No matter how careful you may drive, or what safety features your vehicle may have, car accidents are an unfortunate part of the average person’s life. In the blink of an eye, a distracted driver can run a red light, or miss a stop sign, resulting in an accident with another driver. In this situation, collision insurance becomes a critical part of returning to normal.

Even though you may not think much about collision insurance, the odds are good that you will need it at some point in your life. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that in 2018 alone, there were a total of 6.7 million traffic accidents reported in the United States. That equates to an average of nearly 13 accidents every minute, or 202 accidents for every 100 million miles driven by all vehicles on public highways.

But what is collision insurance? By understanding how this part of your car insurance works, you can be better prepared to take on whatever life may throw at you in the future.

What is Collision Car Insurance? 

Simply put, collision insurance is designed to cover losses to your vehicle in the event it crashes into another object. To file a collision insurance claim, you may not necessarily need to hit another vehicle. Depending on the situation, collision car insurance may cover accidents with stationary objects, or if you accidentally lose control of your car and roll it over.

For example, let’s say you are driving home on a cold winter night — you don’t notice a patch of ice over the road, and suddenly lose control of your vehicle. If you end up spinning out and hitting a guardrail, your collision car insurance may cover the cost of repairs to your vehicle.

Unfortunately, not all accidents are covered by collision insurance. In another example, imagine driving down a winding country road. Without warning, a deer jumps in front of you, and you hit it with your car. The damages caused by the deer accident may not be covered by collision car insurance, because animal damage is covered by comprehensive insurance benefits. But if you were to swerve to miss the deer and end up hitting a tree, collision coverage could offer benefits to repair the damages from the accident with a stationary object.

Collision Insurance - Two People Calling Insurance After An Accident

Is Collision Insurance the Same as Liability Insurance? 

Although they may sound similar, your collision insurance benefit is different from liability insurance. To start, collision car insurance is not considered a requirement for minimum coverage in any state, whereas liability insurance is usually required in some form regardless of where you live. Contacting your state’s motor vehicle office or an insurance agent from The General® can help you determine exactly how much coverage you need.

Collision insurance and liability insurance work in tandem to cover different situations you may face. While auto collision insurance may cover the damages or losses to your vehicle, liability insurance may provide coverage if you are found “at fault” for an accident. Liability insurance often includes coverage for damages to someone else’s property caused by your vehicle, or for bodily injury caused to other drivers involved in your crash.

Is Collision Insurance the Same as Comprehensive Coverage? 

If you have ever financed a car, you may hear your insurance agent talking about requirements for both collision insurance and comprehensive insurance. Again, while they sound very similar, they are intended to cover different situations.

While collision insurance may cover costs associated with physical damage repair to your car as the result of an accident, it doesn’t cover everything that could happen. If a natural disaster (like a tornado or hurricane) causes parts of a roof, or even another car, to hit your vehicle and cause damages, collision coverage may not pay for repairs.

The same is true for other incidents, like a fire, falling objects, or damage caused by animals. For example: If your vehicle is parked in a garage, and the structure goes up in flames, collision coverage may not pay to repair damages or replace the vehicle, because it didn’t hit anything.

Instead of relying on collision coverage, comprehensive car insurance covers many other situations that you may not be able to reasonably predict. These situations usually include damages caused by vandalism, a civil disturbance or protest, theft, or natural disasters.

Is Collision Car Insurance Mandatory? 

In many statesbasic car insurance coverage is the combination of property damage liability insurance, bodily injury liability insurance, coverage for damages caused by uninsured or underinsured motorists. Some states may also require personal injury protection coverage. No states require drivers to have collision insurance as part of their minimum coverage.

But just because the state doesn’t require you to have collision insurance, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have it as part of your car insurance. If you were to get into an accident and not have collision coverage, you would be responsible for paying for any repairs to your car. While superficial body damage can cost hundreds of dollars, making repairs to vital systems like the engine or suspension could range into the thousands.

If you purchased your car or truck with financing, your lender could require you to have both collision coverage and comprehensive coverage on your car. Banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions require collision insurance in the event your vehicle is damaged or a total loss, so that they may be able to recover towards the amount due on your loan. Your lender is typically listed as a lienholder on your car insurance policy so that it may seek compensation under your collision or comprehensive coverage. If your vehicle is “totaled” in a collision and you do not hold any auto collision insurance, you could face out-of-pocket expenses for any amounts remaining due on the loan.

Generally speaking, having collision insurance is a good idea, because the potential benefits might significantly outweigh the cost. If you drive an older vehicle that does not have a high value, you could save money by dropping collision coverage from your policy. Before you do, discuss your situation with an insurance agent to make sure you’re maintaining the optimal amount of insurance to fit your lifestyle.

What Factors into My Collision Insurance Premium? 

When you go shopping for car insurance online, your collision insurance premium is based on several different factors. They may include the year, make, and model of your car or truck, the safety features installed on the vehicle, where you park your vehicle, and the average number of miles you drive in it every year.

In addition, your driving record may play a part in how much you may pay for collision coverage. If you have a clean record without tickets or accidents, you could qualify for the best rates available.

On the downside, a bad driving record with driving infractions or accidents could drive your collision coverage premiums upward, depending on the number of incidents and their severity. Even if the accident was not your fault, being involved could be seen as a higher risk, resulting in an increased premium.

In most states, an accident will stay on your driving record for between three to five years. Before you start shopping around for collision car insurance, be sure to clear your driving record to help you get better rates. For instance: If you do have an accident on your driving record, taking a defensive driving course could help you reduce your premiums.

Get the Collision Coverage You Need from The General®

No matter what you drive or your driving history, The General® can help you get the right amount of collision coverage for your driving style. Even if your record is less than perfect, The General® can help you customize a policy to keep you covered on the road. Get a quote today, and start saving time and money on your auto insurance plan now.