Nearly all states (49 out of 50) legally require drivers to have auto insurance.
So unless you live in New Hampshire (live free or die, am I right?), you probably view your auto insurance as something you simply need to have and hope you never need to use.
What you may not know is that auto insurance can come in handy for plenty more than car accidents. In fact, you may be surprised what your insurance covers.
Read on to find out more.
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The main things car insurance covers
When you take out your auto insurance policy, you expect coverage for certain things. Regardless of where you live or what type of police you have, most basic plans should include coverage for:
These are the most common types of insurance claims, and you really don’t want a policy that doesn’t cover them. So make sure that you do your research and shop around for the auto policy that meets your needs and budget.
You’ll also want coverage for when the unexpected — or strange — happens.
Fortunately, your insurer will have your back in a few unusual situations.
Some surprising things you’ll be covered for
Depending on what type of coverage you have in your auto insurance policy, there are a handful of surprising things your policy will protect you against.
Car rental expenses
If you’ve been in an accident and can’t use your car, a comprehensive car insurance policy will offer you coverage for the costs of a rental car.
This sounds silly, but it’s more common than you’d think. And according to Consumer Reports, damage from rodents chewing your car’s internal wiring is only increasing as automakers use more environmentally friendly materials in production.
With liability coverage, your policy should cover you if you’re injured in an accident and can’t work. There are limits here, but if you legitimately cannot perform your duties at work as the result of your accident, put in a claim for those lost wages.
If you’re in an accident involving another motorist who doesn’t have insurance, you can file an uninsured motorist claim with your own insurance.
You don’t even have to be in a car to be entitled to this type of claim — it applies to pedestrians as well. If you’re just walking down the sidewalk and you’re struck by an uninsured driver, you can still file an uninsured motorist claim. This policy will also cover all the members of your family in your household, including children.
Damage from anything falling from the sky, including meteors, should be covered under a comprehensive policy. And if those falling objects cause you to have an accident, it’ll be covered under a liability policy.
Most insurance policies will cover detailing if the interior is stained as a result of an accident. And if your vehicle is stolen and returned with food stains on the seats or reeking of cigarette or marijuana smoke, your insurance will also likely cover the cost of detailing it.
When you hit a pothole, because it’s a single-car incident, it’s considered an at-fault accident. Still, you should be able to claim any repairs under the collision portion of your policy.
Natural disasters like earthquakes are considered “acts of God,” which means you’re not responsible for any damage to your car because of them.
Since you can’t take it up with the big guy’s insurer, you should be covered under the comprehensive portion of your own insurance policy.
City folk may scoff, but wild animals don’t always follow traffic laws. If you swerve to miss a deer or moose and crash, or a bear breaks into your car to forage for food (yes, this really happens), damage to your car should be covered under a comprehensive policy.
Being in a car accident far from home is stressful enough without having to think about where you’ll stay and how you’ll pay for that.
If your car is damaged and undriveable but you’re still more than 50 to 100 miles from home, collision and comprehensive insurance policies should cover a hotel stay, transportation and even food as you make your way home.
Of course, there is a limit to how much you’ll be reimbursed — you should be able to find the details in your policy. It’s usually a few hundred dollars.
You may also be covered for these surprising things
There’s no guarantee, but if any of the below situations happen to you, it’s worth checking with your insurer to see if you’ll get coverage.
Falling for a scam like selling your car to a private buyer only to have the check bounce is definitely on you. But you may have a generous insurance company that will consider it a theft and reimburse you what you lost.
Was your pet injured in a car accident? A few auto insurers offer pet injury coverage with reimbursement for vets bills of up to a few hundred dollars.
The wrong type of gas
Hey, it happens. One day you’re not paying close enough attention and you fill your tank with the wrong type of fuel. This can have potentially catastrophic consequences for your car: it might ruin your engine or corrode your fuel lines.
If you’ve damaged your car this way, check with your insurance company to see if your policy provides coverage to fix it.
You would think you’d get coverage for these things (but you don’t)
Because some auto insurers cover you in the very unlikely events, some situations where auto insurers withhold coverage can be surprising.
If your car was broken into or vandalized and you left anything of value in it, you shouldn’t expect to receive any reimbursements for your belongings. Comprehensive coverage will help you repair any damage, but insurers draw the line at replacing things.
People not listed on your insurance
If you leave your kid in the car for one minute and they accidentally shift the vehicle into reverse and the car rolls into a tree or sign, you may not be covered for damage. Even if you live together, unless you explicitly list your family members on your policy, your insurance company won’t cover any damage or personal liability from those individuals.
Custom car parts
If you pimped your ride before you were in an accident or it was stolen or vandalized, you generally won’t recoup those expenses when you make a claim.
Using your car for work
Got a side hustle that involves using your car? Most insurance companies won’t cover you for that under a standard policy.
How to find the best deal on insurance
OK great, you’re probably thinking, but will I have to pay an arm and a leg for insurance that covers all these surprising situations?
No, you don’t
If you’re in the market for a new policy, you should read up on 11 ways you can save on insurance or ways you can use tech to save on insurance.
You should also talk to your auto insurer about getting pandemic relief. Many providers already gave credits and premium discounts to policyholders in the spring of 2020, and they might give more assistance if you simply ask.
But the best way to save money on insurance is by shopping around for rates before you commit. If it’s been longer than six months since you’ve explored the market for a better deal, you might be wasting more than $1,000 a year.
By using a free online tool that does the price comparisons for you, you’ll quickly find the highest-quality auto insurance at the best rate.
With that resolved, you can get back to avoiding potholes, deer and meteors on the road.