What’s Covered by Insurance When Your Car is Stolen?

Pop quiz: What is the most popular vehicle in the United States? If you answered the Ford F-150 pickup, you know the auto industry. What about the most popular vehicle among car thieves? If you said the 1996 Honda Civic, you know the insurance industry. 

So what happens if your vehicle disappears from your driveway, parking garage or wherever you last parked it? From an insurance standpoint, it all depends on the type of policy you purchased to cover the vehicle.

If you’re driving a ’96 Civic, chances are you’re carrying only liability and/or collision insurance. That’s a wise decision for a 22-year-old ride. Unfortunately, you’d be out of luck as far as recouping the value of that car. However, if you have a comprehensive policy, you can expect a check for whatever your stolen make and model is worth, minus the deductible. 

Simple enough, right? Yes and no. It gets more complicated when it comes to coverage for any personal or business belongings were stolen along with the vehicle, and if the vehicle is damaged from vandalism—or certain parts of the car were stolen or damaged. 

Which Policies Cover Theft?

In most states, “comprehensive” auto insurance covers everything from storm damage, falling meteors and collisions with a cow to theft or vandalism. But be sure to check your policy because it varies. 

Collision coverage shields you from the cost of repairing the vehicle you’re driving and/or another vehicle involved in the accident (if you’re deemed responsible).

Liability insurance protects you—and your assets—in the event you caused injury to the other driver and/or passengers. 

Only comprehensive coverage will cover the value of your vehicle if it’s stolen. 

What Happens if Other Items Are Stolen with the Vehicle?

As if losing your beloved automobile weren’t bad enough, what about your golf clubs in the trunk, your purse or wallet in the console or the laptop with your entire music collection stored in it? 

Your comprehensive auto policy will only cover permanent components that are pre-installed car parts, not personal belongings left inside. The good news is if you have homeowners or renters insurance, these items may be covered. But you’ll need to file a separate claim.

If that laptop is owned by your employer, it is likely covered by a business policy. But a separate claim will need to be filed.

What About a Break-in or Vandalism?

Sometimes, you might wish the car was stolen after seeing the results of a break-in or vandalism. It’s one thing to have a window broken and a holiday gift stolen. It’s a much bigger deal if your $5,000 custom sound system is ripped out or the exterior is spray-painted.

The coverage and the claims you need to file could get tricky. 

In the case of the broken window and stolen gift, again you’re dealing with different policies. Many auto policies have separate claims and deductibles for glass. So you might be able to replace the window for $50 or $100. However, the value of the gift—a personal belonging—would need to be claimed against the homeowners or renters policy. 

The after-market stereo, amplifier and speakers are considered part of the vehicle, not personal belongings. However, if stolen, they might only be covered to the value of a factory-installed OEM sound system. That may be only $1,000-$1,200 at the dealership. To cover the rest, talk to your agent or carrier ahead of time about the full cost of your investment and get special coverage. It most likely will make for a nominal increase to your premium, but you can’t do this after the fact. 

The cost to fix acts of vandalism, such as smashed windows, slashed tires or a keyed paint job, are typically covered by a comprehensive auto policy. Pay your premiums on time and pay your deductible to restore your ride to its previous appearance. 

Even the most advanced security systems and secure neighborhoods don’t immunize your vehicle or its contents from theft and vandalism. It pays to be knowledgeable about the coverage(s) you need to protect your property and your pocketbook from all the possibilities