When the mercury dips and Jack Frost nips at your nose, your car could wind up in some wicked situations, such as being stuck in a snow bank. Naturally, you might look to your car insurance to spare your budget from being buried under a pile of automotive bills.
But not all wintertime scenarios are covered by your auto insurance. And even if a snowy scenario is covered, filing a winter-related claim could freeze you out of low rates.
Here’s a look at what your car insurance may – or might not – cover in the winter.
You ditch your car in the snow.
If you’re stranded in a snowstorm and have to abandon your car on the side of the road, a claim for towing would be covered if your policy includes towing, says Mike Coleman, an insurance agent with State Farm in Alabama.
“Most companies pay for all or part of a tow bill, regardless of the circumstances, if you carry that coverage,” Coleman says. “You’d have to pay a deductible if your policy calls for one.”
If you don’t have towing coverage through your auto insurance policy or another option like AAA, you could be looking at paying hundreds of dollars out of your pocket.
If your stranded car is involved in a hit-and-run accident while it’s on the side of the road or in the parking lot where you left it while riding out a storm, Coleman says your optional collision coverage should cover the damage. In this case, your deductible would apply. This type of claim could hurt your insurance rates if it’s not the only claim you’ve filed in the past three years.
You bust a frozen window trying to force it open.
If your windows are frozen and you damage them trying to open them, your coverage will depend on the type of damage, says Rick Ward, director of auto claims at MetLife Auto & Home.
“If you break the glass on your window trying to open it, that would be covered under comprehensive or glass coverage, if you have either of those coverages," Ward says.
Many drivers skip comprehensive coverage to save a few hundred dollars a year. Oftentimes, glass coverage is included in the comprehensive part of your policy. Without this coverage, you could be looking at forking over several hundred dollars to fix or replace the window.
Your car slides down your icy driveway into the road.
Steve Brooks, president of B&B Premier Insurance Solutions Inc. in Agoura Hills, Calif., says this type of claim would be covered under the collision portion of your car insurance policy.
“Many companies would consider this a chargeable accident, even though there was no driver in your vehicle,” he says. Keep in mind that you'd have to pay your collision deductible. And, of course, this claim could jack up your auto insurance rates.
Your car is stolen while you were warming up the engine.
Ward says that if you do fall victim to a car thief, you'll be covered as long as you have optional comprehensive coverage. Once again, you'll have to pay a deductible in this situation. If you don’t have comprehensive coverage, you’d have to come up with the money to replace the vehicle.
You damage your car by using a lighter to unfreeze the locks.
As long the damage wasn’t intentional -- you tried to torch your car for the insurance money --Ward says the claim would fall under optional comprehensive coverage. If not, you could face hundreds or perhaps thousands of dollars in bills to fix your car.
Ward offers this advice for anyone who might have to fight frozen locks: “Purchase deicer for about $2.50 to break up any ice that might clog your locks."