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What's the difference between full coverage and state minimum car insurance?
The most common question related to car insurance is, "how much coverage do I need?" Whether or not you need full coverage or liability largely depends on how you own your vehicle, the value of your vehicle, your desired coverage level. If your car is leased, the dealership or bank — the actual owner of the vehicle — typically will dictate minimum insurance requirements. If you own your vehicle outright, you'll have more flexibility in carrying the state minimum coverage or opting for additional coverage, like collision and comprehensive. Generally, if your vehicle is worth more than $4,000, you should add comprehensive and collision to your insurance policy.
If your vehicle is worth less than $4,000, you should consider removing your full coverage. As you can see with our data below, full coverage can increase your premium by 103% or $370!
Because car insurance laws are written and enforced at the state level, your state minimum liability coverage will vary based on your location. Most U.S. states mandate the following:
Each state mandates specific, required coverage levels for each of the above insurance types. You'll need to meet or exceed your state's minimum coverage levels to drive legally.
While state minimum auto insurance is straightforward, “full coverage” is a bit of a misnomer. “Full coverage” isn’t really a technical or accurate way to describe a car insurance policy — it usually denotes comprehensive and collision insurance, but can also comprise rental reimbursement and roadside assistance coverage.
One major difference between state minimum and full coverages concerns who is covered. State minimum auto insurance generally includes liability coverage only, i.e., damage you cause to others. Full coverage insures both you and your vehicle. So when do you need full coverage, and when will liability-only car insurance suffice?
Generally, full coverage offers much more in terms of coverage. However, it will greately increase your premium. So, if you don't need comprehensive coverage, it is not better for you. Let's explore this further.
You will be required to carry “full coverage” car insurance if you’re financing your vehicle. Since another entity — usually a bank or auto dealership — maintains an interest in the vehicle, they get to decide how the car is insured. Auto leasing and financing companies generally require collision and comprehensive coverage with low deductibles.
If you own your vehicle, you have complete control over your insurance. If you’re unsure of what coverage to select, consider your vehicle's value. Use an estimator like the Kelley Blue Book to assess the value of your vehicle and determine how much coverage you need.
If your vehicle is worth more than $4,000, collision and comprehensive coverage are recommended. Without these coverages, you would not receive compensation if your vehicle was severely damaged or totaled.
Below is a break down of average premiums by coverage level. If you opt to boost your coverage from the minimum amount to add comprehensive and collision, expect to pay over double what you were paying for just the state-required minimum amount of liability. This disparity in pricing is less apparent if you already carry comp and collision coverage. Whether you have a $500 or $1000 deductible, the difference in premium between coverage levels maxes out at about 29%.
In order to see which company is the cheapest for full coverage and state minimums, we developed a methodology (outlined here) and surveyed some top insurance companies. On average, adding full coverage to your vehicle will set you back over $1,200 annually.
|Company||Full coverage 6-month premium||State minimum liability only 6-month premium|
If you're looking to save the most on full coverage, USAA was the cheapest for our user profile, with Liberty Mutual coming in second. If minimum coverage is most towards your liking, State Farm and USAA will be your cheapest options. Keep in mind, these values are estimates. Your location, vehicle, age, and driving history will impact your premium. If you're really interested in seeing insurance costs for full coverage versus the state minimum, enter your zipcode below and compare prices in The Zebra's insurance search engine.
Each state requires its own liability laws. Below are average six-month premiums for each state's minimum liability limit versus a "full coverage" policy. By full coverage, we are using 50/100/50 liability limits and comprehensive and collision deductibles at $500 each — a fairly average coverage level across the US. Click on your state to learn more.
|State||State Minimum Liability||% and $ Difference||Full Coverage|
|Alaska||$229.50||161% or $369||$599.00|
|Alabama||$322.65||200% or $646||$969.57|
|Arkansas||$316.32||275% or $871||$1,188.10|
|Arizona||$289.60||195% or $566||$855.95|
|California||$262.42||216% or $567||$830.24|
|Colorado||$318.50||164% or $522||$841.00|
|Connecticut||$368.50||110% or $406||$775.00|
|Washington, D.C.||$334.50||123% or $413||$748.00|
|Delaware||$505.50||81% or $408||$914.00|
|Florida||$622.39||105% or $657||$1,279.84|
|Georgia||$320.77||204% or $655||$975.77|
|Hawaii||$294.00||214% or $631||$925.30|
|Iowa||$179.81||346% or $621||$801.65|
|Idaho||$193.26||281% or $543||$735.95|
|Illinois||$319.75||178% or $570||$890.15|
|Indiana||$218.09||241% or $527||$745.02|
|Kansas||$275.41||287% or $790||$1,065.48|
|Kentucky||$399.57||198% or $793||$1,193.24|
|Louisiana||$581.97||146% or $851||$1,433.70|
|Massachusetts||$258.03||193% or $497||$755.63|
|Maryland||$447.82||129% or $576||$1,024.61|
|Maine||$191.29||220% or $421||$612.95|
|Michigan||$987.26||68% or $676||$1,663.28|
|Minnesota||$312.00||208% or $650||$962.22|
|Missouri||$275.15||240% or $660||$935.63|
|Mississippi||$255.72||224% or $574||$830.26|
|Montana||$239.60||274% or $657||$896.85|
|North Carolina||$218.54||185% or $405||$623.54|
|North Dakota||$216.48||459% or $994||$1,210.91|
|Nebraska||$199.44||330% or $657||$857.15|
|New Hampshire||$228.50||142% or $324||$552.50|
|New Jersey||$601.05||95% or $572||$1,173.66|
|New Mexico||$296.97||204% or $606||$902.84|
|Nevada||$399.77||132% or $529||$928.50|
|New York||$442.46||176% or $779||$1,221.30|
|Ohio||$200.08||202% or $404||$604.69|
|Oklahoma||$260.60||283% or $737||$997.68|
|Oregon||$401.41||138% or $553||$954.69|
|Pennsylvania||$210.87||337% or $710||$921.12|
|Rhode Island||$515.00||105% or $540||$1,055.00|
|South Carolina||$314.33||171% or $539||$853.12|
|South Dakota||$130.50||414% or $540||$671.00|
|Tennessee||$247.55||269% or $665||$912.80|
|Texas||$404.40||194% or $787||$1,191.55|
|Utah||$400.74||121% or $484||$884.84|
|Virginia||$250.10||201% or $503||$753.20|
|Vermont||$210.89||245% or $517||$727.96|
|Washington||$285.74||176% or $502||$788.25|
|Wisconsin||$190.87||283% or $541||$731.95|
|West Virginia||$358.85||248% or $890||$1,248.85|
|Wyoming||$168.34||437% or $735||$904.03|
Navigating the rules and regulations of car insurance can be tricky. If you’re looking for information on coverage and car insurance quotes, consult our additional resources:
The auto insurance rates displayed in our articles are based on the 2019 results of The Zebra’s comprehensive car insurance pricing analysis. In our analysis of all US zip codes — including Washington D.C. — our user profile consisted of a 30-year-old single male driving a 2013 Honda Accord. To generate pricing specific to particular rating factors, we altered the driving profile based on the common pricing factors utilized by top car insurance companies. These factors include, but are not limited to, credit score, coverage level, and driving record.
Some information may vary based on rounding.