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If your auto insurance policy includes comprehensive coverage, you should be covered up to the Actual Cash Value (ACV) of your vehicle in the event your car has been stolen or damaged during a break-in. However, the liability and collision portions of your insurance will not cover car theft.
We recommend you file a police report immediately, then contact your insurance provider to determine if you are protected and to begin the claims process.
Coverage Needed for Car Theft Insurance
Comprehensive insurance is the only form of insurance that reimburses you in the case of car theft or damage due to a break-in, even if your car is recovered.
Comprehensive insurance is meant to protect you from damage to your vehicle caused by miscellaneous non-collision events, such as flooding, a falling tree limb or vandalism. And if you added rental reimbursement coverage to your policy, you will also receive your rental car fees back (up to your limits) while your insurance provider processes your claim.
However, comprehensive insurance is an optional add-on, and you should verify with your insurance provider that your policy does include the coverage. If it doesn’t, you won’t receive any compensation related to car theft, as other coverages won't apply.
- Liability insurance, the basic minimum insurance the majority of drivers have, does not protect you from car theft. Liability insurance covers the costs of damage you might cause to other drivers and their property.
- Similarly, collision insurance, which covers your own repair costs in accidents not including another vehicle, won't help you here either.
What to Do When Your Car was Stolen
Responding as quickly as possible is imperative for recovering your vehicle or initiating a smooth claims process.
As soon as you realize your car has been stolen, the first step you should take is to contact the police. Once you’ve filed a police report, you can then begin an insurance claim.
File a Police Report
Agents advise filing a police report as early as possible, ideally within 24 hours of the theft. Not only will this improve the chances of recovering your vehicle, but also it is required in order for you to submit a claim with your insurance provider.
The police will require the following information in order to properly identify your vehicle:
- The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and the license plate number. This information might be found on your vehicle title, insurance card, or other insurance documentation. If you can’t find it, ask your insurance provider.
- The year, make and model of the car
- The place and estimated time of the theft
- Any other identifying marks of the car, such as bumper stickers or dents, as well as if your car is equipped with any vehicle location devices.
When filing your police report, we recommend being as thorough and forthright as possible in the information you provide. Unfortunately, fraud does occur, and in the police’s eyes you might be the first suspect.
Once a police report has been filed, the next step you need to take is to notify your auto insurance provider to initiate the claims process.
File an Insurance Claim
Like the police, your auto insurance provider will require as much information as possible, as early as possible, both to evaluate your claim and to determine their offer.
For example, GEICO lists the following information as necessary for submitting a stolen car claim:
- Certificate of Title for the vehicle.
- Location of all keys to the vehicle before and after the theft.
- Names and contact information of everyone who had access to the vehicle.
- A description of your vehicle, including mileage, options, service records, and upgrades*—if you have receipts for any upgrades or maintenance, please have these available as well.
- A list of personal property stolen with your vehicle. Coverage for personal items varies from state to state, and your policy for renters or homeowners insurance may provide additional coverage for personal items that were stolen.
- Any finance or leasing company contact information and your account number, if applicable.
Your provider may also run a credit report to verify that you’re in good financial standing. If a person is in significant debt, and they file a claim for a stolen vehicle, it may raise questions about whether they are trying to commit fraud. As with your police report, being forthright with your information is important.
Finally, if you’re leasing or financing your vehicle, you need to notify the leasing company as early as possible.
How Much Am I Covered For?
Typically, comprehensive insurance will cover the Actual Cash Value (ACV) of your car, less any deductible. Additionally, if Car Rental Reimbursement is part of your policy, you may be covered for certain rental costs incurred while your claim is being processed.
Actual Cash Value (ACV)
The ACV is the replacement cost of your car, less the depreciation from normal wear and tear.
ACV is not inclusive of any insurance deductible you may owe. An insurance adjuster will take into account your vehicle’s make and model, age, accident history, Blue Book value, and potentially other data, such as the wholesale price of your vehicle, in order to come up with a valuation.
