Comprehensive insurance will step in when most other types of car insurance won’t, but despite its name, it doesn’t cover everything. Comprehensive auto insurance, or “other than collision” (OTC) as it’s also known, covers certain types of non-collision damage to your vehicle.

Damage caused by fire, flood, theft, animals and even riots can be very expensive, and if you’re not carrying comprehensive, the entire repair cost will fall on you. In 2014, the average comprehensive claim in the United States was $1,567, but for a deer collision the average claim skyrockets to $2,730.

Compared to those numbers, the cost of this type of coverage seems like a true bargain. According to the Insurance Information Institute, the average premium for comprehensive auto insurance in the United States is $136 per year.

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Comprehensive insurance does the heavy lifting when your vehicle is damaged by something other than a collision. Unlike liability coverage, this insurance is optional and is not required by any state.

Events that are included in the definition of comprehensive insurance include weather (think hailstorm, earthquake, flood or tornado damage), fire, vandalism, theft and damage from running into an animal.

This insurance doesn’t just protect you against deer strikes and hailstorms. Here are 5 surprising things that are also covered:

1. Defect-related fires: According to data from the National Fire Protection Association, between 2006 and 2010 there were roughly 152,300 vehicle fires per year in the United States, causing $536 million in property damage. Mechanical failures, electrical failures and malfunctions were factors in roughly two-thirds of those fires. Fire damage can be extensive and very expensive; luckily, comprehensive covers all types of fire damage.

2. Rodent damage: Damage done by squirrels, mice and other rodents happens more often than you might imagine, and repairs can be expensive. Rodents tend to hang out in the engine compartment and use their razor-sharp teeth to cut through wiring harnesses or fuel lines. This can cause issues with the electrical or fuel systems. Comprehensive car insurance covers the repair bills.

3. Riots: If you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, you may find your car flipped, set on fire, or all of the windows smashed out. Riots do happen, and protests and victory celebrations can quickly spiral out of control. Riot damage can result in a completely totaled car, or at least some very expensive repairs. Comprehensive is the only insurance coverage that will pay for riot damage.

4. Animal Contact: There are roughly 1.5 million vehicle collisions that involve deer every year, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These accidents can be costly, with the cost of a deer-related claim averaging $2,730.While deer are by far the most common animals that vehicles come in contact with, they are not the only wild beasts that can damage a car. Regardless of the animal, comprehensive auto insurance will step up and cover repair costs.

5. Broken Windshields: Cracked and broken windshields happen fairly often. A rock puts a small ding in your windshield and the next thing you know there is a large crack. Comprehensive covers a new windshield, and most companies even offer a no-deductible option.

How to Decide If You Need Comprehensive Car Insurance

Since comprehensive coverage is never mandated by states, it’s up to you to decide whether it’s worth the extra cost. According to the Insurance Information Institute, roughly 77% of U.S. drivers purchase this coverage.

If you have a loan or are leasing a vehicle, comprehensive may not be optional, as most lenders require full coverage (which includes comprehensive) on the vehicle until the loan is paid.

Here are a few things to consider when making your decision:

  • What’s the value of your car? This is a big factor. If you are driving a fairly new ride, comprehensive insurance should be a given. The cost of repairs to a newer car can be dramatic, making comprehensive a good deal. As a car ages, this may not make financial sense. If you would replace your car instead of repairing it if it was damaged in an accident, you can probably drop comprehensive and collision. If you are unsure of your car’s value, check the Kelley Blue Book.
  • What are the odds of a claim? The risk of making a comprehensive claim can vary depending on where you live. In West Virginia, for example, your odds of hitting a deer are 1 in 44 (the highest in the country), making comprehensive auto insurance a good idea. Consider what it covers and look at the local risk factors in your particular area.
  • Can you afford to repair your car? Would paying for major repairs or completely replacing your vehicle out-of-pocket cause extreme financial hardship? If the answer is yes, the peace of mind that comprehensive can provide is probably well worth the cost.

What Won’t Comprehensive Cover?

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While comprehensive insurance covers a lot, it doesn’t cover everything. In fact, some of the things it doesn’t cover might surprise you.

  • Personal belongings: Comprehensive will pay to replace the window the thieves broke, but it won’t replace the iPad you left lying on the front seat. It covers repairs to the vehicle if it is vandalized or stolen, but you will be on the hook for any personal belongings in the vehicle.
  • Paying off your loan: If your car is totaled, a comprehensive policy will pay out the current market value of the vehicle, minus your deductible. Depending on how much the car has depreciated, it’s possible that you could owe more on your loan than the payout amount, leaving you on the hook for the difference.
  • Custom equipment and parts: Comprehensive auto insurance will not cover any custom parts or equipment that have been added to the vehicle. Custom parts and equipment include but are not limited to: Custom seats, technology upgrades such as TVs, DVD players, gaming consoles and car stereos, custom rims, tires, paint and spoilers, any type of performance upgrades, including engine and exhaust systems, any modifications for disabled drivers or passengers, including wheelchair lifts
  • Commercial Use: All standard personal auto policies exclude commercial activities. This means that if you are using your personal vehicle for business purposes such as delivering food or products, or transporting people for hire with Uber or Lyft, your comprehensive claim will be denied.
  • People living in your home but not on your policy: Standard car insurance will protect you and other direct members of your household. It does not cover people who live in your house full time but are not listed on your policy.

How Do I Choose the Most Cost-Effective Comprehensive Insurance?

Comprehensive auto coverage comes with a deductible that must be paid before making a claim. Common deductible amounts are $250, $500 or $1,000 per claim. When choosing the right deductible for your situation, there are a few factors to consider. A higher deductible results in a lower premium. New or luxury vehicles tend to be expensive to insure, so keeping your deductible high may keep the premium more affordable.

In the quest for an affordable premium, you should never choose a deductible that will be a financial hardship if you need to make a claim. If the deductible will clear out your savings account, it’s best to keep your premium a bit higher.

As a car ages, you may want to rethink the deductible or comprehensive altogether. If you are paying $750 a year to add comprehensive and collision to your policy with a $500 deductible and your vehicle is only worth $2,000, your insurer will cut you a claim check for $1,500 if your vehicle is totaled, hardly worth the $750 a year you are paying for coverage.

Comprehensive car insurance is a great choice for most car owners. Contact one of our Trusted Choice® agents to determine if this type of coverage is right for you. Our agents can examine your particular situation to determine what insurance policy would be best for you and provide several quotes to choose from.