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July 19, 2022

Does Auto Insurance Cover Theft of Personal Belongings?

Someone breaks into your car and steals your laptop from the backseat. You want to file an insurance claim, but you’re not sure if you can. Does auto insurance cover personal belongings? The simple answer is no, auto insurance does not typically cover theft of your personal belongings. However, protecting your valuable cargo is possible with the right coverage.

Car Thefts Are on the Rise

The National Insurance Crime Bureau says that car thefts have increased. In 2020, there were 880,595 car thefts, up from 794,019 in 2019. Some states saw especially large increases. In Colorado, for example, auto thefts increased by 37%. California, Texas and Florida have the largest share of car thefts.

A thief doesn’t need to take your entire car in order to steal your valuables. Some criminals smash windows or use other means to break into cars and steal whatever is inside, and these incidents may be increasing in some areas, too. According to the Spokesman-Review, the Spokane Police Department in Washington reported a 94% spike in vehicle prowl reports in the first part of 2022.

A thief who breaks into your car might get away with nothing more than some loose change, but if you have valuables in your car, the loss could be much more significant. You might have left your smartphone in your car, or you might have some expensive emergency supplies in the trunk. Laptops, MP3 players and other electronic devices are often left in cars, too.

But that’s not even the worst-case scenario. Imagine you’re getting ready to drive your teen to college and the car is loaded with everything your teen will need for the year. If a thief breaks in then, your teen could lose everything. Major losses can also occur if you’ve just purchased a piece of art, a new camera or some other expensive item, and you haven’t taken it out of your car yet.

Understanding Auto Insurance Coverage

When people talk about auto insurance, they’re actually talking about a number of different coverage types that can be bundled together.

Some people just carry liability insurance. Most states require this coverage, and it will pay a claim if you damage someone else’s car or injure someone else in a crash. However, it will not cover damage to your own property or injuries that you and your passengers suffer. If your car is broken into, liability insurance won’t help.

Many people also carry collision and comprehensive insurance, and lenders often require both of these coverages. Collision insurance covers damage to your car caused by a collision, and comprehensive insurance covers many other types of losses to your vehicle, including theft and vandalism. If someone breaks into your car and you have comprehensive insurance, you can file a claim for the broken glass and other damage caused during the break-in. However, your auto insurance policy may not cover personal items stolen from your vehicle – although some auto insurance policies may include some coverage for contents up to a limit such as $500 or $1,000.

Homeowners and Renters Insurance

At this point, you might be wondering how you’re supposed to secure coverage for the expensive personal items in your vehicle. The good news is that there may be a coverage option, and you may already have it – your homeowners or renters insurance policy.

Some homeowners and renters insurance policies include “off-premises” coverage for personal items and losses that occur away from the home. If valuables are stolen from your car, you can file a claim with your homeowners or renters insurance company.

However, there may be limits that determine how much you can be reimbursed, and there may also be exclusions that apply to certain types of items, such as expensive art. For example, many policies use an off-premises coverage limit of 10% of your personal property limit – which may not be enough to cover the cost of items stolen.

If you routinely carry expensive items in your car, you should contact your agent to discuss a solution. It’s possible that you may be able to increase your coverage limit or schedule certain items. However, if you frequently transport expensive items due to a hobby or your work, you may even need to purchase an inland marine or commercial auto insurance policy.

Tips for Protecting Your Valuable Cargo

With vehicle thefts on the rise, it’s important to be proactive about protecting your valuable cargo.

  • Avoid leaving personal items in your car. It may be a hassle to remove everything in your car every day, but doing so can prevent thefts. Be especially careful about not leaving any items where they are visible to passersby, as this may attract opportunistic thieves.
  • Secure your car. Avoid parking your car in areas that are unsafe. Make sure your doors are locked – even if you’ll only be away from your car for a minute – and consider installing a car alarm.
  • Review your homeowners or renters insurance policies to check your coverage for personal items stolen or damaged away from your home. If you don’t have enough coverage, talk to your insurer about increasing your coverage.
  • If you experience a break-in or car theft, contact the police to file a police report. Then contact your insurer. You may need to file an auto insurance claim for damage to your vehicle and a homeowners or renters insurance claim for stolen personal property.

Do you need help protecting your personal belongings? Heffernan can help you secure the coverage you need. Learn more.

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