Realizing that your car has been stolen is one of the most alarming things you can experience as a driver, whether your car is parked in your driveway or a busy parking lot.
After likely standing there and panicking for a few minutes, the first thought in your head will probably be: what now?
Quickly followed by: how the hell am I going to pay for this?
The good news is, you don’t have to pay out-of-pocket to replace your vehicle if it gets stolen, as long as you have the right insurance.
What type of car insurance covers theft?
Specifically, the type of car insurance that covers theft is comprehensive insurance, an optional policy that is included with full coverage insurance.
Besides theft and break-ins, comprehensive insurance covers your vehicle’s repairs stemming from non-collision claims, like:
- Hail damage.
- Falling objects.
- Natural disasters.
If you carry a minimum coverage policy, which includes personal liability insurance only, it won’t cover your car if it gets stolen. Additionally, you must have an active comprehensive insurance policy at the time of the incident in order to file a theft claim.
How much will insurance cover?
With any type of car insurance, your policy has a limit, which is the maximum amount your insurance company will pay in the event of a covered claim. When it comes to theft claims, you will be reimbursed for a new vehicle based on your car’s ACV, or actual cash value.
How is my ACV determined?
Your vehicle’s ACV is determined by your insurance company. The figure is calculated by taking the replacement cost value of your car and subtracting the car’s depreciation when the theft occurred.
So, if your 2010 Honda Civic was stolen, you’re not going to be able to replace it with a 2019 Tesla Model 3.
If your Civic’s ACV was $5,000 at the time of the theft, you would be given $5,000, minus your deductible, to put towards a new car.
What types of damage are covered?
Having your car stolen, or broken into, can result in multiple types of damage. Here are the four main theft scenarios which would be covered by comprehensive insurance:
- Vehicle theft. If your car gets stolen and you have comprehensive insurance, your insurance company will cover the cost of a replacement vehicle, up to your old vehicle’s ACV.
- Vehicle damage. If your vehicle is broken into and there is damage, like a broken window or disabled anti-theft device, your comprehensive insurance policy will pay for the repairs.
- Vandalism. If your car is vandalized in any way, whether it’s stolen or broken into, your comprehensive insurance policy will pay to have the car restored or repaired.
- Stolen parts. Comprehensive insurance will usually pay to replace stolen car parts, like a custom stereo system or aftermarket rims.
Does car insurance cover stolen personal items?
Unfortunately, your car insurance won’t cover personal items that were in the vehicle at the time of the theft. That’s what property insurance is for.
A home or renters insurance policy will cover your personal belongings anywhere in the world, including in your stolen vehicle. Just keep in mind that valuable items, like computers or money, typically have a low coverage limit.
For example: if your car got broken into outside your college dorm and the burglar stole your laptop, you would only get reimbursed up to your policy’s limit, which is often around $1,500.
If you keep expensive items in your vehicle, it’s a good idea to raise your coverage limits for more protection. If your insurance company doesn’t cover the full value of the stolen item, you might have to pay some money out-of-pocket to replace it.
Will I get a loaner car if mine gets stolen?
If your car gets stolen and you need a vehicle to commute, some insurance companies will provide a temporary rental car. If you have rental car reimbursement, which is an endorsement policy, it should apply in the case of theft.
However, it’s a good idea to consult with an agent to see what your specific policy covers.
What to do if your car gets stolen
If you’re anything like me, your initial reaction after learning that your car has been stolen is sheer panic. However, I’m here to tell you that time is of the essence when you’re dealing with vehicle theft.
Here’s what you should do if your car gets stolen:
- Call the police. The first thing you should do (after taking some deep breaths) is to call the police as soon as possible. Don’t spend hours canvassing your neighborhood to find it, unless you just forgot where you parked. In order to file an insurance claim, you will likely need to provide a police report detailing the incident.
- Call your insurance company. The next thing you’ll want to do is notify your insurance company of the theft. In addition to the police report, they’ll probably ask you for information like a description of the vehicle, what personal items were in the vehicle, and a copy of the title. If the car is financed, you’ll also want to share your lender’s information.
- Call your lender. If the stolen vehicle is currently being paid off, the last person you should call is your financing company. They will need to stay in touch with your insurance company throughout the claim process. If the car never gets recovered and you have gap insurance, your insurance carrier can pay off the remaining loan balance on your behalf.
What happens if your car is found?
If your car is recovered, it doesn’t mean it will be found in one piece. If your car gets stolen and is recovered, there are a few things that might happen.
If the car is found without any major damages or parts missing, you should be able to get it back and continue driving it without any issues. That is, after it has been processed as evidence in a theft crime.
Your insurance company will cancel the claim, and assuming you haven’t received any compensation, nothing further will happen.
If the car is found with a lot of damage, your insurance company will pay for the repairs, as long as you have comprehensive insurance.
If the car is damaged so severely that it’s declared a total loss by adjusters, you’ll get compensated for the cost of a new car, up to your old vehicle’s ACV.
Ways to prevent car theft
Getting your car stolen is pretty unpredictable, but there are ways that you can reduce the chance of theft from occurring.
Here are some of my suggestions:
- Always lock your car doors, even in your garage and when running quick errands.
- Never leave windows open when your car is parked.
- Install an anti-theft device in your vehicle if it doesn’t come with one.
- Don’t leave valuable items in your car if you can help it.
- Trust your gut—if you feel like you’re parked in an unsafe area, go somewhere else.
Car thefts can happen anytime, anywhere.
The best way to protect yourself and your vehicle is to purchase a full coverage insurance policy with comprehensive coverage. If the unthinkable does happen, you won’t have to dip into your savings to buy a new car.