Full Coverage Car Insurance: Is it a Lie?

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Your full coverage auto insurance may not cover as much as you think.

Getting the right amount of car insurance sounds like a simple enough task. Select an insurance company and/or agent, tell them what you want, and together, create an auto insurance policy that you can brag to your dad about. Of course it covers everything, you will tell him (your new policy practically screams “ironclad protection against every financial uncertainty any motorist has ever faced!”).

You make the call. You tell your dad (or spouse, or neighbor) that you’re completely protected.

“How are you so sure of yourself?” they ask with uncomfortable curiosity.

“I have full coverage!” you beam back.

And in the hour-long conversation that follows, you learn that there’s no such thing as full coverage car insurance (at least not in the way you previously understood it).

Insurify takes just a few minutes to provide you several car insurance quotes from top-ranked national and regional insurance companies. Looking for “full coverage” at various levels of protection? Trying to save on your current policy? Hungry for hidden discounts? Check out our auto insurance quotes comparison tool here:

Now, as for that fabled “full coverage”….

So, what does a “full coverage policy” actually cover?

When shopping around for “full coverage” auto insurance, many buyers mistakenly assume that “full coverage” is a single product that delivers comprehensive protection that prevents them from shouldering any financial burden in the event of an accident. These burdens commonly include medical costs and property damage.

It’s a nice thought, for sure. But it’s not at all true. First, “full coverage” is not an actual product that any insurance company sells. It’s simply a term that is loosely used to describe a grouping of products that together provide a certain amount of coverage (that may or may not meet your definition of complete). “Comprehensive,” “complete,” and coverages that include the word “umbrella” are similar ways for referring to this very generalized product package.

But my agent understood what I meant by “full coverage” (or did they?)

Ask an agent for a “full coverage” car insurance quote, and you’re likely to be quoted the following car insurance basics:

  • Liability coverage (specific to your state)
  • Collision coverage
  • Comprehensive coverage

Basic #1: Liability coverage

Liability coverage is actually a category of coverage and includes liability insurance products that uniquely cover costs associated with bodily injury and/or property damage. In general, each product provides coverage based on which driver is determined to be liable (or at fault) for an accident.

The most common types of liability coverage are:

  • Bodily injury coverage, which covers medical expenses for treating injuries suffered by anyone (other than yourself) if you are at fault.
  • Property damage, which covers damage caused to another person’s property/vehicle if you are at fault.

Q: Your fault. Their fault. Sigh…so particular! Isn’t there a product that provides coverage either way?

A: Yep, there sure is! It’s called Personal Injury Protection.

Personal Injury Protection (also referred to as No-Fault or PIP) is motorist coverage that takes care of medical costs (including lost wages and funeral costs) no matter who is at fault. Just a handful of states require this type of coverage. But, it certainly is nice to have so many options!

It’s important to grasp the complexities associated with this product (for example, your health insurance may already provide you with similar coverage). Research. Ask questions. Read those contracts closely. Well-informed purchase decisions tend to be the best.

Q: How can I find out what kind of liability coverage is required in my state?

A: You can click on this interactive map from DMV.org for coverage requirements by state. FYI, not only do individual states have separate requirements for the types of liability coverage you must carry, but exact minimum coverage amounts also vary by state.

Compare, for example, the minimum liability coverage limit requirements for Alabama and Maine:

Alabama

  • $25,000 for bodily injury or death per person
  • $50,000 total for bodily injury or death per accident, if multiple people were injured in an accident
  • $25,000 for property damage

Maine

  • $50,000 for bodily injury or death per person
  • $100,000 total for bodily injury or death per accidentif multiple people were injured in an accident
  • $25,000 for property damage

(from DMV.org)

Q: I filed a medical claim for an accident that wasn’t my fault and the claim was rejected. My agent explained that because the other driver didn’t carry insurance I was stuck paying out-of-pocket. How do I avoid this scenario happening ever again? 

A: You can purchase coverage that protects you financially against bodily and/or property damages caused by uninsured and underinsured drivers.

  • Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury Coverage (UM) also referred to as Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury (UMBI) provides coverage should you be involved in an accident with an uninsured driver or one without sufficient insurance coverage. There are separate products that similarly provide coverage for property damage.
  • Underinsured Motorist (UIM) Coverage includes products that cover costs associated with either injury or property damage in the event of an accident should the person at fault have insufficient insurance coverage (per state requirements). It’s more common to come across underinsured motorist bodily injury coverage than coverage for underinsured motorist property damage. In fact, underinsured motorist bodily injury coverage is required in some states.

Basic #2: Collision coverage

Collision coverage pays for damages to your vehicle in the event of a car accident (not to be confused with liability coverage as liability coverage pays for damages to the other driver’s car if you are liable).

Basic #3: Comprehensive coverage

Comprehensive coverage is car insurance coverage that pays for damages that aren’t associated with an accident. It covers damages incurred by things like vandalism, theft, and hail.

If those are the basics, what other auto insurance products are out there?

Roadside assistance, glass repair, rental car insurance, and accident forgiveness are just some of the optional insurance products available for you to discover.

Of course, discovering the best options takes time and the industry is always changing. Advanced insurance comparison platforms like Insurify are guiding shoppers to their most optimal policies by crunching industry data (including available policy options) with an individual’s unique circumstances in less than a few minutes. Browse, compare quotes, and discover new providers with Insurify today!

The best coverage is more than full. It’s optimized.

While full coverage auto insurance remains open to interpretation, an optimized policy is exact – tailored to a policy holder’s needs at that specific time and place. The bottom line? You don’t have to guess anymore. Understanding insurance coverage is easier than you think.

Knowledge is power. You’re now in control.

Jeannette Wisniewski is a technology writer whose passion is encouraging people to engage with technology by making it more understandable and more interesting. Though she enjoys writing business copy for a wide range of subjects, she is most inspired by emerging tech and its applications. She is a graduate of San Jose State University, a Georgia Peach at heart, and happy to call Boise, ID home.