sure to choose a company that gets that and will work with you to find a customized plan that makes sense and meets your needs.

Michelle Konstantinovsky is a San Francisco-based journalist/writer/editor and UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism alumna. She’s written extensively on health, body image, entertainment, lifestyle, design, and tech for outlets like Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, Teen Vogue, O: The Oprah Magazine, Seventeen, and a whole lot more. She’s also a contributing editor at Fitbit and the social media director at California Home + Design Magazine. She is an avid admirer of shiny objects, manatees, and preteen entertainment.