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What is comprehensive car insurance?

A comprehensive car insurance policy provides the highest level of protection of the available types of cover in Australia. It could cover you for damage to your vehicle as well as damage to other driver’s vehicles or property.

Furthermore, it can cover damage to your vehicle caused by fires, storms and hail, and replacement costs if your vehicle is stolen. A comprehensive policy can cover the cost of repairs regardless of which party is responsible for the damage. Depending on your policy, it could also include features like windshield replacement and a complimentary hire car while yours is getting repaired.

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What does comprehensive car insurance usually cover?

Comprehensive car insurance covers your vehicle in the case of accidents, theft and fire. It packages up more exclusive features than any other type of car insurance available in Australia, such as emergency accommodation and transport following an accident. Comprehensive car insurance generally covers the following:

IncludedOptional extras
Car accident and collision damage No excess or reduced excess on windscreen damage
Theft (also covers damages from vandalism)Hire car cover
Legal liability for damage or loss to a third partyAdditional personal effects cover
Fire, hail, storm, flood and weather related damages Emergency transport & accommodation cover
TowingRoadside assistance
Fire damage
New car replacement (if the car is a write-off)

You can view the full terms and conditions of coverage and optional extras in the policy documents.

This table highlights the differences in cover between a comprehensive policy and other car insurance policies:

Insurance typeCollision damageDamage to another person’s car or propertyDamage or loss caused by theftInjuries or death to other people in an accident
Green Slip (i.e. CTP)NoNoNoYes
Third Party PropertyNoYesNoNo
Third Party Fire & TheftNoYesYesNo

How much does comprehensive cover cost?

Multiple variables can influence the average cost of comprehensive car insurance, and your insurer will calculate your premium based on these.

Common factors that are likely to impact the cost of your premium are:

Age of driver

Your experience as a driver can make a significant impact to the price of your policy. Most insurers have policies tailored around specific life stages. Younger drivers can expect to pay more for premiums as they are statistically more likely to be involved in road accidents than other age demographics.

Driving record and claim history

Your driving history makes a huge difference to your premium. This encompasses whether you’re a low kilometre driver (i.e. retiree or public transport dweller), if your car is being used for business purposes, or you qualify as a “safe driver” (if you haven’t made an at-fault claim against your policy for a set period of time).

The vehicle you drive

Comprehensive insurance premiums vary depending on the type, make and model of car you drive. High-powered engines, modifications, vintage or specialty cars, will likely increase your premium. As a general rule, if it’s expensive to replace, it’s expensive to insure.

Where you park

Your address and postcode impact the cost of your premium. Insurance companies also take into account if your car is securely parked (e.g. in a garage or off-street carport) or if it’s parked unsecured on streets.

Your excess

Your excess is a payment you will need to make in the event of an at-fault claim. Generally, the higher your excess payment, the lower your premium will be. This excess is what you pay to the repairer or insurer.

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Are there any exclusions with comprehensive cover?

Exclusions are provisions on your car insurance policy that nullify coverage when it’s time to claim.

Exclusions can be found in the finer details of an insurance policy. Make sure you are aware of common exclusions within your policy so your cover isn’t void when it’s time to claim.

Typical exclusions to look out for include:

  • Intentional damage to your vehicle
  • Driving a car that isn’t roadworthy (e.g. defective brakes/lights, worn tyres)
  • Damage caused by an unlicensed driver
  • Damaged caused when you’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

If you’re unsure about any specific details of your car insurance policy, always check your Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) or contact your insurer.

FAQs about comprehensive car insurance in Australia

What optional extras are available for a comprehensive policy?

It all depends on what’s important to you and, of course, your car. There will typically be a range of extra car insurance options to add to your policy.

If you’re interested in taking out extra cover for additional peace of mind, some of your options may include:

  • Emergency costs. In the event of an emergency, there could be many unexpected costs. However, your insurer could pay accommodation expenses, or emergency travel if your car is immobile and requires towing outside of your home’s 100-kilometre radius.
  • Accident hire car. If your car is undriveable or written off, a complimentary hire car provides you with wheels while you wait for your car to be fixed or replaced, so you’re not left stranded.
  • Additional personal effects cover. Some standard comprehensive policies cover personal effects that are lost, stolen or damaged while inside a vehicle but you may have the option to get additional coverage. For example, if your car is broken into and an expensive possession (such as a laptop or baby capsule) are stolen, your car insurance may not completely cover the replacement costs unless you purchased additional personal effects cover. Limits and restrictions may apply and vary between insurers.
  • Roadside assistance. If your car breaks down, you run out of fuel, or you puncture a tyre, you’ll be paying out-of-pocket expenses for repairs and (possibly) a tow truck. Adding roadside assistance coverage to your existing comprehensive policy could help with these various mechanical or electrical issues for you, including breakdowns (and battery issues), lockouts, bogs, flat tyres and – in some cases – emergency fuel.
  • Replacement of keys. If you’re habitually losing your car keys or if they get stolen, replacement keys might be an option, if it is not already included in your comprehensive car insurance policy. Some insurers will cover the costs of replacing your keys or keyless entries up to a set amount listed on your policy.
  • Windscreen excess waiver. If there is accidental damage to the window glass or windscreen on your car, you would pay a specific excess for repairs. A windscreen excess waiver can save you that cost when getting your windscreen repaired or replaced.

