Mathew B. Sims is Editor-in-Chief and has authored, edited, and contributed to several books. He has been working in the insurance industry ensuring content is accurate for consumers who are searching for the best policies and rates. He has also been featured on sites like UpJourney.

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years (BBB A+). He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like Reviews.com and Safeco. He reviews content, ensuring that ex...

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Apr 20, 2020

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Things to Remember...

  • Personal auto insurance may include coverage for theft and vandalism if you carry optional comprehensive coverage
  • Comprehensive coverage pays to repair or replace the vehicle, up to its fair market value, when it’s damaged
  • Some auto insurance policies have special stipulations when it comes to electronic equipment

Since car owners can’t reasonably keep an eye on their vehicles all hours of the day, it’s not out of the ordinary for a person to discover their vehicle has been broken into at least once in their lifetime no matter where they live or work.

Since car vandalism and theft are two of the most common property crimes reported today, it’s important that you understand when you are and aren’t protected.

Auto insurance provides you with a great buffer of financial protection, but even when you purchase a ‘full coverage’ policy, not everything’s covered.

There are times where items stolen from your car will be eligible for coverage and times these items won’t. Read on, and find out exactly how insurers handle claims when someone breaks into your car and invades your privacy.

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What covers claims for vandalism and theft?

Not all car policies include coverage for vandalism and theft regardless of what in or on the car that’s stolen or vandalized. In order for physical damage coverage like this to be afforded, you’ll need to have at least comprehensive coverage.

Comprehensive is a form of physical damage protection that’s carried a vehicle owner’s policy that pays for non-fault claims where the vehicle typically isn’t moving.

No-fault claims is a very general definition. To avoid confusion, standard policies will actually name the perils that are covered under comprehensive instead of just listing claims that are excluded.

In the standard personal car insurance form, comprehensive coverage will pay up to the car’s actual cash value if it’s damaged or totaled because of:

  • Fire
  • Theft
  • Vandalism
  • Accidents with live animals
  • Hail
  • Wind
  • Falling objects

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Enter your ZIP code below to view companies that have cheap auto insurance rates.

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What is the fair market value or ACV?

ACV stands for Actual Cash Value of the insured property. ACV and fair market value of a vehicle are terms that can often be used interchangeably, but ACV is jargon that insurance representatives use more frequently.

It is technically the pre-loss value of the vehicle before it sustained damage minus the deductible that you carry for comprehensive claims. Adjusters will use third-party sales data, valuation guides, and dealership information to calculate a value.

Since standard coverage doesn’t have a stated dollar limit or fixed amount of coverage it provides for your vehicle, it’s important that you understand that an insurer will pay no more than the ACV of your car when filing a claim.

Claims, where the settlement for repairs will exceed the ACV, will be called total loss claims.

How is stolen property handled after a break-in?

If you do carry comprehensive and something has been stolen from your vehicle, there’s a chance there may be coverage for some of your belongings, but coverage isn’t guaranteed.

Car insurance policies, since they are written in legalities, can be extremely difficult to understand when you’re trying to translate them.

In most cases, only belongings that are permanently fixed to the vehicle will be covered in the event of a theft.

The operative word is permanently and whether or not the object can be easily removed from the car will be what dictates how a claim is processed.

These permanently fixed items are covered as custom parts and equipment under the policy booklet, but there may be some limitations if you haven’t disclosed the add-ons to your company prior to the loss.

Is stereo equipment covered if stolen?

Some auto insurance policies have special stipulations when it comes to electronic equipment. While there are companies that still operate under forms where electronics are specifically excluded, most companies use an updated Personal Auto Policy.

This policy provides up to $1000 of coverage for permanently installed electronics like stereos, GPS devices, and even headrest screens.

Your deductible still applies to this type of claim. If you’re not sure about this type of coverage, it would be a good idea to ask your insurance agent or carrier.

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What items aren’t covered if stolen from your car?

The list of items and belongings that aren’t covered is probably longer than the list that is. Everything that’s not installed in the car isn’t part of the car and isn’t covered if stolen during a property crime.

Simply put, if you ripped the roof off of your car and turned it upside down, anything that falls out to the ground won’t be covered under your auto insurance.

Examples of these items include:

  • CD’s
  • Wallets
  • Purses
  • Clothing
  • Infant car seats
  • Money
  • Cell phones
  • Shopping bags with merchandise
  • Laptops
  • Detachable GPS devices

How can you protect belongings you keep in your car?

If you have the misfortune of leaving expensive items in your car just to discover they’ve been stolen, you may have coverage under your property insurance.

Since everyone’s insurance coverage is different, it’s a good idea to inquire about how your insurance company’s policies regarding theft.

Home and renter’s insurance provides coverage away from the property, but your policy deductible will apply. Think about the value of the claim first because theft claims under property policies can raise rates.

How to Prevent Car Break-ins

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It’s important that you’re proactive in avoiding theft claims. There are ways to make your car less of a target to would-be vandals.

Here are some tips:

  • Lock your doors and arm your alarm at all times
  • Keep your car clean and belongings in the car out of sight
  • Bring valuables with you
  • Park in a highly visible area

Auto insurance can’t cover everything, but it’s important to know where gaps lie before you need to file a claim. If you’re not happy with your insurer after experiencing a break in, it’s time to consider shopping around.

Request car insurance quotes for comprehensive coverage through an online rate comparison tool and find out how much you’ll pay to switch to an insurer with great service and pricing.

Start comparing car insurance rates now by entering your zip code in our FREE tool below!

References:

  1. https://www.progressivecommercial.com/coverages/physical-damage/
  2. http://www.edmunds.com/auto-insurance/a-total-loss.html
  3. http://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/0611/car-insurance-add-ons-that-may-be-worth-the-money.aspx
  4. https://www.allstate.com/tools-and-resources/car-insurance/what-is-comprehensive-auto-insurance.aspx
  5. http://thismatter.com/money/insurance/types/auto-insurance.htm
  6. http://classroom.synonym.com/full-coverage-insurance-cover-theft-items-inside-car-8012.html