Does Auto Insurance Cover a Stolen Car?

As long as you have comprehensive coverage, your car insurance should cover a stolen car, whether or not it’s found.

Comprehensive insurance will also cover a stolen stereo, catalytic converter or anything else that is a part of your car. However, items stolen out of your car, like a laptop, phone or gifts, could be covered by your home or renters insurance policy.

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Car thefts are on the rise all across the U.S. More than 1 million vehicles were stolen in 2022 — with thefts of Ford and Chevrolet trucks being the most common. If your car is stolen, file a police report immediately and contact your insurance to start a claim. The sooner your car is reported stolen, the higher the chance of your car being found.

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Does car insurance cover theft and vandalism?

Comprehensive coverage is the only type of car insurance that covers theft or vandalism of your car.

Comprehensive covers a car that's been stolen and 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 part 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 item.

What kind of theft does comprehensive insurance cover?

  • Missing or stolen car

  • Smashed window from an attempted break-in
  • Vandalism like slashed tires
  • A thief stole your car and crashed it
  • Catalytic converter theft
  • Stolen or damaged keys and fob
  • Personal property like a laptop, jewelry or cash

If you don't have comprehensive insurance on your policy, you won't be covered if your car is stolen. Other types of coverage, like liability and collision coverage, don't pay for a stolen car.

Other car insurance coverage that could help with a stolen car:

What to do when your car is stolen

Making a police report and insurance claim as soon as possible gives you the best chance of getting your car back and having a smooth claim process.

As soon as you realize your car has been stolen, contact the police first. 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 info about your car to help them find the vehicle. You can find some of this info on your vehicle title, insurance card or other insurance documentation.

  • Vehicle identification number (VIN)
  • License plate number
  • Year, make, model and color of the car
  • 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 some people lie about their car being stolen to commit insurance fraud, the police may need to rule you out as a suspect. After filing your report, immediately notify your auto insurance company to start the claim process.

2. File an insurance claim

Your auto insurance company will need as much info as possible to evaluate your insurance claim and decide its payout offer.

Most insurance companies will ask for your car’s info when you submit a claim, including:

  • 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
  • Description of your vehicle, including mileage, service records and upgrades
  • Contact information for your auto lender if you have one
  • Insurance policy account number

Your insurance company 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 it 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. You can ask for options to pause loan payments while your car is missing.

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 paid. If the car is recovered and the repair cost is less, you'll only receive enough to pay for the repairs.

Most insurance companies will wait a few weeks before completing your claim payout to see if your stolen car is recovered.

What is "actual cash value"?

The actual cash value, or ACV, is the replacement value of your car, minus the depreciation of value from wear and tear.

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 (KBB) value and other details such as the wholesale price of your car.

Only the core fixtures of the vehicle count toward your car's value — this includes things that are a part of the car, like your wheels and seats.

Comprehensive insurance won't cover nonpermanent additions, 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 have to pay a separate deductible for this type of claim.

How to dispute a stolen car claim offer

It's the insurance adjuster's job to provide a fair valuation for your car, but it might be lower than you thought. Research the value of your vehicle so you know whether you're getting a decent offer. You can use:

  • Kelley Blue Book
  • Edmunds
  • National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA)

To get an accurate value of your car, factor in all the relevant info your adjuster would consider, such as the mileage and accident history. You can also run dealership reports to see how similar cars are selling.

If you feel the ACV your insurance company reports is unfair, you can counter your claim offer and support your position with solid research. If you've made upgrades to your car and can prove it with receipts and photos, the insurance company might adjust its valuation.

If your insurance company finds evidence that you deliberately allowed your car to be stolen to receive a payout, your claim could be denied. That's considered insurance fraud, and not only will your claim be denied, but you may even face criminal charges.

Stolen car claim payout example

Let's look at a specific example to see how your claim might turn out:

2019 Toyota Camry
MSRP $23,070
KBB value after one year of wear and tear$13,000
Adjuster's designated ACV$12,500
Insurance deductible$500
Final claim payout$12,000

Dave bought a new 2019 Toyota Camry for $23,070 and drove it for one year, putting 12,000 miles total on the car. The car is still in good condition and is now valued between $12,000 and $14,000, according to Kelley Blue Book.

Last week, Dave's car was stolen with his tablet in the back seat. He filed a police report and notified his insurance company right away. The insurance adjuster reviewed the car's history and mileage, its KBB value and the price of similar cars at local dealers. The adjuster set the ACV of Dave’s car at $12,500. As part of Dave’s policy, he has a $500 deductible he has to pay before coverage kicks in, so the insurance company cut him a check for $12,000.

Dave's comprehensive insurance only includes anything attached to the vehicle, so his tablet isn't covered. Even though his car insurance is bundled with his renters insurance, he would have to file a separate claim for any stolen items. Dave's renters insurance policy is also subject to a $500 deductible. Dave's tablet is worth less than the deductible, so he had to replace his tablet with his own money.

What happens if my stolen car is found?

Around 34% of cars stolen in the U.S. are recovered, and of those recovered cars, many have damage and 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 insurance company decides to repair your car and you have comprehensive coverage, it will reimburse you for the cost of the repairs, minus your insurance deductible.

If the insurance company decides the car isn't worth saving, it will pay you the actual cash value, minus the same deductible.

If your vehicle is recovered after your insurance company has paid out your claim, then your insurance company will likely take ownership of your car. However, if you haven't bought a replacement vehicle, you might have to return the claim amount, which is handled on a case-by-case basis with your insurance company.

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 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 the items are not stolen from inside your home.

Does insurance cover my stolen car if I left the keys inside?

Yes, as 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.

Does car insurance cover a stolen catalytic converter?

Yes, if you carry comprehensive coverage on your car, you should be covered for the theft of your catalytic converter. If you only carry the minimum insurance on your car, you will not be covered for the theft and will have to pay for the replacement and repair work yourself.

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