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Does car insurance cover theft?

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Portions of this article were drafted using an in-house natural language generation platform. The article was reviewed, fact-checked and edited by our editorial staff.

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Your car insurance may cover vehicle theft if you have the applicable coverage types. This is good news because over 1 million cars were stolen in 2022, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. This is the first year vehicle thefts surpassed 1 million since 2008. California and Texas had the most stolen vehicles, but vehicle theft and theft from your vehicle can happen anywhere.

Does car insurance cover vehicle theft?

Car insurance covers car theft, but only if you have comprehensive coverage in place before the vehicle is stolen. Comprehensive insurance pays for damage to your own vehicle that results from something other than an accident with another car or stationary object. This includes vandalism, vehicle theft, broken windows or windshields, weather events and encounters with animals.

Your comprehensive coverage will typically help pay to replace your stolen vehicle if the perpetrator is not found. That said, comprehensive coverage has a deductible that you will be responsible for paying out of pocket if you choose to file a claim for your stolen vehicle.

You may also consider purchasing gap insurance if you have a leased or financed vehicle. This coverage pays the difference between your loan amount and the depreciated value of your car, which is determined at the time of a claim. It may be a useful coverage if your vehicle is stolen and unrecoverable.

Does car insurance cover items stolen from your car?

The type of policy you have, the coverage you choose and your insurance company will determine if your car insurance will cover items stolen from your car. Typically, your comprehensive coverage covers permanently installed items if they are stolen from your car, such as:

  • Radios
  • TVs in the headrests
  • Navigation system
  • Custom wheels (additional limits may apply)
  • Vehicle battery
  • Catalytic converter

If you have aftermarket items installed in your car, like rims, a stereo or a custom paint job, you may want to consider custom parts and equipment coverage. Companies like Progressive offer this optional endorsement, but be prepared to provide details and receipts at the company’s request.

Items not permanently installed, like clothes, a laptop, a phone or a camera left in the vehicle, are not covered by your auto insurance, unless the company offers special coverage that you add to your policy before the incident occurs.

For example, Erie offers personal items coverage, which will pay up to $350 for personal items stolen from the vehicle. Without this type of coverage — which is rarely offered — your home or renters insurance policy would typically cover these items stolen from your vehicle, subject to that policy’s deductible. It’s worth noting that if someone damages your vehicle while breaking into it, like busting out a window to get to your personal items, damage to your vehicle would still be covered by comprehensive coverage in most scenarios.

What to do if you are a victim of theft

The claims process will look different for a stolen vehicle than stolen possessions, but in both cases, you’ll want to document the scene and file a police report. Here are some steps to take if you experience theft.

What to do if your vehicle has been stolen

The first thing you should do if your vehicle has been stolen is rule out any of these possible scenarios:

  • Is it possible the vehicle was towed after being parked illegally?
  • Could the car have been repossessed by a lienholder?
  • Could the vehicle have been impounded for another reason?

If none of these scenarios is relevant, call the police and report the theft. Be prepared to provide vehicle information, such as the VIN, license plate number, identifying characteristics like existing damage and the color, make and model of the car. If you have it available, you will want the police report number and a copy of the report when you file a claim with your car insurance company.

When you file the claim, you should have the report information, details on where and when the vehicle was stolen and any tracking device information handy, like OnStar or LoJack. Tracking information should also be reported to the police to aid in vehicle recovery.

What to do if your personal items have been stolen

If you’ve had personal items stolen, you may want to contact your auto insurer to see if you have coverage. If not, you might need to contact your renters insurance or homeowners insurance to ask about applicable coverage. Remember, which policy would cover the claim depends on whether the stolen items were considered permanently installed or not, or if your auto insurance has extra personal property coverage built into your policy. You may need to file a claim with both your home or renters insurance and your car insurance if items were stolen and your vehicle was damaged in the incident.

You may want to compare your deductibles with the cost of item replacement and vehicle repair. If the cost to replace your items and repair your broken window, for example, is lower than or close to your deductibles, it may be most cost effective to pay out of pocket.

You may also want to discuss coverage limits with your home or renters insurance agent. Most property insurance policies have limitations depending on the items stolen, like jewelry or cameras. In cases where you have these items, considering scheduled personal property coverage may help you avoid coverage gaps if you need to file a claim in the future.

How to prevent car break-ins

There are ways to help prevent the risk of theft of your vehicle or personal items, whether the car is parked in your driveway or a parking lot. Besides not leaving items in plain sight (or in your car at all), here are some ways to prevent car theft:

  • Park in well-lit areas or under a street light
  • Park in a locked or security-manned garage
  • Place a spotlight or motion-activated light over your driveway
  • Buy a car with a vehicle recovery system or have one installed
  • Photograph your car and record identifying details
  • Install an audible or visible alarm device
  • Use a steering wheel lock or other anti-theft device that physically prevents the car from being driven.
  • Keep the doors locked at all times and activate the alarm using your key fob, if applicable
  • Roll up windows and never leave the key or fob in or around the vehicle

Certain theft-prevention measures, like an anti-theft device or parking the vehicle in a locked garage, may also save you money on your car insurance policy. In addition to reducing the risk of filing a theft claim and increasing your premium, you may earn a discount for having these preventative measures. Ask your insurance agent or company what anti-theft discounts might be available to you.

Frequently asked questions

    • If you experience a break-in with vehicle damage and stolen items, your auto insurance and your home or renters coverage may apply. If you have comprehensive coverage on your auto policy, this coverage type will pay for damage to your vehicle itself and replacement of any permanently installed vehicle features up to your policy limits in a covered claim. If your personal possessions were stolen, your home or renters insurance should pay to replace these items up to your policy limits, minus your deductible.
    • Filing a comprehensive claim for vehicle theft may increase your car insurance premium, but it will likely not increase your premium as much as a collision claim. Each car insurance company weighs claim severity differently, so your premium surcharge will depend on your carrier. If your rates increase significantly after a comprehensive claim, you can compare car insurance quotes with other carriers to see if you could get a more favorable rate. Note that your vehicle type impacts your premium, so if you get a new car after a theft, your higher rate could also be attributed to your new car’s make, model and age.

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