A squirrel infestation can be a pain in the neck, but what happens when those pesky rodents get into the hood of your car, not your attic?
Squirrels, mice, rats and other rodents have been known to crawl up inside of parked cars and gnaw on wiring, making the car unsafe, or even impossible, to drive. So if your car is damaged by rodents, is the cost of repairs covered by your car insurance? The answer is … maybe.
If you have comprehensive coverage as part of your auto insurance policy, damage caused by rodents that get inside your vehicle may be covered. But if you don’t have comp insurance, the cost of the damage is coming out of your own pocket. Because, well, the squirrels aren’t going to pay for it themselves.
Comprehensive coverage is a type of car insurance coverage that covers the kinds of damage that can happen to your car when it’s not being driven, like damage from fire, extreme weather, vandalism, theft, falling objects and, yes, animal damage. But rodents chewing through your car’s electrical wiring isn’t always covered by comp insurance — you should check your policy and the exact terms of your comprehensive coverage to know if your comp insurance covers rodent damage.
Unlike liability insurance, which is required in most U.S. states, comprehensive coverage is optional. But comp coverage is a smart buy for many drivers; it’s often purchased along with collision coverage, which covers damage to your car from an accident no matter who was at fault.
A car insurance policy that includes liability, comp and collision is sometimes referred to as full coverage.
Comprehensive coverage usually requires that you pay a deductible, often of $500 or $1000, before your insurance covers the rest of the cost of repairs. You can usually choose your own deductible: The lower you set it, the more you’ll pay in monthly premiums and vice versa.
If you’re not sure whether you have comprehensive coverage as a part of your car insurance policy, check your declarations page, which is a one-page summary of your policy. Your dec page will list all the types of coverage you have, as well as any deductibles you’ll need to pay. You can usually find your dec page attached to the front of your policy.
If your car insurance carrier has a mobile app or an online portal, you’ll probably be able to find the dec sheet there. You can also call your insurance provider to request a copy.
The first thing you’ll want to do is determine what kind of damage your car has, and how bad it is. Rodent damage can show up in a number or different ways. If the rodents have chewed on the electrical wiring in your car, your check engine light may be activated, or maybe your car just won’t start.
There may be signs of rodents in and around your car — like droppings, or paw prints, but you should still take your car to a trusted mechanic to confirm that rodents are the cause of your issues. Get in touch with your insurance company, either online or over the phone, and let them know that your car has rodent damage and you plan to file a claim.
You’ll be assigned an adjuster, who will give you instructions about what to do next. As you go through the claims process, save everything: receipts, photos of the damage, any documentation could be important during the claims process.
Your car insurance provider probably has a list of preferred repair shops they’ll want you to work with. While your insurer may not require you to select one of their authorized repair shops, but doing so can make the process much smoother, and get you your final payout faster.
The best case scenario is not to have any rodent damage in the first place. You can help keep your car safe from squirrels and other rodents by taking some simple precautions.
Seal your garage. If you keep your car parked in a garage, make sure the garage is well-sealed, and plug any holes or cracks with sheet metal or steel mesh.
Use deterrents. Special electrical tape made to taste off-putting to rodents could be a good option. And ultrasonic repellents emit a high frequency noise meant to keep rodents away, so you may want to put one in your garage. Just check with a mechanic before messing around under your hood.
Drive your vehicle every few days. Taking your car out for a spin at least every couple of days can help keep it rodent-free. If you do plan on leaving your car unused for a long period of time, invest in a vehicle cover to keep it protected.
Anna Swartz is a Managing Editor at Policygenius in New York City, and an expert in auto insurance. Previously, she was a senior staff writer at Mic, writing about news and culture. Her work has appeared in The Dodo, AOL, HuffPost, Salon and Heeb.
Policygenius’ editorial content is not written by an insurance agent. It’s intended for informational purposes and should not be considered legal or financial advice. Consult a professional to learn what financial products are right for you.