Can I choose to insure my car for an agreed value with comprehensive car insurance?

Many insurers provide the option for car owners to insure their car for an agreed value. This means that, should you need to make a claim (e.g. for accidental damage, vandalism, fire, theft or total loss), and your car is unrepairable or it is not economically viable to repair your car, you’ll get that agreed value minus any applicable excess payments.

Generally, car insurance protects your car against specific events for the car’s market value, which is what it’s worth at the time of the incident.

Can I choose the excess on my car insurance?

You can choose a higher or lower excess, which will affect your car insurance premium. While the savings offered by reducing your excess can be tempting, make sure you weigh up the potential savings against the risk of making a claim, because the higher the excess, the more you will be left out of pocket if something happens to your car.

Does comprehensive insurance cover me if I’m driving other cars?

A comprehensive car insurance policy insures your vehicle – not you.

Therefore, you’re not covered by this policy if you use another motor vehicle and get into an accident. However, if you’re listed on this other vehicle’s insurance policy as a driver, you may be covered by that vehicle’s policy, depending on which one it is.

Like other insurance policies, you’re only covered for driving the vehicle which the policy insures. Depending on your policy and insurer, you may have other people nominated as drivers who will be covered in the event of an accident.

Full disclosure to your insurer is always encouraged to avoid any confusion or nullifying your cover altogether.

Can I get comprehensive car insurance with roadside assistance?

You can opt for a comprehensive car insurance policy with roadside assistance as an optional extra, which may cost you more. Depending on your insurer and level of cover, roadside assistance usually includes mobile technicians, towing and optional extras such as emergency accommodation with additional taxi fares.

Most insurers offer roadside assistance as an option with comprehensive cover, and it’s your responsibility to read through the policy’s terms and conditions to understand what you’re covered for.

Does comprehensive car insurance cover learner drivers?

Third Party Property Damage (TPPD), Third Party Fire and Theft (TPFT) and comprehensive car insurance can all cover learner drivers. Generally, the learner driver will need to be listed on their parent or guardian’s insurance policy as an additional driver of the vehicle, so you avoid paying an additional excess payment for an unlisted driver.

Should an incident occur while the learner is behind the wheel, an additional excess payment may apply for having a young driver under a certain age (e.g. 21 years old).

All the applicable excess payments and rules regarding cover for learner drivers will be listed in your policy documents.

Do you need CTP insurance if you have comprehensive cover?

Yes, you need Compulsory Third Party (CTP) insurance as it covers you for you cause to others (the third party) in a motor vehicle accident. Comprehensive car insurance does not offer this type of cover.

CTP insurance is, as the name suggests, compulsory. It’s a legal requirement upon registering your vehicle in Australia to take out this cover. It covers your liability against personal injury or death you cause in a motor vehicle incident.

So, if you’re in an accident where you’re at fault and someone gets injured, your CTP protects you. It does not cover damage to vehicles or other people’s property, which is why it’s important to have comprehensive car insurance to safeguard you if your car is damaged or stolen, or if you damage a third party’s vehicle.

Is comprehensive car insurance compulsory in Australia?

Comprehensive car insurance is not compulsory in Australia. It’s a legal requirement for every car owner in Australia, to have Compulsory Third Party (CTP) insurance as a bare minimum of cover. This is included in your registration fees (in some states).

Comprehensive cover does provide greater protection from significant repair and replacement costs and may save you money in many different situations (e.g. traffic accidents, thefts, storms).

How to make a comprehensive car insurance claim

Making a claim on your comprehensive car insurance is usually a simple process. It’s a good idea to keep your insurance details in your car or on your phone, so they’re always on hand in case you’re involved in an accident.

Exchange details with other parties involved in an incident, and then contact your insurer. If possible, take photos at the location of the accident and the damage.

In an emergency situation, contact 000 immediately.

