Gap Insurance: What Is It & When Is It Worth It?

Gap insurance coverage can help pay off your loan if you total your car and still owe more than it’s worth. We explain how it works, who it’s best for, and where to get it.

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Guaranteed asset protection — or gap insurance — is an optional coverage you can buy to pay off your loan or lease if someone steals your car or you total it and you owe more than it’s worth. Gap insurance can protect you financially from having to pay the balance on a vehicle you can no longer drive.

Including gap insurance in your auto policy raises your insurance premium slightly, but it can potentially save you thousands in the long run. Knowing how gap insurance works, when it makes sense to add, what it covers, and alternatives to consider can help you determine if it’s worth the extra cost.

Key Takeaways:

  • You only need gap insurance if you finance or lease your car.
  • Gap coverage kicks in if you total your car or someone steals it and its ACV is less than what you owe.
  • You can drop gap insurance once you’ve paid your loan or lease down and owe less than the car is worth.

How Gap Insurance Works

A heavily damaged car being towed

You’ve probably heard that a new car loses value as soon as you drive it off the lot. It’s true — many vehicles lose around 20% of their value in the first year, according to the Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I).

If someone steals your car or an accident totals it, an insurance company will only pay you the vehicle’s actual cash value (ACV), which includes depreciation. If you’re financing or leasing the car, your lender will still expect you to pay off the loan — even if you no longer have the vehicle.

Gap insurance — sometimes called “loan/lease payoff” — can cover the difference so your finances don’t take a hit on a car that’s totaled.

For example, say you purchase a brand-new car for $35,000. After a year of owning the car, you get in a crash and your insurance company declares it totaled. Your insurer pays you $30,000 to cover your car’s current ACV, but you still owe $32,000 on your loan. With gap insurance, your insurance company covers the $2,000 difference between your car’s ACV and your current loan balance, but if you don’t have gap coverage, you’d have to pay it out of your own pocket.

Of course, you’ll pay a bit extra on your car insurance premiums to add gap insurance, but it’s usually worth it in these situations.

Still, gap coverage won’t pay for things like injuries, property damage, or vehicle issues unrelated to theft or a covered accident. It also won’t cover finance charges or fees for exceeding your lease miles.

When Gap Insurance Makes Sense

When you’re financing or leasing a new vehicle, gap insurance might be a good idea if you:

  • Finance for longer than five years
  • Put down a small deposit of less than 20%
  • Buy a fast-depreciating car
  • Roll over negative equity from a prior loan
  • Drive a lot of miles, which depreciates your vehicle faster
  • Get an auto loan or lease agreement that requires it

When Gap Insurance Doesn’t Make Sense

Not all scenarios require a gap policy. Here are situations where it doesn’t make sense to buy gap insurance:

  • You pay cash for a new or used car
  • The vehicle you buy holds its value
  • You make a large down payment
  • Your auto loan balance is less than the car’s actual cash value
  • The finance company includes it in your car loan or leasing agreement

What Gap Insurance Covers

Worried man looking from afar at their towed car

A gap insurance policy pays only if your auto insurance company determines that your vehicle is a total loss and the actual cash value of the car is less than the remaining balance you owe. In this instance, your gap policy will pay your lender the difference between the value of your vehicle and your remaining loan balance.

What gap insurance doesn’t cover

Though gap insurance can cover the financial gap after a claim settlement reduces — but doesn’t eliminate — your auto loan amount, it only provides payoff coverage in certain situations. Here’s what it doesn’t cover:

  • A new car down payment
  • Gap insurance premiums
  • An extended warranty
  • Vehicle engine failure, mechanical breakdown, or other repairs
  • Your car’s diminished value after an accident
  • Negative equity you rolled over into the loan
  • Monthly payments you can’t make on your car insurance policy, auto loan, or lease due to job loss, disability, or other financial hardship
  • Your collision or comprehensive coverage deductible
  • Injuries
  • Property damage
  • Rental car costs while your vehicle is in the repair shop

Where to Buy Gap Insurance

Totaled car being repaired

You can buy gap insurance from your insurance company or the car dealer. Here’s how it works, depending on where you buy it.

Through your insurance company

Adding gap coverage to a standard auto insurance policy with collision and comprehensive coverage is typically the best and cheapest option. It usually only adds around $20 to your annual premium, according to Triple-I, but it can vary by insurer.

Gap coverage is available through the following insurance companies:

Eligibility requirements can vary. For example, Progressive offers loan/lease payoff coverage that pays up to 25% of your car’s value. Travelers and Allstate only allow it on new vehicle purchases from a dealer. State Farm Bank automatically includes “Payoff Protector” on loans, which is similar to gap insurance.

Through the car dealership

When buying a new car, most dealers will try to sell you gap insurance during the financing stage. A bank, credit union, or financial institution will charge as much as $700 for gap coverage. If you don’t pay it in a lump sum, it gets added to your loan balance, so you’ll pay interest on top of the cost of gap insurance.

This usually isn’t your best option but can be an easy way to ensure you have coverage as soon as you drive off the lot.

Gap Insurance Alternatives

Gap insurance can relieve your financial burden and prevent you from being “upside down” on your car if it’s totaled in an accident or theft. But if it’s not for you or you don’t think it’s worth it, consider these alternatives.

New car replacement coverage

New vehicle replacement coverage can increase your payout after a total loss. Instead of paying your car’s depreciated value, your insurer will pay you the value of a new vehicle of the same make and model.

Adding this coverage costs about 5% of your policy premium, and you usually have to meet mileage and vehicle age requirements. Once your car is too old to qualify — usually three model years — it automatically comes off your policy.

Better car replacement coverage

If your car is totaled and you have better car replacement coverage, your insurer will pay you the value of a same-make vehicle that’s one model year newer and with fewer miles — usually around 15,000 less than what your car had.

New car or better car replacement coverage might not pay off your loan balance, but it can help offset what you owe after a total loss. That said, it might cost more than gap insurance and pay less than if you bought gap coverage instead.

When to Cancel Gap Insurance

Car collision between two cars

You can cancel gap insurance coverage whenever you want, and it’s a good choice if you owe less than the value of your car.

For example, say you paid only a small down payment when you bought your car, financing most of it. A year or two later, you owe $15,000, but your vehicle is worth $20,000. Since you owe less than your car’s current value, canceling gap insurance probably makes sense.

Gap Insurance FAQs

If you’re considering gap insurance coverage, we’ve got you covered with answers to the most common questions about this optional new-vehicle coverage.

Can you get gap insurance after you buy a car?

Yes. But you usually only have a small window of time when you can add gap coverage to your insurance policy. Your vehicle usually has to be no more than three model years old, and you must be the original lease or loan holder to qualify.

Do you need car gap insurance if you have full coverage?

No, gap insurance is optional and not typically part of full coverage. But if you want gap coverage, most insurers require you to have comprehensive and collision coverage, which are part of a full-coverage policy, to buy it.

Can you drop gap coverage whenever you want?

If you buy gap coverage from your car insurance company, you can drop it whenever you want. But you might have requirements on when and how to drop it if you buy it from a dealership. Make sure to read the fine print on the gap insurance agreement.


  1. Insurance Information Institute, “What is gap insurance?,” Accessed May 16, 2024.

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