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Am I covered if my car is broken into or stolen?

Jill Overmyer

When purchasing car insurance, most people know the importance of buying coverage for accidents. But protecting your car against vehicle theft and break-ins is just as important — according to an FBI statistic cited by the Insurance Information Institute, a vehicle is stolen in the United States every 40 seconds.

Most auto insurance policies require, at minimum, liability coverage for costs associated with accidents you cause. Auto theft and damage from break-ins, however, are covered by optional comprehensive coverage.

Comprehensive coverage basics

Comprehensive coverage is an optional policy that not only covers auto theft and damage from break-ins (like broken glass or stolen air bags), but other non-accident damages like vandalism, fire and hail damage.

While each policy is different, as a general rule, comprehensive coverage covers the actual cash value of a stolen vehicle after you pay your deductible, according to Progressive Insurance. So let’s say you have comprehensive coverage with a $500 deductible and you leave work one evening to find that your car was stolen. You have a vehicle that, after depreciation and wear and tear, is worth $12,000. Upon filing an auto insurance claim and paying your $500 deductible, your insurance company then will give you a check for the remaining $11,500.

Comprehensive coverage and stolen items

Comprehensive coverage will cover the replacement cost if your car is stolen, but what about items stolen from inside your car? Most policies cover only items that are part of the car and that are permanently attached, such as sound systems (except when the entire system can be removed) and rims.

Things not permanently attached to your vehicle, such as purses, wallets, laptops and cell phones, usually are not covered by comprehensive insurance, according to Progressive. Most home or renter’s insurance policies, however, cover theft of personal items.

Preventing break-ins and auto theft

Even if you do have comprehensive coverage, it’s still smart to take steps to keep your car from being stolen or broken into. Nationwide recommends the following tips:

  • Keep your car in a visible, well-lit area. If you can’t park your car in a garage, park in a well-lit area that is surrounded by people.
  • Don’t store valuables in your car. Avoid keeping valuable items, such as computers or electronics, in your car, and never leave your wallet, purse or other identifying information in your glovebox.
  • Lock your car. It may seem like a no-brainer, but close to 25 percent of break-ins occur when the car is unlocked, according to Nationwide.

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