If it's not in the fine print, it's not covered.
We think of auto insurance as something that protects us financially after we get into a car accident. But really, at its most basic, car insurance is about protecting other drivers from you. If you want to protect yourself, you usually have to go beyond your state's required auto insurance coverage. Here are a few examples of things not covered by a typical car insurance policy.
1. Natural disasters
Vehicle damage due to hail, flooding, or other types of severe weather isn't covered under your state-minimum auto insurance policy. Drivers need comprehensive coverage for this. That takes care of any vehicle damage caused by things other than collisions with another car. It includes storm damage, theft, vandalism, and animal-vehicle collisions.
Lenders typically require motorists with leases or loans on their vehicles to have this coverage. That's how it protects its investment if the car is wrecked in an accident. Drivers who own their car outright don't need this coverage, but it's often a good idea to have it anyway. Otherwise, they'll have to pay for vehicle repairs out of pocket after an accident.
2. Personal belongings inside your vehicle
It might seem logical that personal property damaged in an accident or stolen from a vehicle would be covered by a car insurance policy, but it's not. Car insurance only covers damages to vehicles, people, and other people's property if the policyholder causes the accident.
Personal belongings are covered under a homeowners or renters insurance policy, even if they're stolen or damaged while in a car. If you don't have one of these policies, consider adding one. It could help you save on both policies because many companies give discounts to policyholders who bundle their insurance.
3. Commercial use
A typical auto insurance policy doesn't cover cars driven for work. This includes ridesharing. Drivers who work for Uber, Lyft, or a similar service need to look for a car insurance company that offers a ridesharing add-on. This will cost extra, but it ensures the vehicle is fully protected whether the driver's using it for personal transport or to ferry around customers.
Not all car insurers offer ridesharing coverage right now, though it's becoming more common. If you do this as a side hustle or full-time job, make sure you go with an insurer that supports ridesharing drivers.
4. Vehicle accessories
Things like a custom paint job, a fancy stereo system, and custom wheels usually aren't covered under a standard car insurance policy. Drivers need to purchase supplemental coverage if they hope to replace these additions following theft or an accident.
Because there's virtually endless options for customizing vehicles, it's important to read through your policy carefully so you understand what it does and doesn't cover. This is true even if you purchase supplemental coverage. If you have any questions, always reach out to your insurance company to ask. That way, you won't be blindsided should you need to file a claim.
5. Pet injuries
While some insurers will automatically cover pets injured in a car accident, most are not so generous. Drivers may be able to purchase a separate pet injury rider, but not all companies offer one. In that case, a separate pet insurance policy is an option for drivers who routinely travel with their dog or cat.
If you have an exotic pet, finding coverage for it will be even more challenging. Most insurers only cover dogs and cats, so check the fine print to see if this is the case for your insurer.
Car insurance can be a lifesaver if you get into an accident, but it's your responsibility to ensure you have the appropriate coverage before you need it. That's why it's important to know how much car insurance you need and to purchase supplemental coverage to fill in any gaps in your policy.
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