Woodchucks destroyed Paul Ryan's car. Does insurance cover that?



Myles Ma

Myles Ma

Senior Reporter

Myles Ma is a senior reporter at Policygenius, where he covers personal finance and insurance and writes the Easy Money newsletter. His expertise has been featured in The Washington Post, PBS, CNBC, CBS News, USA Today, HuffPost, Salon, Inc. Magazine, MarketWatch, and elsewhere.

Published July 13, 2018 | 2 min read

Policygenius content follows strict guidelines for editorial accuracy and integrity. Learn about our editorial standards and how we make money.

Featured Image Woodchucks destroyed Paul Ryan's car. Does insurance cover that?

One thing House Speaker Paul Ryan will not be enjoying during his impending retirement: the use of his Chevy Suburban.

A family of woodchucks moved into the Congressman's vehicle and ate the wiring, leaving it "dead," NPR reported.

Here at Policygenius, we had one, burning question: Did Ryan's car insurance cover the damage? I asked AshLee Strong, his spokeswoman, who, to her great credit, did not ignore me completely:

"I don't anticipate having anything to offer here," she wrote in an email. "Thanks for asking though."

So we asked ourselves another, burning question:

Does car insurance even cover woodchuck damage?

"The short answer is yes, it does get covered," said Fabio Faschi, property and casualty sales associate for Policygenius, as long as your car insurance includes comprehensive coverage.

Comprehensive coverage is one of the two car insurance features that cover damage to your car. The other is collision coverage.

Collision coverage, as the name implies, covers damage from your car hitting things, like other cars or buildings. Comprehensive coverage covers damage from other causes, like fire, vandalism or an "act of God." Woodchuck damage falls into the latter category.

How comprehensive coverage works

Most carriers require you to buy collision and comprehensive coverage together, Faschi said. However, they each have their own deductible.

State law doesn't require you to have comprehensive coverage. While auto insurance requirements vary by state, they generally involve liability coverage or extra medical coverage.

Neither comprehensive nor collision coverage has limits on damages. On a basic policy, insurance will cover damage based on based on your car's current value.

But plenty of car owners go without it, especially if the cost of the coverage is more than the value of the vehicle, Faschi said. So if you have a Clinton-era Honda worth $3,000, it's probably not worth it to buy comprehensive coverage that costs $250 a year with a $1,000 deductible. But for a newer car in an area with a big woodchuck population, it is often worthwhile. (We can help you compare and buy car insurance here.)

Be warned, there are some cases where even comprehensive coverage won't cover damage: If the owner is negligent. Sticking to the animal theme, if you park your car in the middle of a horse ranch and the herd stampedes right on top of it, insurers might consider that negligence.

Still worried about woodchucks? The Verge reported that mountain lion urine may ward them off. And, if you're still confused about car insurance, check out our full explainer on how it works.

Image: RCerruti