You might be the safest, most paranoid car owner. You could stash your car inside a locked garage, load it up with the latest security equipment, and even put one of those steering wheel club locks in it, and still your car could be stolen. It is a sinking, disheartening feeling to have your car stolen, but at least auto insurance covers it, right? The answer is not so simple.
It is possible that car insurance covers theft, but it has to be the right kind of insurance. To learn more, we spoke to Edward L. Blais J.D., C.I.C., President of Blais Insurance in Lincoln, R.I. He helped us get a sense of what types of policies cover car theft. We also threw a series of scenarios at the car insurance expert.
Does Car Insurance Cover Theft? Yes. For the Most Part.
“When it comes to an auto policy,” says Blais, “Theft is theft.” So the answer is yes, but it’s not quite a blanket “yes.”
In Rhode Island, theft is covered under something called “Other Than Collision.” “It used to be called comprehensive,” says Blais. Even before that, it was called Fire and Theft. In most other states, it is still called “Comprehensive.”
The only way theft would not be covered under this plan is if it could be proven that the policyholder was somehow involved in the theft of the vehicle. That’s straight-up fraud.
Typical things that comprehensive insurance covers include “Missiles, falling objects, theft, larceny, wind storm (sandblast), contact with bird or animal, mischief, fire, explosion, earthquake …” Blais says. These generally constitute your typical “Act of God” scenarios.
It’s important to note is that this comprehensive level of coverage is above and beyond your basic liability insurance.
Limits of Comprehensive Coverage, Types of Coverage, and Deductibles
So what if your car is stolen and you have just the most basic liability coverage?
“Not much happens,” says Blais. “Liability protects you and your assets from the claims of third parties. It has nothing to do with insuring the physical condition of the automobile.”
You will need comprehensive insurance on top of basic liability and collision insurance. And in buying comprehensive coverage, the deductible is variable. It’s typically about $200, but it can be as much as $500 (or more).
“The price sensitivity of the deductible is determined by the insurance buyer,” says Blais.
As for the rates themselves, they are already determined based on a number of inputs, including the driver’s history, the condition of the vehicle, and the frequency theft in the area and of the vehicle in question.
For reference, the most-stolen vehicles in 2016 were the 1997 Honda Accord, 1998 Honda Civic, 2006 Ford F-Series, 2004 Chevrolet Silverado, and 2014 Toyota Camry. These figures were part of the 2016 National Insurance Crime Bureau’s “Hot Wheels” report, and these types of figures go into your comprehensive insurance rate.
What Happens If Your Car Is Stolen?
One morning, you look out your window and notice your car is not in the driveway. Or you come out from the mall to see your car is no longer there. The first thing you should do is call the police and file a police report. Then you should call your insurance company.
“The insurance adjuster will ask to see police report,” says Blais, “which will lend credibility to your claim.”
The police will start to conduct an investigation, which will have varying results, depending on where you live, the size of the police force, etc.
As this investigation goes on, an adjuster will contact you and will ask you what type of coverage you have. And you can’t buy comprehensive insurance after the fact. If you have the appropriate level of coverage, they will start the process of making you whole.
But even within this process, there are variations. “If you have a project car that is up on blocks and doesn't run,” says Blais, “the car may actually be covered under your homeowner’s policy.” This is also true if the project car is on blocks, if it is in a garage, or if your house burns down. As Blais puts it, “Special things or situations require special insurance.”
Here’s a bit of silver lining: If your car is stolen and the thief gets in a wreck with your car, you are not liable for the damage.
What Happens When Your Car Is Broken Into?
So you walk out to your car in the morning, and your car is still there, but the window is broken. Maybe you own a vehicle with a manual transmissions and the thieves couldn’t drive stick, so they went after your belongings, instead. Once again, things get tricky. It depends what those things were, where they were located in the car, and how they were used by the owner.
If you had valuables in the car, such as cell phones, CDs, a purse, etc., these items are covered under homeowners’ insurance. But say you have an advanced digital camera with multiple lenses (which can get quite expensive), and they are stolen from your trunk. If it turns out you use that equipment for work-related purposes, they would be covered under a business policy or a special scheduled policy. Once again – special cases require a special insurance policy.
What If You Have Installed Aftermarket Parts and They Are Stolen?
One of the great things about car ownership is the ability to customize and personalize your ride. From specialty sound equipment to aftermarket wheels and engine upgrades, there are seemingly endless ways to modify your ride. But just because these parts are now on your car, it doesn’t mean they are covered together under the same policy. (Insurers would have a field day with the Ship of Theseus.)
“Your standard stereo is covered under the auto policy if it is stolen in the middle of the night,” says Blais. “And even many aftermarket units are covered.”
The rationale is that, in theory, most late-model cars have sophisticated stereo systems, and even the aftermarket units are on-par with the stock ones.
But if you are using an adapter connected to a portable music device, like an old iPod, that’s covered under homeowners’ insurance.
“If you were to take the stock wheels off the car and replace them with $5,000 wheels and tires,” explained Blais, “You won’t get comped, even under the most robust [comprehensive] policy.”
The only way to recover the value of the wheels is if you contact the auto insurance company to write special coverage. Otherwise, you will only be comped for the value of the stock/OEM wheels and tires.
Say it with me now: “Special circumstances require special coverage.”
What If You Own Something Older … and Valuable?
Say you have a 1972 Chevrolet Corvette, or 1964 Porsche 356C. This requires special insurance coverage, but luckily there is a whole industry that caters to such vehicles. Classic car insurance is a growing industry, with Hagerty as one of its most notable names. American Collectors Insurance, Grundy, and many of the major insurers offer classic car insurance. Companies like these specialize in writing classic car policies and are the best option to ensure you get full value for your car if it is stolen.
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