Does Car Insurance Cover Theft of Items in a Car?

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Short Answer: No, car insurance will not cover the theft of personal belongings in a vehicle, but it will cover the theft of parts that serve as an integral component of the vehicle. As an example, car insurance will cover the theft of your car’s stereo, but it would not cover the theft of your phone (or your prized, but dated, CD collection under the driver’s seat). 

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Auto Insurance Does Not Cover Stolen Personal Items

Imagine this: you step out one morning and walk to your car, keys in hand, only to notice the door is slightly ajar. You look inside and notice that someone has rifled through your car. Perhaps items were emptied into the front seat, like maps and scratch pieces of paper. Maybe you even notice a few things missing; your favorite pair of sunglasses from the middle console, your pack of gum from the middle tray, and your gym bag from the back seat. Many of us have been in this same position as victims of an opportunistic criminal. You know that you’re insured – after all, you pay a fee every month for something, right? So which insurance covers theft from items in your vehicle? 

Comprehensive coverage will help recoup the cost of damage done to a vehicle, such as a broken window or a stereo system that is dismantled and stolen from a vehicle. Most insurers will include protection for any vehicle upgrades or custom parts. So, should you install any new navigation systems or car stereos into your vehicle, these parts are usually covered in the event of theft – even though they were not pre-installed features of the vehicle and would be considered “aftermarket parts.” 

However, no auto insurance reimburses the value of personal belongings stolen from your vehicle. 

Rather, it is renter’s insurance or homeowner’s insurance that would cover the cost of stolen personal items. This is what is known as “off-premises coverage.” 

Homeowners and Renters Insurance

Homeowners Insurance, or Renters Insurance, is meant to cover your personal belongings, whether they are physically inside or outside the home. When your personal belongings are outside the home, they are covered under “off-premises coverage.” 

A renter’s insurance policy will usually reimburse you for the financially equivalent of your stolen items on what is known as an Actual Cash Value basis. Actual Cash Value is a measure of the dollar-amount value that items are worth. Using the Actual Cash Value approach, your insurance company will consider the age, wear, condition, and other factors that contribute to depreciated value as related to personal property. Most renter’s insurance will place a strict theft coverage limit on certain items, such as gold, jewelry, or electronics. Some items may not be covered at all, like rare antiques or other high-value items. 

Someone Broke into My Car and Stole My Laptop – Who Covers What? 

In a situation where someone breaks the windows of your vehicle to steal the personal property inside, you would need to file separate claims for the property damage to the vehicle and the theft of the laptop. The car insurance will usually cover the property damage, while the renter’s insurance will reimburse you for the cost of the laptop. This is why it is critical to have both types of insurance. 

Obtaining a reimbursement for the value of your personal belongings may be as simple as contacting your insurance company and filing a claim. However, you will have to first meet the deductible, so you will still need to pay some amount out-of-pocket before your insurer covers the rest. 

How to Prevent Break-Ins

The best way to deal with potential thieves who may see your vehicle as a target is to deter the opportunity in the first place. Before you exit your vehicle, make sure to assess your surroundings. Try to park your vehicle in a highly visible area. In a parking lot, park where there is likely to be a lot of pedestrian or vehicle traffic. At night, park in a well-lit area. 

Whenever leaving your vehicle, even for a quick errand, make sure to lock your doors and roll up your windows. Never leave valuable items lying out on your seats, the dashboard, or any part of your car that is visible to passers-by. Be mindful to never use the glove compartment or seat console as mobile lockboxes. If you have to leave something in your vehicle, do your best to keep it out of sight.  

Final Thoughts

Remember that even despite taking diligent precautions, bad luck or misfortune can happen to anyone. Make sure your personal belongings are covered by insurance so that you can be reimbursed for the value of your items in case this happens to you. If you already have renter’s or homeowner’s insurance, remember to take the time to read and understand the terms so that you know exactly what is covered and what is not. If you have any questions about what is included in your insurance policy, call your insurance representative today. 

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