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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 if your car's ever stolen or damaged during a break-in. However, the liability and collision portions of your insurance will not cover car theft.
We suggest you file a police report immediately and contact your insurance provider to find out if you're protected. Then you can begin the claims process.
Coverage needed for car theft insurance
Comprehensive insurance is the only form of insurance that reimburses you for a car theft or damage due to a break-in, even if your car is recovered.
Comprehensive insurance protects you from damage caused by noncollision events, such as flooding, a fallen tree limb or vandalism. And if you have rental reimbursement coverage, then your insurer will also pay for your rental vehicle (up to your limits) while it processes your claim.
However, comprehensive insurance is optional, and you should check whether you're covered. If you lack this type of coverage, then you won't receive any compensation for car theft.
- Liability insurance does not protect you from car theft. It pays for any damage you cause to other drivers and their property.
- Collision insurance, which pays to repair your own vehicle after an accident, won't help you here either.
What to do when your car is 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, first contact the police. Once you've filed a police report, you can then begin an insurance claim.
File a police report
It's best to file a police report within 24 hours of the car theft. This improves the chances of finding your car, and it's also required when you submit a claim to your insurance provider.
The police will ask for the following information to help them find the 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
- Identifying marks on the car, such as bumper stickers or dents
- Whether your car has a vehicle location device
When filing your police report, be thorough and honest. Unfortunately, because fraud occurs, the police may need to rule you out as a suspect. After filing your report, immediately notify your auto insurer to start the claims process.
File an insurance claim
Your auto insurance provider will need as much information as possible to evaluate your claim and determine its payout offer. GEICO says it needs the following information when a policyholder submits a car theft claim:
- The car title
- The 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, service records and upgrades
- A list of personal property that was inside the 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.
- Contact information for your auto lender
- Your policy account number
Your provider may also run a credit check to verify you're in good financial standing. If you have significant debt and file a claim for a stolen vehicle, it may raise questions about whether you're trying to commit fraud.
Finally, if you're leasing or financing your vehicle, you need to notify the lender as soon as possible.
How much am I covered for?
Typically, comprehensive insurance will cover the actual cash value (ACV) of your car, less any deductible. Car rental reimbursement will pay for a rental vehicle while your claim is being processed. Check your car insurance policy to see if you're covered.
Actual cash value (ACV)
The actual cash value, or ACV, equals the replacement cost of your car, minus the depreciation from normal wear and tear.
ACV doesn't include any insurance deductibles you may owe. To come up with a valuation, the insurance adjuster will consider your car's make and model, age, accident history, Kelley Blue Book value, and other details such as the wholesale price of your car.
Only the core fixtures of the vehicle count toward your car's valuation. Things like your wheels and seats should count toward your valuation.
Comprehensive insurance won't cover ancillary items, such as an MP3 player plugged into your auxiliary outlet. However, if you have homeowners or renters insurance, you may be able to submit a separate claim for these items, even if your car wasn't parked at home during the theft. You'll probably need to pay a separate deductible for this type of claim.
It's the adjuster's job to provide a fair but often low valuation for your car. Research the value of your so you know whether you're getting a decent offer. You can use:
- 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 how similar cars are selling.
Rental car reimbursement coverage
Many auto insurance providers offer rental coverage as a policy add-on. This coverage pays for you to rent a vehicle up to a specified daily limit and overall limit.
However, if the insurer deems your car a total loss, it will eventually stop paying for your rental vehicle. We suggest searching for a replacement vehicle as soon as possible.
Disputing my offer
If you feel the valuation is unfair, you can counter your provider's offer and support your position with solid research. If you've made upgrades to your vehicle and can prove them with receipts and photos, the insurer might adjust its 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|
Last week, Dave's car was stolen through 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, its Blue Book value, and the price on similar vehicles at a few different local dealers. The adjuster set the ACV of Dave's car at $12,500. As part of Dave's insurance policy, he must pay a $500 deductible before coverage kicks in. So the insurance company cut Dave a check for $12,000.
Dave's comprehensive insurance only includes the permanent fixtures of the vehicle, so his tablet isn't covered. His auto insurance was bundled with renters insurance, but the provider says he'll have to file a separate claim for items stolen from the car. Dave's renters insurance policy is also subject to a $500 deductible. Dave's tablet is worth less than the deductible, so he replaces his tablet out of pocket.
What happens if my car is recovered?
In the U.S., only about 46% of stolen cars are recovered. Even if your car is among that group, the vehicle may be damaged or missing parts.
Your insurance company will follow state-mandated loss thresholds to decide if the damage is worth fixing, or if they should deem the car a total loss.
- If the insurer decides to repair your vehicle and you have comprehensive coverage, it will reimburse you for the cost of the repairs, less any insurance deductible you may owe.
- If it decides the car isn't worth saving, the insurer will pay you the actual cash value, less the same deductible.
If your vehicle is recovered after your insurer has paid out your claim, then your insurance company will likely take ownership. However, if you haven't bought a replacement vehicle, you might have to return the claim amount. This would be handled on a case-by-case basis with your provider.