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UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020
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Although not as common as it once was, stereo theft is still a major concern in some areas. People will break into a car and steal the stereo to resell or pawn for cash; they may also steal any valuables in the vehicle. Fortunately, stereo theft is usually covered under insurance. There are some limitations to this, however, so it’s a good idea to review your policy to make sure that your specific situation will be handled by the policy.
What Coverage Protects Against Partial Theft?
Acts of theft and vandalism are covered by comprehensive coverage. This is separate from your collision coverage and also applies to acts of nature and other sorts of non-accident damage. Most full-coverage auto policies include comprehensive by default, but it is sold separately from collision so it is possible to have one without the other. You will need to refer to your policy to see whether or not comprehensive coverage is included.
Comprehensive coverage only applies to stereo systems that are factory installed in the vehicle. If you have an aftermarket stereo installed in the auto, it may not be covered. If the device is portable, such as a Sirius radio, auto insurance will not cover its theft; instead, you would need to file a claim against a homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy.
Some people choose to install very large or expensive sound systems in their vehicle. These systems may include speakers, subwoofers and other specialized sound equipment. Although these systems are permanently installed, they cannot be covered by comprehensive insurance because they are aftermarket additions to the vehicle. Instead, the insured can purchase a separate sound system policy.
This policy will require you to provide an appraisal of the sound system’s worth. If the system is stolen or damaged, the insurance will pay according to the value of the system less any applicable deductibles. Not all policies offer this coverage, so be sure to ask the insurer whether or not a sound system can be covered before installing one.
Filing a Claim for a Stolen Stereo
Whether you’re submitting a claim against your comprehensive coverage or a specific sound system policy, the claim should be filed directly with the insurance company’s claims department. You can do this at the agent’s office, over the phone or even online for some companies. The process will take about 15 minutes to complete.
The insurance company will ask where the vehicle was parted, how the thief got into the car and if anything else was damaged. Depending on the situation, the vehicle may need to be inspected for damage by the insurance company. Other insurers will simply request that you submit a receipt for the purchase and installation of a new stereo and will reimburse accordingly.
Bear in mind that any comprehensive deductible that you have will apply to the loss. Depending on the cost of a stereo and installation, it may not be worthwhile to file the claim. For example, if a new stereo costs $300 to install and the deductible is $500, there is no reason to file a claim. For this reason it may be a good idea to get an estimate on the replacement prior to submitting the claim.
The stolen stereo may not be the only damage to the vehicle, however, and other damage may not be immediately apparent. For example, there may be damage to the door locks from where the thief broke into the car, or the vehicle may have sustained electrical damage when the thief removed the stereo.
This can increase the overall cost of the repairs and make it worthwhile to file a claim. Depending on the way your policy is written, this additional damage may not be covered under sound system coverage; this means that you may end up owing two separate deductibles if the vehicle sustains damage in addition to the stolen sound system.
Even if you choose not to submit a claim at first, be sure to keep your receipts for any work that you have done on the vehicle. This way, you can submit them for reimbursement if the final repair ends up costing more than the deductible.
Car insurance claims can be complex, and multiple variables may be involved with any specific situation. If you’re not sure how your coverage will apply to any particular occasion, your best bet is to contact your insurance company directly to ask. The agent or customer service representative will be happy to discuss your policy with you and clarify any questions you may have about a specific claims situation.