Car insurance covers the costs when you get into an accident or when your car is damaged by a sudden event, like vandalism or a hailstorm. But one thing car insurance doesn’t protect against is the normal wear and tear your car incurs from regular use.
That means it won’t pay out to fix your brakes, tune up your engine, change your oil, paint over a scratch, or replace your tires, unless the repair in question was directly caused by a peril covered in your car insurance policy.
However, it is possible to get a type of car insurance that helps pay some kind of standard repairs. It’s called mechanical breakdown insurance (MBI), also known as “car repair insurance,” but not every insurer offers it, and some insurance companies do explicitly reject claims for normal wear and tear.
What kind of repairs does car insurance cover?
Most states require you to have car insurance. In the states that require it, you usually only have to purchase a minimum amount of certain coverages, often just liability insurance (which is coverage for injuries to other people and their property by your vehicle).
It’s always optional to purchase comprehensive and collision coverage, which are the two types of insurance you’d use to cover repairs to your own vehicle.
Car insurance does not cover regular repairs, but it does cover repairs you need to make as a result of an accident, vandalism, or some kinds of bad weather, as long as you have comp and collision. If you’re worried about how you’d be able to afford those types of repairs, look into adding comp and collision coverage to your auto insurance policy.
Comprehensive coverage and repairs
Comprehensive coverage covers damage not relating to a collision, such as damage from falling objects (like a tree branch), fire, certain natural disasters, and vandalism.
Some other perils covered by comprehensive coverage include:
Animal damage (like if you hit a deer or if rodents eat your car’s wiring)
Basically, comprehensive coverage covers damage that occurs when your car isn’t being driven. So if someone keys your car, your comprehensive coverage will pay for the repairs needed.
Or say if hail damages your windshield, then your comprehensive coverage will also pay for those repairs, but you may be required to pay a deductible for “safety glass repair,” depending on where you live.
Collision coverage and repairs
Collision insurance covers damage to your car from a crash, no matter who was at fault. For example, if you lost control of your car while fiddling with the radio and hit a traffic pole, collision insurance would cover the accident.
It would also cover repairs to your own car if you’re the at-fault driver in a car accident that damages your vehicle, while your liability insurance would cover damage to the other driver’s car.
What is mechanical breakdown insurance?
Mechanical breakdown insurance (MBI) is offered by some insurance companies to help pay for regular repairs. It’s not a part of your normal car insurance policy and it’s not required in any state.
Additionally, older cars may not even be eligible for coverage under MBI; the few insurance companies that do offer MBI, often called “car repair insurance,” only cover new cars and those below a certain mileage amount.
You may also be able to get MBI as a rider or endorsement to your regular car insurance policy, which would increase your premiums. Mechanical breakdown insurance could help pay for new brakes, internal components, or engine parts. It could be used to fix a blown transmission or alternator.
As with traditional car insurance, your cost may vary depending on the car and characteristics about you, but purchasing MBI may add hundreds of dollars per year to your usual premium payments.
Extended warranty vs. mechanical breakdown coverage
You may already have a form of protection for mechanical breakdowns if you purchased an extended warranty for your car. When purchased new, cars are usually covered by a manufacturer warranty, essentially a guarantee that the manufacturer will pay to fix issues that come up with the car’s parts or systems.
Even if you bought your car new, it may still have some time left on the original warranty since they’re generally transferrable. But drivers can also choose to purchase an extended warranty, either from the car dealership or from a third-party, that will add on continued coverage for certain issues even after the manufacturer’s warranty is up.
Depending on the car, extended warranties can be less expensive than MBI, but may have a more limited scope in what kinds of repairs they cover, and they’re limited to a shorter eligibility period.
Like your regular car warranty and your car insurance, an extended warranty won’t cover regular wear and tear, like brake pad replacements or fixing worn parts of the interior.
If you’re considering an extended warranty, compare cost and coverage with any MBI coverage that your insurance offers. You may find that your car insurance company offers MBI that covers more than what’s covered by an extended warranty.
Limitations of mechanical breakdown insurance
Mechanical breakdown insurance providers generally require you to take your car to an approved auto repair shop. If you’re familiar with car insurance, you’ll recognize this common stipulation from your car insurance policy.
Like your traditional car insurance, you’ll also have to pay a deductible, the amount you’re obligated to pay out of pocket on a claim before the insurer picks up the rest of the cost.
But MBI deductibles are frequently pretty low, usually no more than $250 to $400. Since the cost of repairing failed components of your engine could cost thousands of dollars, even after the deductible, your mechanical breakdown insurance could save you hundreds of dollars.
Mechanical breakdown insurance also usually doesn’t include maintenance, and it could have exclusions for common repairs like replacing the coolant, rebalancing the wheels, and changing the tires. For that reason, make sure you examine the MBI policy as closely as you can before deciding whether it’s right for you and ask your car insurance broker any questions you may have.