Car theft is an awful experience, leaving victims anxious and worried. Finding out your car insurance covers theft may be one bright spot in this otherwise trying experience. While many types of car insurance cover vehicle theft, whether your policy does depends on the exact terms and conditions of the coverage you have chosen to purchase. And remember that even with a policy that covers vehicle theft, personal property in the stolen vehicle isn’t included. For that, claims are filed with your homeowners or renters insurance.

Key Takeaways

  • Several types of car insurance exist—liability insurance won’t cover theft of the vehicle.
  • Comprehensive auto insurance generally covers theft as well as vandalism.
  • Car insurance typically doesn’t cover theft of personal property inside the car—homeowners or renters policies take care of those items.
  • File a police report and an insurance claim as soon as possible after the theft happens.

Liability vs. Comprehensive Car Insurance

Car insurance comes in a few different varieties. Liability is the most basic, and is mandatory in all states except New Hampshire and Vermont. Collision insurance helps pay for additional damages in case of an accident. Neither liability nor collision coverage protect against vehicle theft.

If you’re looking for insurance that covers stolen vehicles, you need a comprehensive policy. Comprehensive vehicle insurance is often bundled with collision and other types of coverage, or you can just buy a comprehensive policy that provides coverage if your car is stolen or broken into.

Other Types of Insurance May Help

While comprehensive generally covers vehicle theft, it covers only the car itself and not personal property left inside. For that, you’ll need to file a claim with your homeowners or renters insurance provider. 

Most homeowners or renters policies cover theft of your personal property, even items stolen from your car. Check the exact terms and conditions of your policy so that you know what is and isn’t covered. So, be prepared to make two different insurance claims, one to your car insurance for the car itself, and another to your homeowner's or renter's insurance for your personal property that was inside the car.

Be aware that some home insurance policies have a lower limit for property stolen when you’re not at home. 

What To Do If Your Car is Stolen

If your car or truck is stolen, call the police and file a report immediately. The police will want basic information such as the make and model, plate number, and maybe the vehicle identification number. Then contact your insurance company to see if you're covered. Call your home or renters insurance carrier if you think personal items were left inside the car.

Do these things without delay. Your claim will be processed quicker, and the odds that your car is found improve. 

If your claim is successful, many insurance carriers use the actual cash value (ACV) of your vehicle to determine your payout. The total will also depend on the terms of your policy. An adjuster from the insurance company determines the vehicle’s value, based on its age, make, model and normal wear and tear. Upgrades you have made like premium seats or wheels will be accounted for, but not accessories like a premium stereo or music player that can be removed. Once the adjuster has come up with a value for the car, you'll usually receive a check for that amount that minus any deductible that you have on your policy.

The Bottom Line

With a variety of car insurance policies available, remember that only some will protect you if your car is stolen or broken into. You won’t be protected with only liability or collision insurance. Only comprehensive insurance covers your car if it's stolen, and it won't cover personal property left inside. For that, you'll need to file a claim with the issuer of your homeowners or renters policy. Make sure to file a police report and insurance claim as soon as possible—that will expedite the process and allow you to replace your car as soon as possible.