Shuman Roy is an entrepreneur, business owner, and musician. He started RoysNoys, LLC in 2013 as a music production and education service company. He also offers small business consulting and advisory services to help businesses get from start-up mode to turn-key operations. Shuman earned his M.B.A from the Stern School of Business in 2001 and has an undergraduate degree from Manhattan College in ...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity-backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Joel...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder, CFP®

UPDATED: Jul 19, 2021

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Understanding auto insurance coverage can prove to be very complicated for the average Joe.

Insurers consistently create and market new products under various names in order to get a leg up on their competition.

Whether it’s accident or ticket forgiveness, new car replacement…or even better car replacement, there’s plenty to keep up with.

But what about good ole’ “full coverage?” What exactly does it mean and is it enough to ensure you’re fully protected?

Both good questions. So let’s clear things up a bit.

Full Coverage Insurance Basics

The basic personal auto insurance policy is broken down into two main types of coverage, including liability and physical damage.

Simply put, you are said to have “full coverage” when you purchase both liability and physical damage for any one vehicle. Easy enough, right?

[Full coverage vs. liability only auto insurance coverage.]

However, each of these coverage types can be broken down into a few other coverage types on top of that. But more on that in a minute.

Tip: It is possible to have full coverage on one vehicle and liability-only on a different vehicle on the same policy.

But the limits of liability you choose will be the same for every vehicle on an auto policy.

Part 1: Liability Coverage

Liability insurance is currently mandatory in most every state. This minimum coverage type pays for bodily injury and property damage you cause to other people.

In short, liability coverage is designed to “pay back” people you have physically injured OR to fix/replace OTHER PEOPLE’S property that you may have damaged.

For example, if you have liability-only auto insurance and cause an accident that injures someone else and damages their car, your insurance company will pay for the damages up to you policy liability limits.

Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist –Liability Coverage

The argument could also be made that you need to purchase uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage as well to be truly “fully covered,” but it depends on whom you ask.

UM and UIM are considered a liability coverage part on the personal auto insurance policy…even though you, as the insured, are not at-fault for damages.

Basically, your insurer is agreeing to be “liable” to you for bodily injury and property damage you suffer as a result of a third-party’s negligence – who either has no insurance, doesn’t have high enough liability limits to cover the damage they cause, or simply hit-and-ran!

Part 2: Physical Damage Coverage

At the same time, purchasing liability-only coverage would not pay for any damage you cause to your own vehicle. So without the physical damage coverage part added to your policy, you’d be out of luck.

This is where “full coverage” comes into play. You would need to purchase physical damage coverage in addition to your liability coverage in order to repair your own vehicle in the event it is damaged by you or an act of God.

Note: If someone else causes an accident that damages your car, their liability insurance would pay to repair or replace it.

Physical damage coverage is further broken down into collision and comprehensive coverage, or “other than collision” coverage.

[What is the difference between collision and comprehensive coverage?]

So take the time to break it all down to ensure you fully understand the coverage afforded.

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Final Word on Full Coverage Auto Insurance

There is no universally agreed upon definition for “full coverage.”

But at the end of the day, most will define it as having both liability and physical damage coverage on your vehicle.

However, there may still be benefits to paying for additional coverage types on your policy to ensure you’re properly covered.

You may choose to add Personal Injury Protection, Medical Payments coverage, Auto Death Indemnity, Gap coverage…and so on, depending on your unique auto insurance needs.

[Personal injury protection vs. Med Pay]

So be sure to contact your independent agent or insurer if you have questions about your current insurance coverage, or want to make changes as a result of reading this article.