Full coverage car insurance goes above and beyond just paying for damage that you do to other people's property. Adding collision and comprehensive coverage to your policy also protects your car against damage that you do to it. Full coverage doesn't protect you against everything that could happen, though, and you may still want to purchase additional optional coverage on top of it.
A full coverage policy also includes basic liability coverage. This type of insurance pays for damage that you do to other people or their property. Typically, your liability coverage has a deductible, which is an amount you have to pay before your insurance starts kicking in, and a maximum that it will pay. For instance, if you have a liability policy with $100,000 in bodily injury coverage, $50,000 in property damage coverage and a $500 deductible, you'll have to pay $500 before your insurance starts to cover expenses. If you hit someone else's $35,000 car and total it, your insurance will pay the $35,000. It also will pay for, as an example, $25,000 in medical expenses, $20,000 in missed work, and $20,000 in pain and suffering, since those three expenses add up to $65,000, which is less than your policy limit. Usually, liability coverage is mandated by your state's laws.
Collision coverage pays to repair your car if it gets damaged when hitting something else. When you're in an accident and ruled at fault, it's what pays to fix your car. If you drive into a tree, you're also covered by your collision insurance. Typically, your collision coverage will pay to fix your car up to its value. If the cost of fixing your car is more than the insurance company thinks it's worth, it will "total" the car and pay you -- or your car's lender -- the car's value instead of fixing it.
Comprehensive coverage pays when something happens to your car that isn't related to a collision. If it gets damaged in a hailstorm, a vandal breaks your window or your car is stolen, for example, your comprehensive coverage will pay off. Like collision coverage, though, the insurer will pay to fix your car or pay its value, whichever is less.
Beyond Full Coverage
Full coverage doesn't pay for everything, though. When you buy a full-coverage policy, it might not include coverage against getting hit by a driver that either doesn't have any insurance or doesn't have enough of it. It also might not include money to pay for medical expenses that you or your passengers incur. Most insurance policies don't pay to replace or repair extensive customizations for your car and don't include coverage for additional services such as roadside assistance or a rental car while your car is being fixed.
Steve Lander has been a writer since 1996, with experience in the fields of financial services, real estate and technology. His work has appeared in trade publications such as the "Minnesota Real Estate Journal" and "Minnesota Multi-Housing Association Advocate." Lander holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Columbia University.