According to the Insurance Information Institute, comprehensive coverage for auto insurance means “Coverage against theft and damage caused by an incident other than a collision, such as fire, vandalism, hail, flood, falling rocks and other events.” So that includes contents in and on the vehicle, correct? Your awesome new stereo, the custom rims you just put on, the laptop you left in the car, all insured. Well, maybe not.

Most people know that if your vehicle is stolen, the theft coverage from your auto insurance will help pay to replace it. The contents are a different story. The comprehensive portion of your auto insurance is what pays for non-accident-related losses. Unfortunately, the coverage only extends to the vehicle itself and not its contents. If you leave personal property in your vehicle, such as a laptop, cell phone or even your wallet, you may be out of luck.

There are a few things to consider when thinking about personal items in your vehicle and whether or not they would be covered in the event of a loss:

  • Is an item permanently attached to your car? If it is easily removed or portable, it wouldn’t be considered permanently attached and not covered by your auto insurance.
  • If an item is permanently attached to your car, but not original equipment (expensive stereo, aftermarket equipment, etc.), you probably need additional coverage. This is especially true with custom vehicles.

If you have homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, items stolen from your vehicle should be covered. Naturally you will need proof you actually owned the lost items, most commonly a receipt. You will likely need to file a police report and follow the claims process, but at least you can get your property replaced. When considering whether to file a claim, remember that your homeowner’s policy probably has a higher deductible than your auto policy.

The best way to get your policy questions ironed out before you file a claim is with your insurance professional. Take a little time to go over your coverage and make sure you have everything you need. The last place you need a surprise is in a letter from your insurance company declining your claim.