Does car insurance cover theft?

Car insurance covers theft as long as you have comprehensive coverage, but it will only cover your car itself, not any personal items that were inside it.

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Andrew HurstAndrew HurstSenior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance ExpertAndrew Hurst is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. His work has also been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, USA Today, NPR, Mic, Insurance Business Magazine, ValuePenguin, and Property Casualty 360.

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Car insurance will cover theft as long as you have the right coverage. If you have comprehensive coverage, your car insurance will reimburse you if your car is stolen, and pay for damage if it’s broken into.

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But car insurance won’t cover the cost of any items that are taken from your car, so if a car window is smashed and your laptop is stolen from your backseat, car insurance will pay for the broken window but not the computer.

Key takeaways

  • Car insurance covers theft if your vehicle is stolen, but only if you have comprehensive coverage.

  • Your car insurance won’t cover any personal belongings that are taken, but your home or renters insurance might.

  • Insurance also covers theft of your car’s parts, like a catalytic converter, even if your car itself isn’t stolen.

Does car insurance cover a stolen car?

Car insurance will cover a stolen car as long as you have comprehensive coverage, which is part of a full-coverage policy. Comprehensive insurance is what covers damage or loss that’s not caused by an accident, like theft, along with a range of other hazards (falling objects, animals, weather, and more).

Your comprehensive insurance covers you if your car is stolen or if parts of your vehicle are taken. That includes catalytic converter thefts and stolen tires, batteries, seats, and more.

Full-coverage car insurance includes comprehensive coverage, which is often paired with collision coverage. Comprehensive coverage is optional, meaning it isn’t required by law, but you’ll have to get it if you leased your car or financed it with a loan.

Does liability insurance cover theft?

No liability insurance doesn’t cover your own vehicle at all — even if it’s stolen. Liability insurance only covers the cost of the damage you cause in an accident, like damage to another driver’s car.

Does insurance cover stolen cars if you left your keys in the vehicle?

Yes, car insurance will still cover your stolen vehicle even if you left your keys in the car. Since comprehensive insurance covers you regardless of fault, it doesn’t matter (most of the time) what led to your car being stolen.

How does insurance work after a theft?

When your car is stolen (or if parts are taken), you’ll need to file a claim just like you would after an accident. After your claim is processed, your insurance will cover the value of your stolen car or any stolen parts.

Your comprehensive insurance covers you up to the actual cash value (ACV) of your car. That means your payout will factor in things like depreciation over time, and the condition your car was in when it was stolen.

Let’s say that your car is stolen. It was worth $20,000 when you got it, but, since that was a few years ago, its actual cash value is now $15,000. And let’s say that you set your comprehensive deductible (the amount you have to pay out of pocket for a claim), at $1,000.

In this situation your insurance would pay $14,000 for your stolen car (the ACV minus your deductible amount), so the total payout will be less than what you originally paid for your car.

Gap insurance and new car replacement are two additional types of car insurance that can help cover the cost if your car is stolen.

  • Gap insurance: Gap insurance covers the rest of your car’s loan or lease if your initial payment isn’t enough to fully pay off what you owe. It’s often affordable to get gap insurance, and sometimes your lessor or lender will require it.

  • New car replacement: This coverage ensures you’re paid enough for a completely new car that’s the same make and model. You can usually only get new car replacement for a car that’s under a few years old.

What if your stolen car is recovered?

Sometimes stolen cars are recovered after insurance has already paid out. According to FBI statistics, stolen cars had a recovery rate of 15% in 2021. [1] If your car is recovered, it changes how your insurance works.

If your claim has already been paid out, your stolen vehicle belongs to your car insurance company.

Your insurance carrier may allow you to buy back your vehicle if you still have your settlement money, although even recovered cars are sometimes considered totaled, depending on their condition. If you choose to keep your recovered car, you may be able to file a claim for the cost of any repairs it needs.

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Does car insurance cover theft of personal items?

Your car insurance does not cover theft of personal items that were taken from your car, so if your car is stolen with luggage inside, or your cellphone is taken from your glove compartment, the items themselves won’t be covered by car insurance. 

That said, your car insurance does cover damage related to theft. That includes broken windows or doors, or other damage that’s caused when a thief breaks into your car.

Most of the time, car insurance will only cover the theft of your personal belongings if the item stolen was a permanent part of your car, like your sound system. 

Even though your car insurance doesn’t cover stolen personal items, other types of insurance may. Your homeowners or renters insurance personal property coverage will pay to replace items that are stolen from your car.

What is personal items coverage?

Some companies offer coverage for personal items, though it’s a common endorsement. When offered, you’re usually covered for up to a certain dollar amount for any belongings that are taken from your car.

How to file an insurance claim after a theft

When filing a comprehensive claim for a stolen car, the most important thing to do is contact your insurance company immediately. You don’t need to start the claim right away, but companies usually require you notify them as soon as possible after a loss.

When you realize your car is stolen and you need to make an insurance claim, follow these steps:

  1. Contact the authorities to make a police report: You may be required to include a police report if your insurance claim involves a stolen car or stolen car parts. The police will ask you for basic information about the make and model of your car, along with its vehicle identification number.

  2. Be prepared to provide details about the theft: You’ll need to answer questions about where your car was stolen, when you think the theft happened, any other details leading up to the theft.

  3. Have your insurance information on-hand: Your insurance company will want to know your policy number, your car’s license plate number, and the name and contact information of the officer who responded to the scene of the theft.

  4. Ask important questions: If you’re not certain, now is the time to make sure that your policy covers theft and that you know what your deductible is. You should also ask if you’ll be able to get a rental car while you look for a new permanent vehicle.

  5. Keep up with your claim: You may be able to receive a settlement quickly, since your company doesn’t have to investigate a crash between two or more drivers. Keep track of any documents or additional information your company needs, and respond to questions quickly to keep the process moving.

If your car was a lease or you were still paying off a loan, make sure to inform your lienholder or leasing company as you go through the claims process. Since your lender or lessor technically owns your car (or at least some of it), you’re probably required to inform them about a theft.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What does insurance cover if your car is stolen?

Your auto insurance will reimburse you for your car if it’s stolen. You’ll be covered up to your car’s actual cash value, which means its value factoring in age, condition, and depreciation. Auto insurance does not cover any belongings that were in your car when it was stolen, but your home or renters insurance will.

Does basic car insurance cover theft?

While your insurance can cover theft, a basic policy that doesn’t have comprehensive coverage won’t. You have to have full-coverage to be covered for a stolen car.

Does car insurance cover vandalism?

Yes, your car insurance will cover damage that’s caused by vandalism as long as you have comprehensive coverage. This can include dents, scratches, slashed tires, and broken windows and windshields. Your comprehensive insurance also covers damage that occurs while your car is broken into.

How long does it take insurance to pay out for theft?

Generally it takes less time for your car insurance to pay out for theft-related claims than it does for claims involving injuries or damage you caused to another driver. That’s because companies don’t need to spend time assigning fault and working with other insurance carriers after a crash involving another person.

References

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  1. FBI

    . "

    Crime Data Explorer

    ." Accessed October 19, 2022.

Author

Andrew Hurst is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. His work has also been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, USA Today, NPR, Mic, Insurance Business Magazine, ValuePenguin, and Property Casualty 360.

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