Car Theft and Car Insurance: How It Works, and What You Should Know

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thief stealing a car

Vehicle thefts nationwide have been steadily increasing for the last few years. Over one million car thefts were reported in 2022 — a number not seen since 2008 — and full-size pickup trucks were the most common vehicle type stolen, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).

Comprehensive car insurance can help replace your stolen vehicle or repair it if it’s found damaged. Even the cheapest auto insurance companies offer this optional coverage if you don’t already have it.

Keep reading to learn what to do if you’re a victim of car theft, how to file a claim, and what other coverages might help.

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Comprehensive Insurance and Vehicle Theft: What’s Covered

Vehicle theft can happen to anyone. — close to 500,000 vehicles were stolen in the first half of 2023 alone, according to ​​NICB data. Fortunately, comprehensive auto insurance covers theft, vandalism, animal damage, falling objects, broken glass, and weather damage.

Comprehensive coverage is optional unless your lender requires it. And, although mandatory in most states, your liability coverage won’t protect you if someone steals your car.

Here’s how comprehensive insurance works for stolen vehicles and theft of items in and on your car.

Stolen vehicles

Your car insurance company will pay up to your car’s actual cash value (ACV) (minus your comprehensive deductible) if you report it stolen and authorities don’t recover it. If the police recover your car while your insurer is still processing your claim, it may choose to fix the damage instead of declaring the car totaled.

But if the claim process is complete and your insurance company pays you, it becomes the vehicle owner.

Stolen parts or personal items

Your car insurance policy covers parts that are permanently attached to the car, like your stereo. But theft of personal property — such as your laptop or cell phone — isn’t covered.

If someone steals your personal belongings, you’d have to file a separate insurance claim through your homeowners or renters insurance, which would pay to replace the items (potentially after a deductible).

If you have custom or aftermarket parts that weren’t factory installed, consider custom parts and equipment coverage (CPE). This optional coverage pays for things like an aftermarket stereo, custom rims, or a special paint job damaged during the break-in.

Catalytic converter theft

All modern vehicles have catalytic converters, and people steal them because they contain precious metals — which means metal recyclers pay hundreds of dollars for them. In 2022, thieves stole more than 64,000 catalytic converters, with more than half occurring in California and Texas, according to the NICB.

Your comprehensive coverage will pay for catalytic converter theft but might not cover a rental while your car is in the shop. If there’s a converter shortage and your vehicle will be out of commission for weeks, having rental car reimbursement coverage may be worth it.

Depending on your specific insurance policy, the coverage can pay for a rental to get around until you get your vehicle fixed.


If a break-in attempt damages your doors or locks, smashes your windows, or tampers with your ignition, comprehensive coverage can pay for the repairs. And if the damage is severe enough that the car is totaled, your auto policy will pay up to the vehicle’s ACV minus your deductible.

What to Do if Your Vehicle Is Stolen

close up of person stealing a car

If someone steals your car, the first thing to do is call the police to file a report. The officer will need basic information about your vehicle, including its year, make, model, color, license plate number, and VIN. If you don’t have the information handy, your proof of insurance should have most of the details.

The sooner you report your stolen vehicle, the greater the chance of recovery. The same-day recovery rate was 34% when owners reported their vehicle as stolen within 24 hours of discovering the theft, according to 2022 NICB data. You can also post pictures on social media to help get more people searching.

Once you have the police report, contact your insurer to file a car insurance claim.

How to File a Car Theft Claim With Your Insurance Company

Filing a car theft claim is similar to filing a claim after a car accident. After getting the incident report, take these steps to file your claim:

  1. Call your insurance company. Start the claims process by filing the claim in person, over the phone, online, or using your insurer’s mobile app. You might have to file another claim with your renters or home insurance company for stolen items in the car.
  2. Provide details about the accident. Let your insurer know where you parked the vehicle, and provide a copy of the police report.
  3. Stay in touch with the adjuster. Once your insurance company assigns a claims adjuster, they’ll contact you to confirm the information you provided, give you the claim number, and ask any other relevant questions.
  4. Be patient. Though the time frame can vary, most insurance companies wait 30 days to finalize the claim, which gives the police time to search for (and hopefully recover) your vehicle.

During the process, it’s also important to let your lender or leasing company know about the theft and to report it to your local department of motor vehicles (DMV). How your insurer handles the claim depends on whether the police can recover your car and what was damaged or stolen.

How car insurance companies handle car theft claims

Car insurance companies handle theft claims in different ways depending on the outcome. These include:

  • Police recover your vehicle: Your comprehensive insurance will pay up to the vehicle’s ACV (minus your deductible) to repair it or replace the car entirely if the damage exceeds the car’s value.
  • The vehicle isn’t recovered: If your car isn’t found, your insurance company will consider it totaled and pay the ACV minus your deductible.
  • Items stolen from the car: Any items that aren’t factory and permanently installed — like a GPS or other electronics — aren’t covered by your auto insurance policy. You can file a claim with your home insurer, but it might not be worth it unless the value exceeds your home insurance deductible.

Other Auto Insurance Coverages That Can Help if Your Car Is Stolen

someone breaking into a car

Aside from comprehensive, here are a few other coverages you can add to your policy for maximum protection and peace of mind.

  • Gap insurance: If your insurance company declares your vehicle totaled and the value is less than what you owe, gap insurance can cover the difference.
  • New car replacement: This coverage pays for a new car of the same make and model if your insurer declares your car totaled. It’s usually only available if your car is less than three years old and under a certain mileage, which varies by insurer.
  • Rental car reimbursement: This coverage pays for a rental car while the police are searching for yours or it’s in the shop.

