Comprehensive auto insurance sounds like a great deal. After all, who wouldn’t want an auto insurance policy that’s “comprehensive”?

Surprisingly, comprehensive coverage pays to repair only a few, very narrowly defined problems — but these problems can be costly.

Here are five key benefits of comprehensive auto coverage:

1. It pays to replace your car if it’s stolen.

Could you afford to buy another car like the one you had if yours was stolen and not recovered? If the answer is no, you should probably have comprehensive coverage. And if you’ve financed the car, your lender likely requires you to have a policy.

Note that standard comprehensive coverage doesn’t pay for a brand-new car, just reimburses you for the value of the one that was stolen. You can find your car’s current value through sites such as NADAguides.

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2. It pays to repair damage from animal collisions.

This is one of the many ways in which auto insurance can be confusing: “Collision coverage” doesn’t pay to repair damage to your car if that collision is with an animal. That scenario falls under comprehensive coverage.

Deer strikes tend to get the most attention, but your car could be severely damaged by a collision with another wild animal, such as a moose, a large domestic animal, such as a dog, or even livestock.

If you’d want insurance to pay for your smashed fender, dented hood and broken windshield, you should buy comprehensive coverage.

3. It pays to repair weather damage.

Golf ball-sized hail could leave dents all over your car. Or a tornado could pick it up and drop it a few houses down. Comprehensive coverage pays for car repairs due to either of these scenarios. If your car is totaled by a weather-related event, your insurer will issue you a check for its value.

4. It pays to repair flood damage.

Water can destroy your vehicle’s mechanical parts and upholstery — and if there’s enough damage, it could be considered totaled. This is when comprehensive coverage would kick in. Think this is a far-fetched problem? About 20% of flood insurance claims come from areas considered low or moderate risk, according to the National Flood Insurance Program.

5. It pays to repair fire damage.

Roadside car fires are a staple of morning traffic reports, and they’re inevitably accompanied by rubbernecking delays. But if this happens to your car, comprehensive insurance would pay to replace it.

Comprehensive coverage also pays to repair damage caused by vandalism or falling objects, such as tree branches.

No matter what prompts a comprehensive claim, your insurer will reduce the amount it pays on your claim by your deductible, which typically ranges from $250 to $2,000. If you don’t recall what that amount is, check your auto policy’s declarations page.

Remember that if your car is totaled, you’ll receive what it was valued at right before the incident, minus the deductible. That means that the value of comprehensive coverage decreases as your car ages. If your car is older and isn’t worth very much, it may no longer make sense to pay for the coverage.

Need comprehensive insurance? NerdWallet’s car insurance comparison tool can help you easily compare rates.


Amy Danise is an editor at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: adanise@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @AmyDanise.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by Forbes.