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Car insurance does cover a stolen car, but only if you have comprehensive coverage.
If you do, you're covered for the outright theft of your vehicle, as well as damage to your vehicle that occurs during a break-in. You'll be paid up to the actual cash value (ACV) of your car, minus your deductible.
Unfortunately, no other type of car insurance covers theft, so if you don't have comprehensive insurance, you're on your own to cover the cost of a replacement vehicle.
If your car is stolen, file a police report immediately and contact your insurance provider to find out if you're protected. The sooner you do this, the sooner you'll be able to replace your car — and the odds of your car being found will be higher, too.
What kind of insurance covers theft?
Comprehensive insurance is the only form of insurance that reimburses you for a car theft or damage due to a break-in, regardless of whether your car is recovered.
Two coverages that build on comprehensive will also pay out if your car is stolen:
In addition to the straightforward scenario of "your car was stolen," there are other theft-related instances in which comprehensive coverage will cover your expenses.
This includes any damage done to your car if it's broken into, such as a broken window, damaged lock or stolen car keys. Comprehensive also includes theft of your catalytic converter or other commonly stolen car parts.
Unfortunately, you won't be covered for personal property that's stolen unless it's a permanent fixture of your car, like a steering wheel or built-in stereo. For example, if you left your laptop, dashcam or phone in your car and it was stolen, you could make a homeowners or renters insurance claim to replace your stolen items.
Items covered by comprehensive insurance in theft incidents
Is it covered?
|Damage resulting from a break-in||Yes|
|Complete theft of the car||Yes|
|Car crashed while stolen||Yes|
|Stolen or damaged keys and fob||Yes|
|Other personal property (gifts, jewelry, cameras)||No|
If you don't have comprehensive insurance on your car, you won't be covered if it's stolen. Other coverages, like liability and collision coverage, don't pay for a stolen car.
Coverages that do not pay for car theft
- Liability coverage
- Collision coverage
- Uninsured motorist coverage
- Personal injury protection
- Roadside assistance
- Homeowners and renters insurance
Does insurance cover my stolen car if I left the keys inside?
Yes. So long as you have comprehensive coverage on your car, you're covered no matter what the circumstances of the theft are. That includes situations where you walked away with the door unlocked, left the keys in the ignition or even left the car running.
The only time you might have your claim denied is if your insurance company finds evidence that you deliberately allowed your car to be stolen in order to receive a payout. That's considered insurance fraud, and not only will your claim be denied, but it's also a crime. You may even face criminal charges.
What to do when your car is stolen
Responding as quickly as possible is imperative for recovering your vehicle or initiating a smooth claim 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.
1. File a police report
It's best to file a police report within 24 hours of the car theft. The faster the police can begin searching for your stolen car, the more likely they are to find it. It also means you'll be able to start the claim process sooner.
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)
- The year, make and model of the car
- The place and estimated time of the theft
- Personal property inside the car when it was stolen
- 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 claim process.
2. 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 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
- 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, and could increase the likelihood of your claim being denied.
Finally, if you're leasing or financing your vehicle, you need to notify the lender as soon as possible.
How much will my stolen car payout be?
Comprehensive insurance covers up to the actual cash value of your car, minus your deductible, which is an amount you set when you purchase car insurance.
This is the maximum amount you'll be compensated; if the car is recovered and the repair cost is less than this, you'll only receive enough to pay for the repairs.
Actual cash value
The actual cash value, or ACV, equals the replacement cost of your car, minus the depreciation from normal wear and tear.
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 while the police search for your car.
For example, rental car reimbursement from Geico covers up to $25 of rental car costs per day, with a total of $750 per claim.
However, if the insurer deems your car a total loss, it will eventually stop paying for your rental vehicle, so it's best to start looking for a replacement vehicle as soon as possible.
ACV doesn't include any insurance deductible 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 vehicle so you know whether you're getting a decent offer. You can use:
- Kelley Blue Book
- National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA)
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.
Disputing your offer
If you feel the ACV your insurer reports 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 it with receipts and photos, the insurer might adjust its valuation.
Let's look at a specific example to see how your claim might turn out.
2019 Toyota Camry
|After one year of average wear and tear||Approximately $13,000|
|Adjuster's designated ACV||$12,500|
|Final claim payout||$12,000|
Dave purchased a new 2019 Toyota Camry for $23,070. He drove his car for one year and put 12,000 miles total on the car. His car is still in very good condition — there's just one minor scrape on the bumper — and now has a trade-in value between $12,000 and $14,000, according to Kelley Blue Book.
Last week, Dave's car was stolen, and his tablet was in the back seat. He filed a police report and notified his insurance provider.
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 said 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 replaced his tablet with his own money.
What happens if my car is recovered?
In the U.S., 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 pay for repairs to the car unless the repair costs are higher than the value of the car — making it 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.
Frequently asked questions
Does car insurance cover theft if I leave the engine on?
Yes. Comprehensive coverage generally pays to replace your car if it's stolen, even if you leave the car running or leave the keys behind.
What kinds of car insurance cover theft?
The only type of car insurance coverage that will pay for a stolen car is comprehensive. It covers all sources of damage to your car except crashes, such as vandalism, hail or water damage.
Does car insurance cover items or gifts left in my car?
Unfortunately, even comprehensive car insurance does not cover items left inside your car if it is stolen. Thankfully, most home or renters insurance will cover these losses, even if they are not stolen from inside your home.