What Is a Comprehensive Deductible and What Does it Cover?

A comprehensive deductible is the amount you must pay before your comprehensive car insurance coverage kicks in.
Written by Cheryl Knight
Reviewed by Carrie Adkins
If you have comprehensive coverage as part of your
auto insurance
policy, you’ll likely have to pay a deductible before your policy will pay out for damages.
  • A comprehensive deductible is the out-of-pocket costs you’ll have to pay before your comprehensive coverage will pay out.
  • Comprehensive insurance covers damages due to theft, vandalism, severe weather, falling objects, and more.
  • You don’t have to pay a deductible for liability, but collision deductibles and comprehensive deductibles are standard.

Comprehensive insurance typically requires a deductible

A car insurance deductible is a pre-set amount you must pay before your insurance coverage kicks in.
If you have comprehensive insurance as part of your policy, your comprehensive deductible is the portion you’re responsible for if you make a claim that falls under your comprehensive coverage.

What is comprehensive coverage?

The three different primary types of car insurance include
liability insurance
collision insurance
, and
comprehensive car insurance
—each covers damage under specific circumstances.
  • Liability coverage is legally required in most states, and it pays for damages (up to your policy limits) for other drivers and passengers in an accident that you cause.
  • Collision coverage pays for your own damages up to your policy limits after an accident, regardless of who is at fault.
  • Comprehensive coverage covers your vehicle from everything else that might damage your car, such as
    contact with animals
    , a
    natural disaster
    , vandalism, theft, and more.
Liability insurance does not have a deductible, but collision, comprehensive, and other coverages usually do.
Need to know: Comprehensive and collision insurance are optional coverages—they’re never required by state law. But if you lease or finance a vehicle, your lender may require you to carry these coverage types. Together, they’re often referred to as full coverage.

Your comprehensive insurance will typically pay out up to the value of your car minus your deductible

The limits of your comprehensive car insurance policy—or the maximum your insurance will pay—are typically determined by your car’s
actual cash value (ACV)
If you claim damages under your comprehensive insurance, your policy will pay out up to your coverage limits, minus your deductible.
Here’s how that could break down. Let’s say you:
  • Drive a 2017 Toyota Camry with around 75,000 in good condition, and
  • Have a comprehensive policy with a $2,500 deductible
The ACV of your Camry would be around $14,500. If a tree falls onto your vehicle and totals it, that would be covered by your comprehensive policy. Your insurance company would pay $14,500 minus your $2,500 deductible, or about $12,000.
Need to know: If the ACV of your vehicle is less than what you owe on your car loan, you should purchase
gap insurance
to help cover the difference if your car is totaled.

How to choose a comprehensive deductible

Auto insurance deductibles usually range from $250 to $1,000, though they can go higher. The state where you live also plays a part in the deductible amount. 
Here are a few guidelines to follow when choosing your comprehensive deductible:
  • What insurance premium can you afford? A higher deductible typically means a lower premium, while a lower deductible means higher insurance rates. If you’re trying to keep your monthly insurance costs low, raising your deductible may help.
  • What deductible can you pay? Choose a deductible that you could afford to pay within about a week if you unexpectedly have to make a comprehensive claim. It can help to create an emergency fund, where you put the money for your deductible in a separate savings account so it’s always available if you need it.
  • What’s the value of your vehicle? It doesn’t make much sense to have a deductible that’s nearly the same value as your vehicle—there wouldn’t be much left over for your insurance to cover after you paid out of pocket. 
  • How likely are you to file a claim? Do you live in an area with a high risk of theft, vandalism, severe weather, or other damage covered by comprehensive coverage? Are you an easily-distracted driver? You’ll have to pay your deductible every time you make an insurance claim, so if you anticipate multiple claims per policy period, you’ll want a lower deductible.
  • Would your deductible affect discounts? Some insurers will limit coverage options and discounts for policies with a high deductible. Talk to your insurance agent to make sure you won’t be costing yourself more money on your monthly premiums by choosing a higher deductible. 
Pro Tip When you’re looking at car insurance quotes, find the annual amount you’ll pay for comprehensive and collision and multiply that number by 10. If your car is worth less than the resulting number, comprehensive and collision may not be a good investment for your vehicle.

You may not need to pay a deductible for all damages

There are a few situations where you may not need to pay your comprehensive deductible:
  • If you have a zero-deductible full-glass policy. Some states require insurance companies to cover the deductible if your windshield has to be replaced. If you live in one of these states, you do not have to pay a deductible if you file a claim for a windshield replacement.
  • If you have a vanishing deductible. Some insurance companies will reward you for each claims-free policy period by lowering your deductible. In some cases, it can even disappear entirely after a certain amount of time without a claim!
  • If another driver is at fault. If you’re in an accident that was caused by another person, their insurance is responsible for covering your damages and medical bills. In that case, you won’t have to file a claim against your comprehensive or collision insurance, so you won’t have to pay a deductible.
  • If the damage is less than your deductible. You’re usually better off paying for minor repairs yourself. If the amount is less than your deductible, your insurance won’t pay at all, but your rates could still go up for making a claim. And since you have to pay your deductible per incident—not per policy period—you’ll still have to pay the same deductible if you make another claim during your policy.
Need to know: In the case of a car accident with only major damage, you don’t have to notify your insurer, but if there were any injuries or significant damage to either vehicle, you’re legally required to report it to the authorities.
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