Homeowners Insurance

Holiday Heist: Does Car Insurance Cover Theft of Personal Items?

Holiday Heist: Does Car Insurance Cover Theft of Personal Items?

With trees lit and wreaths hung, everybody now knows that the holidays are here—including thieves. These so called grinches target shopping mall parking lots, and even your own driveway, searching for expensive gifts to lay under their own Christmas trees.
A shopper puts gifts in her car
A shopper puts gifts in her car Source: Getty Images

Will car insurance cover stolen items from my car?

People often assume their auto insurance will reimburse them for the cost of items stolen from their cars. Unfortunately, that's a misconception.

Even if you have comprehensive car insurance, your policy will cover only the theft of items that were a permanent fixture of the vehicle—such as its steering wheel or seats, or reimburse you for damage done directly to the car.

For example, if you are a victim of a smash-and-grab operation during the holidays, your broken window will be covered, but not the presents that were stolen off your backseat.

The good news? While your auto insurance won't help you replace stolen possessions, most homeowners or renters' insurance policies will cover the losses, even though the theft didn't' physically happen in your home.

Take Allstate insurance, it includes the coverage of off-premises theft with your renters' [or homeowners'] insurance—contents are covered worldwide for 16 perils including theft and fire. However, with deductibles typically ranging between $500 and $1,000, the value of the stolen gifts would need to be high indeed before filing a claim would make a financial impact.

When should I file a claim for stolen gifts?

Let's say you have a $500 deductible on your renters' insurance policy and somebody steals Christmas gifts from your car. In order to receive any reimbursement, you would need to have over $500 stolen to both meet your deductible and be reimbursed.

If the claim was for $520, you would only receive $20, and you would risk increasing your policy's premium after the theft claim.

However, if thieves ransacked your car and stole $2,000 worth of presents like jewelry or electronics, filing a claim (and recouping some of your losses) would be in your best interest.

Protect yourself from holiday theft

Since your insurance policy may not help much if you have a high deductible, and your auto insurance will only cover actual damages, you will need to protect yourself and your presents around the holidays

If possible, avoid leaving anything visible to passers-by, and park your car in an open area or well-lit garage with attendants and surveillance cameras. Try on-street parking, since more foot traffic could deter thieves from breaking into your car. Finally, if theft is a problem in your area, consider installing a dashcam capable of capturing video evidence of thieves attempting a car break-in.

And since thefts go up across the board during the holiday season, protect your porch from thieves too.