12 things standard car insurance doesn't cover

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Courtney Roy

Insurtech Writer | Contributor

  • Licensed Insurance Agent — Property and Casualty
  • Licensed Insurance Agent — Life
  • Real Estate License

Courtney Roy is an insurtech writer and expert in multiple lines of insurance. As an insurance agent, he sat across the kitchen table to help people …

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Ross Martin

Insurance Writer

  • 4+ years in the Insurance Industry

Ross joined The Zebra as a writer and researcher in 2019. He specializes in writing insurance content to help shoppers make informed decisions.

Ross h…

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Susan Meyer

Senior Editorial Manager

  • Licensed Insurance Agent — Property and Casualty

Susan is a licensed insurance agent and has worked as a writer and editor for over 10 years across a number of industries. She has worked at The Zebr…

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Get to know your policy

Before we buy something, we often want to know what’s included, but what’s excluded may be more important.

There are several exclusions in your auto insurance policy, meaning your insurer tells you precisely what they do not cover. Often, you can address many exclusions with additional coverage called an endorsement or pick up a separate policy. 

In this quick read, you’ll learn what a standard policy excludes, helping you realize what protection you may need to fill any gaps. Here are a dozen things standard policies don’t cover.

1. Custom parts, modifications and upgrades

You’ll need custom parts and equipment coverage for modifications, upgrades and aftermarket parts. Typically, policies may cover up to $1000, which may not be enough to cover your audio system, lift kit, rims, spoiler and other upgrades. 

If you do have some slick aftermarket add-ons, you can buy additional coverage up to $5,000. Some companies can go as high as $20,000. If you have many customizations, you’ll want an insurer specializing in custom cars.

2. Intentional damage

An auto policy will not cover intentional damage to your car or another driver’s property, and any attempt to profit from an insurance settlement is fraud. Insurers will probably investigate, deny your claim and cancel your policy.

3. Losses above your policy limits

Car insurance only pays up to the listed limits. So, for example, if your liability portion only covers $25,000 worth of property damage and you cause an accident that totals a luxury vehicle worth $50,000, you’d be on the hook for the remaining $25,000. 

The Zebra recommends car insurance limits of $50,000/$100,000/$50,000 and $100,000/$300,000/$100,000 for homeowners. If you have a significant net worth, you may consider even higher limits and an umbrella policy for further protection.

4. Mechanical breakdowns

A standard auto insurance policy won’t typically cover mechanical problems unless caused by a covered peril. For example, if you hit a light pole and it causes your engine to stop working, then your collision insurance would fix that.

Unlike collision coverage, mechanical breakdown insurance protects you from general failures, including those brought on by wear and tear. Mechanical breakdown insurance (MBI) is generally reserved for new cars. For example, GEICO limits the coverage to new or leased vehicles that have less than 15,000 miles and that are less than 15 months old. 

MBI is like an extended warranty, but you buy it through your insurance company as part of your policy. And it’s usually more affordable than a standalone extended warranty.

5. Pet injuries

What happens if you’re in an accident and your pet gets injured? Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee your policy will pay for your cat or dog’s vet unless your company explicitly provides that coverage. 

For example, Progressive offers $1000 in protection for pets injured in covered perils. There are two ways to protect your four-legged friend. You can find a car insurance company with pet coverage or buy pet insurance.

6. Personal property left in your car

If your car is stolen, comprehensive coverage will pay to replace it. Still, it won’t cover any belongings you may have left inside, like electronics, gifts and other valuables. Instead, personal belongings are protected under your renters or homeowners insurance policy.

7. Racing

If you want to let your inner speed demon free, you’ll need special coverage. Auto insurance does not cover mishaps that happen while racing or performing stunts. Racing is a high-risk activity and requires motorsport event insurance.

8. Rideshare, delivery and other commercial use

A standard auto policy won’t cover commercial use. So that means rideshare driving, delivery work and hauling construction supplies are all likewise excluded. Pick up a commercial policy if you use your vehicle for business purposes. 

Or your policy might offer an add-on for ridesharing insurance if you drive for Uber or Lyft. Although rideshare companies grant some protection during some parts of picking up fares, they can leave you unprotected at other times. For Uber and Lyft drivers, we recommend rideshare insurance and the highest liability limits you can afford.

9. Roadside assistance

No one wants to be stranded. Roadside assistance is an added coverage that helps you out when you need a jumpstart, locksmith, tow, winch or a bit of fuel. If you don’t have it with your insurer, you can pick up third-party coverage through services like AAA.

10. Routine repairs and maintenance

Oil changes and tire rotations are examples of routine maintenance and repairs that are not covered by automobile insurance. These are typical out-of-pocket expenses.

11. Unlisted drivers who live with you

Typically, anyone you allow to borrow your car is covered as if they were you under “permissive use.” Suppose they have their own car insurance policy. In that case, your policy will provide primary coverage, and their policy will supply secondary coverage for amounts that exceed your policy limits.

To be covered, you must list people who stay with you on your policy. For this reason, many insurance providers require policyholders to include or exclude any adult resident who can drive. If an excluded driver is involved in an accident while driving your car, they won’t be covered.

12. Your car loan or lease’s remaining balance

If your vehicle is totaled after a covered accident, your car insurance will only pay the vehicle’s actual cash value, including depreciation. That means your vehicle could be worth less than what you owe your lender. For example, say your loan is for $30,000, but your car is worth $26,000. You’ll be responsible for the remaining $4,000. 

To cover the potential gap between the vehicle’s worth and the loan balance, insurers sell gap insurance. Gap insurance is usually relatively inexpensive and is a wise choice when you buy a car with little or no down payment or get a loan for 60 months or more.

Where to find car insurance coverage

Now that you know what’s not covered, it’ll be easier to identify what you need. And you can customize your coverage to your liking at the Zebra. Discover the right policy at affordable rates today!