Someone broke into my car. Am I covered?

Crawford Frazer
Most states require liability coverage for injuries and damage you cause to others and their property. You may also have collision coverage, which covers your own car after an accident.
But what if your car is broken into? What covers the valuable possessions inside and the windows a thief breaks to get in?
Comprehensive coverage
 
To protect your car against theft and vandalism, you need comprehensive coverage. This coverage also covers other non-crash threats like hail and fire damage, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Comprehensive coverage is not automatically included in your auto insurance policy. You need to opt in, and it likely will raise your premium.
Even if you have comprehensive coverage, however, it might not cover all the costs associated with a vehicle break-in. According to Progressive Insurance, comprehensive coverage covers two main things when it comes to break-ins and theft:
  • Direct damage to the car.
  • Permanently attached custom parts or equipment.
In other words, if a thief causes damage while breaking in (a broken window or lock), it probably will be covered through a comprehensive policy. After that, most policies will cover only those things that are permanently attached to the car.
Take your car stereo, for example. If it's permanently attached to your vehicle, it would be covered. But if the entire stereo can be detached, rather than just the face, it won't be considered a permanent part -- and, therefore, won't be covered by your auto insurance policy.
Other personal non-attached items, like cell phones and GPS devices, also won't fall under your comprehensive auto insurance coverage. But they may be covered under your home insurance policy.
Safety tips
 
Nationwide offers these tips for preventing car break-ins -- as well as auto insurance claims:
  • Lock your doors. While obvious, this is the primary safety precaution.
  • Park in a conspicuous spot. If the area is well-lit, or if a lot attendant is present, thieves are much less likely to approach your car.
  • Install an alarm -- and activate it.
  • Consider anti-theft devices like steering wheel locks, which discourage theft of the car itself.
  • Hide your valuables. Because most people choose the glove compartment, a locked trunk or retractable cover are probably better hiding places. Also, hide the valuables before you park so a potential thief won't see you do it.
  • Don't hide a key anywhere in or on the car.
  • Report any suspicious activity.
Your auto insurance company may offer coverage that protects some of the valuable items in your vehicle. But a good rule of thumb is to protect them before anything happens.

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