Insurance policies vary on coverage for stolen vehicles or theft of possessions in the car. Read the policy carefully, including all the fine print, to see what your policy covers. Insurance companies don’t look favorably on making it easier on thieves, especially if your unlocked car had the keys in the ignition or was sitting in an undesirable location. Some policies might not let you claim a loss in these cases, while others may cover the loss.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
You'll need to read your specific insurance policy to see whether leaving your car unlocked is covered in the event you suffer a loss due to theft.
You Need the Right Coverage
Comprehensive car insurance usually offers the best solution for a stolen vehicle or damage to the car regardless of who is at fault. With comprehensive coverage, companies often cover the loss of the car even if you left your doors unlocked. However, some motorists choose to stick with liability coverage, which handles damage to others or property, or collision insurance for accident protection in order to save on premiums. Theft is excluded from your coverage if you only select liability insurance. Look at your policy for details on whether the policyholder is liable for increases of risk for theft in certain situations.
Insurance companies look for signs of fraud when reports of theft occur. They want to make sure that the owner didn't make it easy for the car to be stolen -- or even set the theft up himself -- as a way of collecting insurance on it. If it is determined that the theft was legitimate, and that the car was parked in a safe location, a comprehensive plan often covers theft. Despite warnings from public service announcements and insurance companies to keep your car locked and parked in a secure location, one in eight stolen cars in the United States are taken with the door unlocked and the key or fob inside the car.
Belongings in Your Car
As a general rule, auto insurance policies do not cover property stolen from a car regardless of whether the car was locked or unlocked. However, some insurance companies do offer policies that offer car theft insurance. These policies cover stolen vehicles as well as theft of possessions in the car. Theft of vehicle parts is usually covered by car insurance under comprehensive coverage, as long as the specific policy allows it. However, this typically does not include after-market additions, such as stereo equipment installed later on.
Homeowner and Renter Options
If your car insurance does not cover theft of property from your locked or unlocked car, you might turn to your homeowner's insurance. This insurance often covers theft of certain possessions no matter where the items were taken. Homeowner's insurance usually has limitations on items stolen from vehicles. For example, you might receive a certain percentage of the value on your possessions.
You need to check with your homeowner’s policy to see what it covers. If the stolen property is used for your business, for instance, it may not be covered by the policy. Keep in mind that the amount of your deductible may not make it worth your while to file a claim, especially if you have a high deductible designed to keep your premiums low. If you rent, renter's insurance may cover stolen items from your car, depending on the policy.
Jerry Shaw writes for Spice Marketing and LinkBlaze Marketing. His articles have appeared in Gannett and American Media Inc. publications. He is the author of "The Complete Guide to Trust and Estate Management" from Atlantic Publishing.