The surprising things auto insurance covers will surprise you
Did you know auto insurance covers rodents? It’s true. Damage by mice or squirrels is one of the things car insurance routinely includes, but that most drivers don’t know about.
“Nobody expects mice or squirrels to chew through their car’s wiring,” says Michael Lowe, the CEO of CarPassionate.com, an auto review site. “Even less than you would expect to be covered by your car insurance company.”
But look at your policy. It probably has an “other than collision” clause, which offers coverage for rodent catastrophes.
By the way, rodent problems are real. In northern Arizona, where I live, rodents chew through wires and nest in cars during the cold winters. And I realize this is a little off-topic, but if you want to avoid a claim, you can rodent-proof your vehicle with an ultrasonic strobe light repellent. Now you know!
Unexpected auto insurance coverage
It’s not just mice. You’d be surprised by some of the things auto insurance covers. They range from detailing to pets. Oh, and don’t worry about meteorites, because you’re probably covered for those, too.
“Most of us don’t take the time to read our insurance policies,” says Charlie Wendland, president of SafetyNest and head of claims at Branch, an insurance startup. “Even if you did take the time to review it, you may be surprised to learn that some items are covered, even if they’re not spelled out word-for-word in your policy.”
The unexpected coverages may include:
- Car rental reimbursement
- Lost wages
- Travel expenses
Although auto insurance is far from the all-inclusive product, you never know what might be covered. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
Car rental reimbursement
If your car is in the shop after an accident, your car insurance company will cover the bills (up to your policy’s limit) if you have rental reimbursement coverage.
“You can get reimbursed for the cost of renting a car to get you around while your vehicle is repaired,” says Nicole Beck, an agent with insurance comparison website The Zebra. Note that your policy will likely have a daily and total reimbursement maximum. If you choose to rent the car of your dreams you’ll pay the difference.
Imagine you’re holding a cup of hot coffee, and someone rear-ends you. “Where does the coffee go?” asks Chaya Milchtein, an automotive writer. “Everywhere, of course!”
Since the accident technically caused the spill, most insurance companies will pay to get your car detailed. The same thing goes for vehicles stolen and then recovered. “If the car now smells like cigarettes or marijuana smoke—and that’s common—then you can ask to have it detailed,” adds Milchtein.
If you’re seriously injured in a car accident, insurance can cover lost wages—not just for the time you were in the hospital, but also future lost wages if you can’t work because of accident injuries.
“For example, if someone were paralyzed in a semi-truck accident and could no longer perform their work, they are legally entitled to recover their lost wages for a lifetime,” says Tina Willis, a personal injury lawyer based in Orlando, Florida.
But liability auto insurance has its limits, and a policy will only pay up to the limits of the at-fault person’s policy.
Comprehensive car insurance covers your car’s damage from falling objects. The liability section of your policy would kick in if a falling object caused you to crash into someone else.
“Many people do not believe how broad uninsured motorist coverage is,” says Michael McCready, managing partner of McCready Law, a personal injury law firm.
For example, consider what happens if an uninsured motorist hits a child pedestrian. “The child is not old enough to be listed on the automobile insurance but is covered under the ‘family members residing in the same household’ clause” for uninsured motorist coverage, he explains. “Similarly, you do not need to be in a car to have an uninsured motorist claim. Being a pedestrian struck by an uninsured driver is sufficient to trigger uninsured motorist coverage.”
“Pet injury coverage” can be found from several auto insurers. For example, “paw protection” from Erie Insurance pays out if your pet is hurt in an accident covered by auto insurance. It will reimburse vet treatment costs up to $500 per pet, for up to $1,000 for two pets.
Travel expenses after car damage
Your auto insurance may pay for lodging, transportation, and even meals when you’re trying to get home. “Travel expense” coverage kicks in when your car is damaged and undrivable if you’re a certain distance from home (often more than 50 or 100 miles). Plus, you must have collision and comprehensive insurance.
Note that there’s usually a total limit on what you can claim for travel expenses, such as $400. Your policy states the maximum reimbursement.
Some of these events are highly unlikely to happen. Coverage for meteor strikes and pet injuries are unlikely. However. they may look good on paper. Still, insurance is about covering the unexpected and surprise events in life.
No matter the odds, it pays to read your auto insurance policy carefully.
Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can’t. He’s the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes weekly columns for King Features Syndicate, USA Today, and the Washington Post. If you have a consumer problem you can’t solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. Read more of Christopher’s articles here.