Average Comprehensive Insurance Costs

The average cost of comprehensive insurance in the U.S. is $174 per month, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) but the average monthly premium can vary by state. Factors like your ZIP code, local theft rates, the type of vehicle you drive, and auto repair costs influence coverage pricing.

The table below shows the average comprehensive premium for each state.

State Average Comprehensive Premium
Alabama $186
Alaska $156
Arizona $209
Arkansas $245
California $97
Colorado $312
Connecticut $139
Delaware $140
Florida $224
Georgia $156
Hawaii $183
Idaho $107
Illinois $145
Indiana $147
Iowa $140
Kansas $231
Kentucky $283
Louisiana $169
Maine $254
Maryland $123
Massachusetts $171
Michigan $150
Minnesota $168
Mississippi $217
Missouri $246
Montana $223
Nebraska $310
Nevada $269
New Hampshire $116
New Jersey $122
New Mexico $132
New York $220
North Carolina $177
North Dakota $155
Ohio $260
Oklahoma $134
Oregon $268
Pennsylvania $109
Rhode Island $174
South Carolina $149
South Dakota $217
Tennessee $353
Texas $173
Utah $279
Vermont $126
Virginia $155
Washington $149
Washington, D.C. $121
West Virginia $227
Wisconsin $170
Wyoming $352
National average $174

California and Idaho have the cheapest average comprehensive coverage rates, while Tennessee and Wyoming have the most expensive rates. Rates may be cheaper in states like California because of fewer weather-related claims. Idaho’s rates may be cheaper because it has more rural areas and a lower population density.

Top 10 States for Vehicle Theft

person breaking into a vehicle

Although vehicle thefts can happen anywhere, some states have higher theft rates than others. Knowing the theft rate in your area can help you deter thieves and lessen the chance your gets broken into or stolen.

The table below shows the top 10 states for vehicle theft using NICB data from the first six months of 2023.

State Thefts Reported
California 99,769
Texas 55,365
Florida 22,393
Washington 21,182
Illinois 20,820
Colorado 17,909
New York 16,100
Ohio 15,681
Georgia 14,101
Missouri 13,374

California has the highest number of reported thefts by far — around 44,000 more thefts occur in the state than Texas (the second highest on the list). Missouri has the lowest reported thefts — about 86,000 fewer than California.

How to Decrease Your Risk of Car Theft

Use these tips to decrease your chances of becoming a car theft victim:

  • Take your fob and keys with you — never leave them in the car.
  • Park in security-patroled parking lots, garages, and well-lit areas.
  • Lock your doors and make sure your windows are up before you leave.
  • If you must park in your driveway, consider installing motion-activated security lights.
  • Consider adding an anti-theft and tracking device if your car didn’t come with one from the factory.

FAQs About Theft and Your Car Insurance

We answered common questions about car insurance and vehicle theft to help you get the right coverage.

What happens if your stolen car is found?

If the police find your stolen car before the insurance company finalizes your claim, your insurer might pay to repair the damage (if the damage isn’t extensive) or pay you the vehicle’s actual cash value to replace it. Your insurer may declare the car totaled if the damage is too extensive. But if the claim process is complete, your insurer will own the vehicle.

Will your insurance company pay for a rental if your car is stolen?

It depends. Your insurer will pay for a rental car if you have rental reimbursement coverage. But some insurers may cover reasonable rental expenses, even if you don’t have the coverage on your policy. Check with your auto insurance company to find out.

Does car insurance cover catalytic converter theft?

Yes, comprehensive insurance covers catalytic converter theft. If you have full-coverage car insurance, you’re covered. But if you have a liability-only policy, your insurance company won’t cover it.

Consider adding comprehensive coverage to pay for theft of the vehicle and parts, plus weather and animal damage, fire, vandalism, and broken glass.

How much is the payout amount for a stolen car?

It depends. The payout amount for a stolen car is based on the vehicle’s actual cash value minus your deductible.

If you have a loan or lease, consider including gap insurance coverage, which will pay the difference if you still owe more than your car’s ACV.

Will your insurance company cover a stolen car if keys were left in it?

Yes. If you (or someone else) leave your keys in your vehicle, your comprehensive insurance coverage should cover the theft.

It’s a good idea to discuss the features of your specific insurance policy with your insurer — especially policy exclusions.


Data scientists at analyzed more than 50 million real-time auto insurance rates from more than 75 partner insurance providers in order to compile the quotes and statistics seen in this article.’s auto insurance data includes coverage analysis and details on drivers’ vehicles, driving records, insurance histories, and demographic information. All the quotes listed in this article have been gathered from a combination of real quotes and external insurance rate data gathered in collaboration with Quadrant Information Services. uses these observations to provide drivers with insight into how auto insurance companies determine their premiums.


  1. National Association of Insurance Commissioners, “2019/2020 Auto Insurance Database Report,” Accessed March 5, 2024.
  2. National Insurance Crime Bureau, “Catalytic Converter Thefts Surge Nationwide, According To New Report,” Accessed March 5, 2024.
  3. National Insurance Crime Bureau, “New Report Shows Full-Size Trucks Have Highest Theft Rate,” Accessed March 5, 2024.
  4. National Insurance Crime Bureau, “Vehicle Thefts Continue to Increase to Near-Record Highs in 2023,” Accessed March 5, 2024.
  5. National Insurance Crime Bureau, “Vehicle Thefts Nationwide Surpass One Million For the First Time Since 2008,” Accessed March 5, 2024.

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