What is not covered by your car insurance?

Among other things, auto insurance doesn’t cover regular repairs or mechanical breakdowns, and it may not cover other people driving your car.

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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 AutoInsurance.com.

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Car insurance protects you financially in the event of an accident, paying for damage you cause to other people and their property. It can also cover damage to your own vehicle, either from an at-fault accident or from other perils such as fire and theft (as long as you’ve added comprehensive and collision coverage to your policy).

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Car insurance covers many different situations, but it doesn’t cover everything. Even things you would assume are covered may not be included in a standard auto insurance policy, like classic cars and stolen belongings. So, what exactly is not covered by your car insurance? 

Key Takeaways

  • You won’t be covered for damage beyond the limits of your policy, which is why drivers should set high levels of liability coverage

  • Types of damage that aren’t covered by your auto insurance include wear and tear, intentional damage, and accidents that violate the terms of your insurance

  • Insurance coverage varies from state-to-state and policy-to-policy, so it is important to work with your insurance representative to make sure you understand exactly what is and is not covered by your policy

  • Many companies sell additional coverage for things that aren’t covered under a standard auto insurance policy, like gap insurance and car repair insurance

1. Other people driving your car

While it is possible that your insurance company will cover another driver using your car, it is far from guaranteed. Most insurance companies are going to have questions about this other driver before they agree to cover any damage they caused in an accident. Do they live with you? Are they related to you? Do they have active insurance on their own vehicle? 

Typically, people who live with you must be named on your insurance policy to be covered if they drive your car. In fact, many companies require you to include or exclude every person of driving age who lives in your home, and if an excluded driver gets into an accident in your car they won’t be covered.

Some insurance companies will cover accidents if the driver is a member of your family, but not a friend or associate. Other insurance companies will cover anyone who has permission to drive your car, but with limited coverage. There is no universal answer to whether or not an insurance company will cover other drivers, so check with your insurance representative to make sure you know the specifics of your policy.

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2. Regular repairs and general maintenance

Whether you are talking about something as simple as changing your oil or complex as replacing an oxygen sensor, car insurance isn’t going to cover basic maintenance, repairs, or general wear and tear on your vehicle. These expenses are considered part of owning a car and the responsibility for those costs falls onto the owner of the vehicle.

Even extended warranties and car repair insurance don’t cover basic maintenance or repairs, which means drivers need to budget for those extra expenses to keep their car properly maintained.

3. Personal belongings stolen from your car

Auto insurance only covers your vehicle and any damage you may cause while driving. If your personal belongings are stolen from your vehicle or, worse, your car gets stolen with your stuff inside, your car insurance can pay to replace your car itself, but it won’t pay to replace your belongings. If you want to file a claim for property stolen from your vehicle, that claim would go through your renters or homeowners insurance policy. 

4. Classic, exotic and performance cars

Standard auto insurance policies are designed for a wide variety of cars, but classic, exotic, and performance cars require insurance policies tailored to their specific needs. Not only are these cars more expensive than your standard vehicle, but they are more likely to be stolen and need specialized, expensive repairs when they are damaged. The increased costs and unique needs associated with classic, exotic, and performance cars mean that these vehicles can’t really be covered under a traditional auto insurance policy, and you’ll have to shop for specialty insurance.

5. Types of damage that aren’t covered by car insurance

Most people assume that if you have insurance you will be covered for any damage you cause or any damage to your vehicle, but this isn’t the case. There are limits to your insurance coverage, including:

  • Damage that exceeds your limits of liability: Your liability limits don’t stop you from being held responsible for the damage you cause if you are at fault in an accident. For example, Alabama requires minimum liability levels of 25/50/25. If you choose to carry the minimum level of liability coverage and you hit someone in a Range Rover, you could easily cause $60,000 worth of property damage but only have $25,000 in property damage liability. Once the insurance company has paid out the $25,000 from your policy, you are still responsible for the other $35,000 in damages

  • Damage caused by normal wear and tear: While comprehensive and collision coverage will pay to repair damages caused in an accident, normal wear and tear aren’t covered. This means small scratches, tiny dents, rust and chipped paint aren’t covered under your insurance policy

  • Intentional damage (sometimes including a DUI): If you purposely damage your vehicle, it won’t be covered by your insurance. This includes smaller things, like breaking a window because you’re locked out of your car, as well as more extensive damage and fraud, like setting your car on fire for the insurance money. Depending on the situation and the details of your insurance policy, this can include damage caused because you were under the influence

Situations that require specific insurance policies or add-on coverages

There are some things that are only covered under your auto insurance if you purchase additional coverage specifically for that purpose. Often referred to as a rider or an add-on, these coverages are usually available for an additional cost.

Custom parts and equipment

If you have custom parts in your vehicle, whether that is as simple as custom rims or as complex as specialized body kits, your basic auto insurance policy isn’t going to include coverage for those items. Many insurance companies allow you to purchase additional coverage through your comprehensive and collision benefits to pay for custom equipment.

Your car loan or lease if your vehicle is totaled

The value of your car depreciates over time, so drivers who are financing their vehicle may end up owing more on their loans than their car is worth. If you are faced with a total loss, this may mean you owe money on a car that no longer exists. Gap insurance is a policy add-on designed to pay off the balance of your loan if your vehicle is totaled.

Driving your car for rideshare or delivery

Personal auto insurance doesn’t cover commercial use of your vehicle, which means if you are in an accident while driving for a rideshare company or working as a delivery person the damage won’t be covered. Rideshare insurance usually replaces your personal car insurance coverage, but some insurance companies may offer a rider or add-on instead of a completely separate policy. Policies may or may not cover the time when you are on the clock but you don’t have a passenger, so it is important to review the specifics of your coverage with your insurance representative.

Mechanical breakdowns 

Mechanical breakdowns aren’t covered under car insurance, but you can buy an additional policy called car repair insurance or mechanical breakdown insurance. Similar to a service contract or extended warranty, the policy is designed to cover mechanical issues that aren’t caused by a car accident, like if your cooling system suddenly stops working.

Towing and jumpstarts

Roadside assistance isn’t covered under a basic car insurance policy, but you can add it to your policy to cover towing, jumpstarts, locksmith services, fuel delivery, flat tire services, and winching. This is one of the few services that you can buy either through your auto insurance company or through a third party like AAA, so it is important to compare policies to make sure you are getting the best policy for your needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of insurance covers damage to your car?

Comprehensive and collision insurance cover damage to your own car, no matter who is at fault. Collision insurance covers damage that is caused by a collision, whether that is a collision with another vehicle or a stationary object like a pole or fence post. Comprehensive insurance covers damage caused by something other than a collision, such as fire, theft, or animal-related damage.

What is covered under car insurance?

Each part of your auto insurance policy pays for specific things. Liability insurance covers damage you cause to other people and their property when you are at fault in an accident. Comprehensive and collision insurance cover damages to your own car, no matter who is at fault. Personal injury protection and MedPay cover medical expenses for you and your passengers in an accident, no matter who is at fault.

As we discussed above, there are many different types of insurance available that can protect you financially in a variety of situations.

Does car insurance cover hitting a wall?

Hitting a wall is covered in two ways. First, the damage that you caused to the wall would be covered by your liability insurance, assuming that the wall you hit belongs to someone else. The damage to your car from hitting the wall would be covered under your collision insurance.