My car was broken into and several items were taken, including my stereo. I am surprised, to say the least, that my auto insurance company said I can’t file a claim for the stolen property. Is this the norm? – Jamie in Port Colborne, Ont.
Theft from vehicles has steadily declined over the past decade, but it is still widespread. The Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics says there were more than 3,600 incidents in which property worth more than $5,000 was taken from a motor vehicle in 2010, and 208,238 thefts under $5,000 the same year.
Auto insurance is supposed to protect us financially in the event of bodily injury or vehicle damage. But what about your stereo?
“Typically, if your vehicle is damaged in a loss you will be covered under your auto policy for items that are attached to and form part of your automobile, so your stereo up to a limit and things that go with it, maybe a couple of CDs, that sort of thing,” says Anne Marie Thomas, of InsuranceHotline.com.
“If your vehicle is broken into and your stereo is stolen, according to the standard insurance policy in Ontario they will not pay any more than $1,500" if it is non-factory-installed stereo equipment. Factory-installed equipment is covered.
"You can purchase coverage that will exceed that $1,500 limit on your auto policy. It will be at a premium of course, it could be up to $200 extra.”
Your golf clubs, briefcase, sunglasses, fuzzy dice, or any other personal items carried inside the vehicle that are damaged or stolen can be covered by homeowner’s, tenant’s, or condominium insurance as contents temporarily removed from your residence.
“Most standard policies allow coverage for up to 10 per cent of the value of your contents away from the home. It’s a ballpark figure, but say the contents of your home are valued at $100,000 and you go travelling or put items in your car, you’d be covered for roughly up to $10,000, or 10 per cent away-from-premises coverage,” says Thomas.
This may not help if you’re without an insurance policy for your residence, but it might be time to shop around. Remember though, even if you obtain the appropriate coverage, you may have to pay two deductibles in the event of a vehicle break-in: there is typically one for your auto policy (except in the case of fire or lightning), and a separate deductible for your residential policy.
Apart from spending some money on an anti-theft device or diligently removing items from your vehicle which could be tempting to thieves, what else can you do to mitigate the risk and cost associated with the possibility of a future break-in?
“If you have both your home and auto policies with one insurance company, some companies will consider it one claim and only charge one deductible if your vehicle is damaged during a break-in and items are stolen. I would ask your insurance professional about that. It’s another benefit that could come about, on top of a discount for having your home and auto insurance bundled together,” says Thomas.
Correction: In Ontario, if you are insured for loss or damage on your car insurance policy, there is a $1,500 limit on non-factory-installed electronic accessories and equipment; factory-installed equipment is covered. Incorrect information appeared in a previous online version of this story. This has been amended.