It’s important to understand what an adjuster will and will not take into account when valuing your car. Only the core fixtures of the vehicle count toward your car’s valuation. Your wheels, factory-installed GPS system, and seats (including car seats), for example, should count toward your valuation.
Ancillary items, such as a GPS unit attached to the windshield or an MP3 player plugged into your auxiliary outlet, are not covered by comprehensive insurance. However, if you have homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, you may be able to submit a separate claim (subject to separate deductibles) for these items, even if your car wasn’t parked at home during the theft.
It’s the adjuster's job to provide a fair but often low valuation for your car. Doing your own due diligence on the value of your vehicle can help you know if you’re being given a decent offer. You can research the ACV of your car through:
- Kelley Blue Book
Be sure to include all the pertinent information your adjuster would consider, such as the mileage and accident history. You can also run dealership reports to see what cars like yours have sold for in the past.
Rental Car Reimbursement Coverage
Many auto insurance providers offer rental coverage as an add-on to their policies. This coverage will pay for your fees to rent a vehicle up to a specified daily limit, and a specified limit overall.
For example, GEICO may offer you a $25-per-day, $750-per-claim limit. This means they’ll cover 100% of your rental costs, as long as they don’t exceed those daily or total claim limits.
However, if your vehicle is deemed a total loss, you will be given only a limited amount of time before they stop paying for your rental vehicle, so we recommend you begin searching for a replacement vehicle as soon as possible.
Disputing My Offer
You can counter your provider’s offer if you feel it’s flawed or unfair, and you can support your position with solid reasons for a higher valuation.
If you’ve made upgrades to your vehicle, and you can prove them to your insurance provider with receipts and/or photos, you might be able to convince them to include those improvements in their valuation.
Running the Numbers
Let’s look at a specific example to see how your claim might turn out.
|2016 Toyota Camry||Value|
|After 1 year of average wear and tear||Approx. $13,000|
|Adjuster’s Designated ACV||$12,500|
|Final Claim Amount||$12,000|
Dave purchased a new 2016 Toyota Camry for $23,070. He drove his car for one year, putting 12,000 miles total on his car, along with a minor scrape on his bumper. His car is still in very good condition, and now has a trade-in range of $12,000 to $14,000, according to Kelley Blue Book.
Last week, Dave’s car was stolen, at no fault of his own, and his tablet was in the back seat. He filed a police report and notified his insurance provider. The police are familiar with car theft in Dave’s neighborhood, and unfortunately suspect the car was broken down and sold for parts soon after it was stolen.
The insurance adjuster reviewed the car’s history and mileage, along with its blue book value, as well as the going price for similar vehicles at a few different dealers in the area, and set the ACV of his car at $12,500. As part of Dave’s insurance policy, he’s subject to a $500 deductible before they’ll cover his losses. So the insurance company cut Dave a check for $12,000.
Dave’s comprehensive insurance only includes the permanent fixtures of the vehicle, so the loss of his tablet isn’t covered. His auto insurance was bundled with renters insurance, but the company providing the renters policy informs him that he’ll have to file a separate claim for items stolen from his car, and his renters insurance policy is also subject to a $500 deductible. Dave’s tablet is worth less than the deductible he’d have to pay to receive any compensation, so he pays for the replacement out of pocket.
What Happens If My Car Is Recovered?
In the U.S., only about 46% of stolen cars are recovered, and even if your car is among those that are, the vehicle may have sustained damage or had parts stolen before recovery.
Your insurance company will follow state-mandated loss thresholds to decide if the damage is worth fixing, or if they should deem the car to be a total loss.
- If they decide to repair your vehicle, and you have comprehensive coverage, they’ll reimburse you for the cost of the repairs, less any insurance deductible you may owe.
- If they decide the car isn’t worth saving, they’ll pay you the ACV, less the same deductible.
If you’ve already been paid out for your insurance claim, and your vehicle is then recovered, the recovered car will likely become the property of the insurance company. However, if you haven’t yet spent the amount on a replacement vehicle, you might simply have to return the claim amount. This would be handled on a case-by-case basis with your provider.