What kind of insurance covers me if my car is stolen or broken into?
Stephanie Taylor Christensen
A motor vehicle is stolen about every 40 seconds in the United States, according to the FBI. More than one-third of all vehicle thefts occur at a home or residence.
Comprehensive insurance, the same type of coverage that also pays for vandalism, fire or weather-related damages, is generally the type of insurance that covers auto theft and break-ins. This coverage is not mandatory, and rates vary based on the likelihood that your car will be stolen. This probability is based on a variety of factors, like the car's make and model, where you usually drive and park it, and the neighborhood where you live.
Comprehensive coverage typically pays for stolen vehicle parts, which generally are defined by insurance companies as those that are permanently attached to your vehicle, according to Progressive Insurance.
Unfortunately, some of the most stolen items are not cars themselves, but the valuables inside, like car stereos, mobile phones, CDs, GPS devices, laptops and wallets. Of these, the only one that comprehensive theft coverage might cover is the car stereo, according to Progressive -- and even that depends on the terms of your specific policy. Other valuables may be covered by a homeowner's or renter's insurance policy. If your car suffers damage like broken windows, locks, scratches or dents as a result of a break-in, comprehensive coverage likely will cover repair costs, minus your policy's deductible.
To deter thieves:
- Remove valuables from your vehicle, including the detachable face of a car stereo, according to Progressive.
- Install an alarm system. If you live in an area where theft is prevalent, Edmunds.com suggests investing in an aftermarket anti-theft system, which is more difficult for thieves to disarm than a factory-installed alarm.
- Lock windows and doors when you're away from the car.
- Park in well-lit areas.
- Avoid parking near the exit in a parking lot, where a car is more easily stolen, according to Edmunds.com.
Always keep a written record of your license plate number, vehicle identification number (VIN), registration and insurance card in a place separate from your vehicle, as this is information you'll need to give law enforcement and your auto insurance company in the event of theft. If your car is stolen, contact the police immediately to increase the chances that your car is recovered.