UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020

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Written By: Laura BerryReviewed By: Melanie MussonUPDATED: Mar 13, 2020Fact Checked

For some people, cars are more than a mode of transportation; they’re an extension of a person’s home. People spend a lot of time in their vehicles, and most cars have a wide variety of items stored in them at least some of the time. From iPods and laptops to groceries, spare clothes and sporting equipment, vehicles carry a wide variety of personal belongings. If those vehicles are damaged or stolen, the items can be lost as well, and some thieves target items left inside of vehicles.

If you come out to a parking lot to discover that your car has been broken into and your belongings are missing, you may be wondering whether you can file a claim to replace those items. It’s a good idea to know in advance what your insurance will cover so that you can plan accordingly; you may want to re-think leaving some items unattended in your car if they will not be protected by insurance.

Does Car Insurance Pay for Stolen Items?

Car insurance is designed to pay for damages to the vehicle that’s listed on an insurance policy whenever that car is damaged as part of a covered loss. For example, if a car is stolen or broken into, the loss or damages to the vehicle itself will be handled under insurance as long as the car has the appropriate coverages.

In most cases, car insurance only pays for items that are factory-installed in the vehicle. If an item is not a permanent feature of the vehicle, it cannot be covered by car insurance. There are several reasons why insurance will not cover these items:

— It’s hard to prove whether an item was or was not in the vehicle at the time of the break-in
— The insurance company calculated risk based on the cost of the vehicle, not any accessories within it
— Items can be covered by other types of insurance, making duplicate claims a possibility

In some cases, if you install an item into your vehicle permanently, you can purchase an additional rider on your insurance policy to handle damages to that item. For example, after-market sound systems can be covered through additional coverages purchased and added to an existing policy. In order to do this, you will need to provide your insurance company with an accurate appraisal of the item’s worth and offer receipts if necessary.

If you cannot add the insurance rider to your policy or the item is not permanently installed in some way, your insurance company cannot pay for lost or stolen items left within your vehicle.

What Does Pay for Stolen Items?

Fortunately, you are not stuck replacing your stolen items out of your own pocket in all cases. Indeed, if you have homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, everything that you own is automatically covered no matter where the items are at the time of the loss. This means that whether your laptop is in your car, on an airplane, at a coffee shop or in your living room, damages and theft will always be handled by your homeowner’s insurance company.

In order to get the theft covered, you will need to call your insurance provider and file a claim. You would then need to submit some form of proof of ownership to them, such as a receipt, serial number or original box. The adjuster would then reimburse you for your missing item after subtracting any applicable deductibles.

If you don’t own a home, you can still protect your personal belongings with renter’s insurance. This coverage is usually very affordable and it will provide protection to everything you own. You may also be able to get a discount on your car insurance if you purchase it from the same company that insures your vehicle, so shopping for renter’s insurance is a good idea if you don’t have it already.

Filing a Claim for Stolen Items

If the vehicle was damaged during the theft, you will need to file a separate claim on your car insurance to cover that loss. For example, if someone breaks your window or pries open a door to get to your iPod, you would need to file a claim on the auto insurance for the vehicle repair and a claim on the homeowner’s policy for the item reimbursement.

If you carry both types of insurance through a single provider, you can file both claims at the same time. Otherwise, you will need to make two separate phone calls. Be sure to provide both insurance companies with the other company’s information in case the adjusters need to communicate about any part of your claim.

Tips for Avoiding Item Theft

Bear in mind that any claim you file on your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance will have a deductible. If the item that was stolen from your car is fairly inexpensive to replace, it may not be worth filing a claim against your insurance. Because you may need to pay for stolen items out of your pocket, it’s a good idea to protect your belongings and avoid theft whenever possible. Here are a few tips:

— Try not to keep too many valuables in your car
— Don’t leave objects in your car overnight
— If you must put them in the car, don’t leave items within plain sight
— Always park in well-lit areas whenever possible
— Keep your car locked and all windows rolled up
— Install a car alarm on your vehicle
— Park your car in a garage at night rather than the driveway or on the curb

Also check to see if the extended warranty on any of your belongings covers theft. If so, it may be a good idea to purchase the warranty for items that you travel with frequently, such as laptops or other personal electronics. Your credit cards may also provide protection against theft or damages to your belongings.

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about car insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything car insurance-related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by car insurance experts.

A former insurance producer, Laura understands that education is key when it comes to buying insurance. She has happily dedicated many hours to helping her clients understand how the insurance marketplace works so they can find the best car, home, and life insurance products for their needs.

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Written by Laura Berry
Former Insurance Agent Laura Berry

Melanie Musson is the fourth generation in her family to work in the insurance industry. She grew up with insurance talk as part of her everyday conversation and has studied to gain an in-depth knowledge of state-specific insurance laws and dynamics as well as a broad understanding of how insurance fits into every person’s life, from budgets to coverage levels. Through her years working in th...

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Reviewed by Melanie Musson
Published Insurance Expert Melanie Musson