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Does car insurance cover a stolen car if you left your keys in it?

Comprehensive insurance coverage covers you if your car is stolen, even if you leave the keys in the car. But insurance companies will deny a claim if they believe the car was stolen on purpose as an act of insurance fraud.

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Rachael BrennanSenior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance ExpertRachael Brennan is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. Her work has also been featured in MoneyGeek, Clearsurance, Adweek, Boston Globe, The Ladders, and

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The stress and fear that go along with having your car stolen can be unpleasant, but the sheer embarrassment that comes with knowing your car was stolen because you left the keys inside feels even worse. Calling your insurance company to file that claim can be mortifying — will your insurance company even pay for the theft claim if you left your keys in the car? 

Key Takeaways

  • Car theft is covered under your comprehensive insurance. If you have comprehensive coverage on your insurance policy you will likely be covered if your car is stolen because you left the keys inside

  • Car insurance claims are paid based on the actual cash value (ACV) of your vehicle, which is the amount your insurance company determines someone would reasonably pay for the car. This is often described as the market value or book value of your vehicle

  • Insurance companies will deny a claim for a stolen car if they find that the owner purposely had their vehicle stolen for the insurance money

The short answer to this question is yes, insurance will cover a stolen car, even if it was stolen because you left the keys inside of it.

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How do I know if my insurance will cover a stolen car?

Your insurance company will cover you if you have the right type of coverage. There are three major types of car insurance typically included in a full coverage policy:

  • Liability - Liability coverage pays for damages you cause in an at-fault accident, including both bodily injury and property damage

  • Collision - Collision coverage pays for physical damages to your vehicle due to an accident, no matter who is at fault. If you back into a wall or hit another car on the highway, the damages to your car would be covered by your collision insurance

  • Comprehensive - Comprehensive coverage pays for damages to your vehicle that aren’t caused by an accident, such as fire and theft

Car theft is covered under your comprehensive coverage. If you don’t have comprehensive coverage you won’t be able to file a claim if your vehicle is stolen.

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Will my insurance company pay the full value of my car if it’s stolen?

Car insurance claims are paid based on the actual cash value (ACV) of your vehicle. Most cars lose value over time, which means a claim for a stolen car is likely to pay out less than you spent for the car, even if it is relatively new. 

If you have a loan on your vehicle you have the option of carrying gap insurance, which is a policy that pays the difference between your car’s ACV and the amount left on your loan in the event of a total loss. This prevents you from having to make payments for a car that doesn’t exist anymore. 

Beyond that, comprehensive coverage comes with a deductible, which is the amount you are willing to pay out-of-pocket in the event of a claim. Choosing a higher deductible is a common way to lower your insurance premiums. For example, choosing a $1,000 deductible instead of a $500 deductible can save you money on your car insurance, but if your car is stolen you will be expected to cover $1,000 toward the cost of replacing your vehicle. If you can’t afford to spend $1,000 to repair or replace your car you will need to choose a lower deductible, even if it does come with slightly higher rates.

What type of insurance covers your car if it's stolen?

Theft is covered under your comprehensive coverage. If you don’t have a comprehensive policy you won’t be covered in the event your car is stolen.

Comprehensive insurance covers damage to your vehicle that isn’t caused by an accident. Some of the things covered by your comprehensive policy include:

  • Theft

  • Fire

  • Flood

  • Vandalism

  • Falling objects

  • Civil disturbance

  • Natural disasters

  • Animal damage

This means that you can file a claim under your comprehensive insurance if your car is damaged in a hurricane or a squirrel chews through your fuel line. Comprehensive insurance doesn’t cover damage to other people or their vehicles and it doesn’t cover any damage to your own vehicle if you are in an accident, unless that accident happened because you hit a deer

Does insurance cover a stolen car if you left it running?

Yes, if you have comprehensive coverage you are covered for theft, even if it was because you left the car running. Insurance companies understand that mistakes happen, so if you leave your car running and it’s stolen, your insurance company will still pay for it. 

However, if your car is stolen because you left the keys inside, you left it running, or you are dealing with the theft of an unlocked car, your insurance company may investigate your claim a little more closely to make sure it isn’t a case of insurance fraud.

When would an insurance company deny a claim for a stolen car?

Insurance companies will deny a claim for a stolen car if they find that the owner purposely had their vehicle stolen for the insurance money. Leaving your car running in an area where you expect it will be stolen is a type of insurance fraud called “owner give-up” or vehicle dumping, which refers to getting rid of your vehicle so you can file a claim for the insurance money. 

Vehicle dumping includes having your car stolen on purpose, burning your car, dumping it in a lake, or otherwise getting rid of your car before filing an insurance claim. There is a lot more at stake when it comes to insurance fraud than simply having your theft claim denied. Insurance fraud is a crime in all 50 states and Washington D.C., which means someone who purposely has their vehicle stolen could be charged with anything from a misdemeanor to a felony, depending on the laws in their state.

Frequently Asked Questions

How likely is my car to be stolen?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a motor vehicle was stolen every 43.8 seconds in 2019.This sounds scary, but car theft rates have actually been declining over the last two decades. Taking basic precautions to protect your vehicle can go a long way toward preventing theft.

How do I make sure my car doesn’t get stolen?

There are several things you can do to prevent your car from being stolen, including locking your doors, keeping your windows closed when your car is parked, and taking your valuables with you when you leave your car. Leaving your keys in the car or leaving your car running are also things you should avoid to prevent car theft.

Are items stolen from your car covered by insurance?

Whether you just need to replace your keys or you had your laptop in the trunk of the car, you can file an insurance claim to replace those items — but not with your auto insurance.

The items in your car are covered under your renters insurance or homeowners insurance policy, which means you would need to file a separate claim for stolen property under the correct insurance. If your insurance policies are bundled you may be able to file both claims together, saving you some time and frustration.

Does car insurance cover stolen car keys?

Car insurance policies typically only cover lost keys if they were lost due to a covered peril, such as theft. However, your comprehensive coverage may or may not include coverage for stolen car keys depending on the benefits included in your policy. Check your benefits carefully to see if stolen car keys are covered by your insurance.