Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insurance...

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UPDATED: Jul 14, 2021

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Here's what you need to know...

  • A basic Personal Auto Policy provides only state-mandated coverage options like Bodily Injury and Property Damage Liability
  • Basic policies don’t provide any coverage for vehicle theft or theft or items inside of your vehicle
  • If you add comprehensive physical damage coverage to your policy, the contract does provide coverage for theft but there are restrictions
  • Comprehensive will provide up to a vehicle’s Actual Cash Value to replace a vehicle that’s been stolen or repair a vehicle that’s been recovered after theft
  • If the vehicle has been vandalized, only objects that were permanently fixed to the car are covered under the auto insurance. Theft claims are subject to a deductible.
  • CD’s, purses, clothing, mobile phones and other detached items would be covered under your homeowner’s or renter’s property insurance policy

Cars are one of the most attractive things to break into. This is why the rate of vehicle theft in the United States is on a continuous rise. Savvy thieves are capable of unlocking doors, disabling security systems and dismantling car audio equipment in a matter of minutes. While it’s possible to deter thieves and prevent a majority of car break-ins with alarm systems, you’re never 100% safe. Compare car insurance rates now by using our FREE tool above!

Auto insurance is designed to protect you in situations that you can’t avoid or prevent. Car accidents, fires, and floods all fall under the umbrella of losses that are unpredictable and unavoidable. Car break-ins also fall under this broad umbrella, but not everything that a savvy thief has their eyes on will be covered under your auto policy. This is why it’s important to learn what is and what’s not covered under your existing auto insurance policy.

Does a basic policy provide coverage for theft?

A basic auto insurance policy is a policy that provides the policyholder with nothing more than the coverage options that’s required by law. Since most states operate under a fault-based system, the bare minimum policy will typically only provide Bodily Injury Liability and Property Damage Liability to pay for third-party expenses. Some states also require a minimum amount of Uninsured Motorist coverage as well, but physical damage is never required by the state.

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What coverage do you need to carry to have theft coverage?

If you live in an area with a high rate of vehicle break-ins or property vandalism, it might be a good idea to consider adding optional coverage that pays to repair physical damage. Comprehensive is the form of physical damage protection that specifically pays for losses like theft and vandalism. It also pays for losses that occur because of fire, explosion, weather, flood, falling objects and collision with an animal.

How much does comprehensive insurance cost?

The cost of comprehensive coverage is based on the vehicle classification code and the area that you live in. If you own a vehicle that retains a high value or that costs more than the average car to repair, the cost for physical damage coverage will be higher than average.

Drivers in densely populated areas or areas with high crime rates will typically pay higher physical damage rates as well.

With all of this being said, the average cost of comprehensive coverage is $138.82 per year. This is less than $12 per month.

How much will my policy pay if my car is stolen?

All physical damage claims are subject to limits. If you’re concerned with how much you’ll receive if your vehicle is stolen, it’s important that you understand the limits of your Personal Auto Policy contract. If you were to review your policy booklet, you would find that the Personal Auto Policy pays no more than the Actual Cash Value of the stolen or damaged property. If the vehicle is stolen and is never recovered, you’ll be paid the ACV plus the sales tax, registration, and title costs.

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What if the vehicle is recovered after a theft?

If your vehicle is recovered within a reasonable amount of time, the claim won’t be classified as a total loss. Instead, the insurer will pay to repair the vehicle if it was damaged at the hands of the thief. The car will still be a total loss if the damages exceed the car’s ACV. Carriers also pay for new alarm systems and to re-key cars after a theft recovery.

How will your car’s value be calculated?

Actual Cash Value, which is transcribed as ACV, is the vehicle’s depreciated market value at the time of the loss. It’s not the vehicle’s MSRP or the vehicle’s dealer price. When calculating the vehicle’s value, the insurer will consider the following:

  • Dealer surveys
  • Value guide books like Kelley Blue Book
  • Online pricing sites
  • Sales data from private party sales
  • Sales data from dealership sales
  • Condition level of the vehicle
  • Trim and color combination
  • Aftermarket additions
  • Vehicle options
  • Mileage

Will my policy pay when items are stolen from my car?

If you walk out to your car to discover a broken window and belongings missing from your vehicle, this creates a unique challenge for the insurer. There are more than 1.85 million car break-ins every year that result in the theft of more than $1.255 billion in personal property. Out of the objects stolen, only some of these items are covered.

There’s a common rule of thumb surrounding coverage for stolen items, the items that are permanently fixed to the car are defined as part of the car.

This means that they will be covered if they’re dismantled and stolen. Some of the belongings that aren’t covered under your comprehensive cover include:

  • Cash
  • Jewelry
  • Tools
  • Wallets
  • Purses
  • CD’s
  • Mobile phones/tablets
  • Sporting equipment
  • Gifts
  • Merchandise purchased from the store
  • Anything that can be removed from the vehicle without being uninstalled

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All Theft Claims Are Subject to a Deductible

Check you comprehensive deductible before filing any theft claims. If your stereo is stolen but is only valued at $300, there’s not point in filing a claim when your deductible is $500. All claims must exceed your deductible before the insurer will pay.

You Might Have Coverage Elsewhere

Just because your auto insurance doesn’t provide coverage doesn’t mean that you don’t have anything to lean back on. If something worth thousands is stolen from your car, your property insurance may pay. Most policies cover items in transit.

Certain items, like cash or jewelry, are subject to limits. Property insurance deductibles apply to all personal property claims.

If you don’t have comprehensive coverage, it’s time to price the cost for your car. Get your VIN and all of your personal information to start the quoting process. Once you have everything visit an online comparison shopping tool and enter the information in the appropriate fields so that you can access your instant quotes for theft coverage. Enter your zip code in our FREE tool below to compare car insurance rates now!