Most insurers provide a 24/7 claims lodgement and assistance service over the phone or online. You can contact them and they can help you through the process.

The severity of the damage to your vehicle may determine how your claim is assessed. If the incident is minor, your insurer make ask you to take your vehicle to one of several nominated repairers to be fixed.

If the incident is more severe, your car may need to be examined by your insurer’s assessor. Suppose your vehicle is not in a drivable or roadworthy condition due to the nature of the damage. In that case, your insurer may arrange to have it towed directly to their facility for a claims assessment.

It’s crucial that you always read the insurer’s Product Disclosure Statement (PDS), which outlines the conditions of cover including information about:

  • What your policy covers you for, and your responsibilities to meet these conditions;
  • Your duty to disclose all information asked of you both at a policy purchase and renewal level; and
  • Understanding your policy benefits, features and entitlements.

Is there an excess to pay when I claim on comprehensive car insurance?

A car insurance excess is the sum of money you pay when you make an at-fault claim on your policy. The remaining cost for repairs or replacement is then covered by your insurer. There’s technically a limit on what your insurer will cover.

Comprehensive policies are not exempt to excess. The most common types of insurance excess are:

  • Standard excess: An out-of-pocket expense when you make an at-fault claim;
  • Voluntary excess: You agree to pay a specified amount in addition to another excess, perhaps in exchange for a cheaper monthly premium;
  • Age/inexperienced driver excess: A different excess for younger, less experienced drivers. These can be more expensive than a standard excess;
  • Undeclared or unlisted driver excess: An excess that applies when the claim is the fault of a driver who is not listed on your comprehensive car insurance policy; and
  • Glass/windscreen excess: You can opt for a reduced windscreen excess or even a ‘free’ windscreen replacement. However, this option may cost you more in premiums each month.

Having a higher excess is usually attractive with safer drivers, as it decreases your premium, and vice versa with a smaller excess. Lowering or increasing your excess is entirely your choice, so it’s a good idea to regularly review this to align with your circumstances.

Your insurer should advise you if an excess payment is required when you make a claim. It’s important to keep in mind that different insurers have different excess amounts, as stipulated by your policy.

Do comprehensive car insurance policies offer a no claim bonus?

While this depends on the insurer, it’s common for those with comprehensive car insurance policies to have a no claim bonus or discount. If you don’t make a claim over a certain number of years (which may take affect after one period of insurance or a couple years in a row), you could get a discount on your car insurance premiums.

The no claims discount (NCD) can compound for up to five years. Making a claim at any time during or after these first five years will reset your discount. No claim bonuses and discounts are sometimes available on Third Party Property Damage (TPPD) and Third Party Fire and Theft (TPFT) car insurance policies as well.

How to claim discounts and lower your premium

Discounts and cheaper insurance policies apply to customers that satisfy certain requirements, especially those who minimise their ‘risk profile’. For example, drivers who don’t travel more than 15,000 kilometres per year in their insured vehicle may qualify for a low-kilometre policy.

How to cancel your comprehensive policy

You can cancel your policy at any time. You’ll need to contact your insurer and notify them of your intentions. They’ll usually specify how you need to notify them (e.g. email, letter or phone call).

Be aware that some policies may have cancellation fees. If you decide to cancel your policy, you may qualify for a refund on the unexpired parts of your premium, less any fees your insurer has stipulated on your policy’s Product Disclosure Statement (PDS).

Stephen Zeller, General Manager

Meet our car insurance expert, Stephen Zeller

As Compare the Market’s car insurance expert, Stephen wants all consumers to have a better understanding of the value of their comprehensive car insurance, and the power of choice offered through comparison.

Stephen has more than 30 years of experience in the financial services industry, and is an Allied Member of the Australian and New Zealand Institute of Insurance and Finance (ANZIIF) and helps review general insurance content on Compare the Market to ensure it accurately breaks down complex insurance topics.

Stephen’s top tips for comprehensive car insurance

  1. Many insurance providers offer discounts if you hold multiple policies with them. You may want to consider bundling different insurance products together, such as car and home and contents insurance to take advantage.
  2. Adjusting your excess payment will change what premium you pay up front. Choosing a higher excess will lower your premium, and is worth considering if you’re comfortable with a higher excess in the event of a claim.
  3. Look for the new price change section when your policy is up for renewal. New changes mean all car insurance renewal notices must clearly state the difference in price compared to what you paid last year – though it might not be on the front page.
  4. Many insurers will honour your no claim discount if you switch over to them. This makes it easier to compare and switch, which car owners should do regularly to ensure they’re on a good deal.
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