Most U.S. drivers understand that car insurance is not just a legal requirement but a bit of a necessary evil to help mitigate costs following accidents.
Considering that 76% of car crashes involve vehicle-on-vehicle accidents and, most commonly, rear-end crashes, it’s understandable why liability and collision coverages get the most attention.
While vehicle collisions are frequent, they are far from the only kind of accident that can occur. There are numerous vehicle ownership hazards that extend beyond the physical actions of individual drivers and into a category known as “act of God,” which often consists of weather-related events. Although most drivers take care to mitigate their risks for both driver-operated and “act of God” accidents, over one-fifth of drivers (22 percent) remain unprotected against weather-related events.
Collision vs. Comprehensive Coverage
Most vehicle owners are familiar with liability coverage. This type of insurance is required by law in most states and offers up financial protection for at-fault accidents.
Comprehensive coverage, on the other hand, offers risk coverage for incidents related to other events, such as hail, falling trees, fire, vandalism, theft and more. From a top-level perspective, comprehensive coverage is designed to protect your wallet when something other than another car hits you.
Considering its legal requirement, most U.S. drivers have liability coverage. According to data from the Insurance Research Council, however, 13% of drivers are completely uninsured. Many more carry only the minimum required amount of coverage on their cars, making it easy to see why such a large number of U.S. drivers ignore comprehensive coverage. It’s ultimately an added cost without a legal requirement, so many Americans simply opt to forego it as an option altogether, sometimes at great expense down the road.
Weather Damage Poses a Significant Risk
Although extreme weather events are not as common in some parts of the U.S., many states are at a high risk for weather events that can lead to car damage. Flooding, for example, causes significant damage to vehicles every year. Even worse, many of these vehicles surreptitiously find their way back onto the road and into the hands of drivers who don’t know their newly purchased used vehicle is a flood car.
Major snow, ice and windstorms can also bring trees down onto vehicles, leading to significant losses that would only be covered fully under a comprehensive auto insurance policy.
Notable among the type of weather-related events many drivers ignore, however, is hail. Unfortunately, hail often gets ignored because the worst season for it is typically shortlived. The most damaging hailstorms tend to occur from April through June and typically only last for 5-10 minutes when they do occur. That short time period and short duration can make hail a bit of an easy threat to forget, although it can still occur and cause damage to vehicles any time of the year.
The Midwest and Texas are exceptionally vulnerable to hailstorms due to the unique mixture of warm, moist air and cold, dry air in the atmosphere above that region. According to State Farm, Colorado was the worst state in the nation in 2018 for hail. Homeowners and car owners in the state filed more than 66,000 claims, with damages totaling nearly $600 million that year. Texas was second, with claims totaling over $435 million.
State Farm’s report coincides with 2008-2014 data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which found that insurance companies paid out over $7 billion in hail-related insurance claims for vehicles during that time period. Its research also found claims could be as high as $3,428, which would include the cost to repair windows and major structural damage on the car. In fact, IIHS found insurance companies typically took a loss of $11 per vehicle in covering hail damage claims.
When to Consider Comprehensive Coverage
With liability coverage considered an automatic and necessary purchase, you may be wondering when, or if, you should add comprehensive coverage to your policy as well.
Drivers who live in an area where weather-related damage is common should strongly consider purchasing comprehensive insurance coverage. Those in states where strong storms, including hailstorms, tornadoes, and floods, occur yearly should pay particular attention to their risks. Those who live in high crime areas, where theft and vandalism are more common, should also consider the additional risks that aren’t covered under liability-only policies.
Outside of these risks, you should consider adding comprehensive coverage to your car insurance policy if:
- You lease a vehicle or have a car loan, as comprehensive and collision coverage are frequently required.
- You have a new vehicle (less than 10 years old).
- You have a high-value vehicle (worth over $3,000), including luxury vehicles and collectibles.
For all others, it may be a worthwhile venture to contact your insurance provider to determine whether comprehensive coverage may be worth exploring. Most insurance companies will be able to provide some insight into how common different non-driving-related risks are in your area.
Maxime Rieman is Product Manager at ValuePenguin. Educating and assisting shoppers about financial products has been Rieman's focus, which led her to joining ValuePenguin, a consumer research and advice company based in New York. Previously, she was product marketing director at CoverWallet and launched the personal insurance team at NerdWallet.
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