New data shows car thefts are on the rise — here’s how auto insurance can help
Car thefts are on the rise across the U.S. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) data, more than one million cars were stolen in 2022. Thefts were up 7% in 2022 compared to 2021, making last year one of the worst on record since 2008.
The NICB recommends drivers check to make sure their car insurance policy is up to date, but don’t assume that your policy will cover your stolen car. CNBC Select explains why you need comprehensive car insurance to protect against theft, and what actions you should take if you find yourself a victim of grand theft auto.
You’ll need comprehensive coverage to cover theft
With the exception of New Hampshire and Virginia, every state requires you to have a car insurance policy to drive. But you’ll most likely need more coverage than what’s legally mandated if you want to be reimbursed for your stolen car.
Most policies that meet the legal requirements provide some amount of liability coverage, which is a type of insurance that can cover other people and property that is damaged when you’re involved in an at-fault accident. This coverage notably doesn’t cover any damage to your car unrelated to accidents, such as theft.
That’s where comprehensive coverage comes in. This type of coverage isn’t required by the law, but it can help reimburse you if your car or its parts are stolen, and even cover things like natural disaster damage, vandalism and fallen objects.
Car insurance with comprehensive coverage tends to be more expensive than other policies. You can save some money by taking advantage of companies offering discounts on their policies. One of CNBC Select’s top picks, Farmers Insurance, makes coverage cheaper with 22 discounts on car insurance. You can earn these discounts through a variety of actions, such as driving safely, enrolling in paperless billing, and more. Geico was also ranked as the best car insurance company for affordable coverage and offers low average premiums for full coverage.
The best way to estimate your costs is to request a quote
Farmers sells car insurance in every state except Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia and offers a whopping 22 discounts.
- Offers 22 types of discounts
- Below-average NAIC complaints
- Ability to bundle coverage with other products
- Not all discounts are available in every state
- Average premium for maximum coverage is higher than the national average
Geico Auto Insurance
The best way to estimate your costs is to request a quote
Geico coverage and services are available in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and there are 16 different types of discounts available. In addition to the standard coverage options, Geico offers various optional add-ons, such as emergency roadside assistance, rental car reimbursement and mechanical breakdown insurance.
- Lowest average rates
- Inclusive coverage options, including high-risk drivers
- Available nationwide
- High premiums for high-risk drivers
- Fewer branches for in-person services
If you’re renting a car, you’ll want to pay with a credit card that offers primary car rental insurance coverage. This covers the theft of a rental car and allows you to submit the claim directly through your credit card’s insurance provider, without first submitting to your own car insurance company. For instance, the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers primary rental insurance covering up to $75,000 worth of damage caused by a crash or theft for rentals up to 31 consecutive days.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Earn 5X total points on flights and 10X total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3X points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases plus, 10X points on Lyft rides through March 2025
Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
Balance transfer fee
Foreign transaction fee
How your insurance helps you when your car is stolen
Here are the steps you need to take if you discover a pile of shattered glass where your car was parked.
- Report the crime to the police: Get in contact with the police and file a report with them ASAP. Make sure to have details on your car’s vehicle identification number (VIN), title information (if you have it) and any photos or additional information about the car that can help the authorities identify it.
- File a claim with your insurance company: You can start this process quickly online with almost every insurance company. You’ll need a copy of the police report, and a list of anything that had been in the vehicle.
- Play the waiting game: After a claim is filed, insurers typically have a waiting period of 30 days to see if the car is found before a payout.
If the vehicle still has not been found, you’ll likely receive a payout equaling the actual cash value (ACV), of the car minus your deductible (the amount you’re responsible for paying before insurance coverage kicks in).
Something important to note is that the AVC is not what you paid for the car. Rather, it’s a determined replacement value (generally equal to the amount you’d have to pay to buy the same or similar model) minus the depreciation of the car.
An example of actual cash value
You bought a car for $40,000 five years ago. Over the past five years, the value of the car has depreciated by $10,000. However, the price to buy a new car of the same model has gone up by $2,000. The actual cash value of the car is the cost to replace the car ($42,000) minus its depreciation ($10,000), or $32,000.
It’s possible to get coverage that would pay for the price of a brand new vehicle, called new car replacement coverage, for an extra cost. While not every insurer offers this, some do for certain newer cars, including Farmers, Nationwide and Allstate.
You should also keep in mind that the items in your stolen car might not be covered by your auto insurance. However, those belongings may fall under your renter’s insurance or homeowner’s insurance. And if you bought any of those items with a credit card offering purchase protection, you might be able to recoup some money through your card.
Take steps to prevent auto theft
Even if you do have comprehensive coverage, having your car stolen isn’t ideal. While comprehensive coverage could help you repair or replace a stolen vehicle, you’ll still have to pay the deductible. Taking steps to make sure your car isn’t targeted could help you save time and potential headaches.
Luckily, there are several things you can do to prevent it. The NICB suggests parking in a garage or in a well-lit area. For those with cars parked in a driveway, the NICB also suggests investing in motion-sensing lights to scare off would-be thieves.
A steering wheel lock bar can lock onto your steering wheel, preventing it from being able to turn, and can be purchased for $25 to $50.
Auto thefts have increased significantly year-over-year. While you can take steps to prevent car theft, you’ll need to have comprehensive coverage if you want theft to be covered.
Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.
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