Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health insuran...

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Chris Harrigan has an economic degree from Limestone College and an MBA from Clemson University. He previously managed auto insurance claims for Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Currently, he is using his business and insurance expertise to provide insurance data analysis and visualizations to enhance the user experience.

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Reviewed by Chris Harrigan
Former Auto Insurance Claims Manager Chris Harrigan

UPDATED: Apr 13, 2022

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Key takeaways...

  • When you’re buying a basic auto insurance policy, it’ll include nothing more than the coverage options and limits that are required under state law
  • While you can make claims against another parties insurance in an accident, your insurance will not pay for first-party physical damage claims unless you purchase physical damage coverage
  • If you want coverage for damages caused by a vandal, you’ll need comprehensive coverage
  • Comprehensive insurance covers losses that occur while your vehicle is parked or in storage
  • Like most physical damage claims, a vandalism claim is subject to the deductible that you carry on your policy

Imagine what it feels like to walk out to your car to find your windows shattered or your car covered in deep key scratches. Immediately you start to wonder if someone you knew did the damage or if you were just a victim of a ‘wrong place, wrong time’ crime.

No matter what the situation, it’s your job to clean up the mess and to restore your vehicle. And that can be daunting if you’ve never experienced such a situation before. You may start to wonder if such a scenario is even possible to recover from. Luckily, such a cruel prank done to your car may be covered.

Depending on the coverage you carry, it’s possible that you’ll be left to pick up the pieces on your own. That’s why you should always understand what you’re buying as you do an insurance comparison.

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How does carrying state-mandated coverage protect you?

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If you’re buying auto insurance strictly to comply with financial responsibility laws, you’re at-risk of having a lot of gaps in your coverage.

State minimum limits protect you, but they don’t protect you the way you might think, so it’s important to understand the difference between first-party and third-party coverages.

Under state law, you’re required to carry state-mandated coverage to pay for damages that someone else suffers. This third-party coverage is called liability protection.

It protects your assets and your wages but doesn’t protect the property that you’re insuring under your car insurance policy. It’s first-party coverage that pays for your car.

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How do you get first-party coverage?

If you want first-party coverage for your covered auto, you need to add physical damage coverage to policy. Physical damage coverage consists of comprehensive and collision.

Each coverage will pay for different repairs that are caused by different types of losses. Vandalism is a covered loss under standard physical damage coverage.

How do comprehensive and collision differ?

As you’re comparing insurance, it’s important to recognize the difference between comprehensive and collision. Each one pays for the repair or replacement of your vehicle, but for very different claim types.

The main difference is collision pays when the damage is the result of a collision or rollover and comprehensive covers ‘other than collision’ losses.

What type of ‘Other Than Collision’ losses are covered under comprehensive?

Coverage under comprehensive is very broad and this is why the definition is so broad. If you are wondering just what ‘Other Than Collision’ means, it can help to skim the policy booklet to see what’s covered and what’s specifically excluded.

Here are some of the losses that fall under comp coverage:

  • Fire, lightning or explosion
  • Windstorm, earthquake, hail or weather-related damage
  • Theft
  • Flood
  • Glass breakage
  • Falling objects or missiles
  • Hitting a live animal or bird
  • Vandalism or mischief

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What type of acts of vandalism are covered?

All types of vandalism damage is covered under your policy as long as you didn’t intentionally do it. Fraud isn’t generally something that is taken lightly, so be mindful of what you file as a vandalism claim. Some companies might even ask you to file a police report before they will accept a vandalism claim.

Having the police report can help you get a claims settlement faster even when it’s not required. Here are some common types of vandalism claims:

  • Broken hood ornaments
  • Smashed windows, headlights, and mirrors
  • Sugar in the gas tank or setting the gas tank on fire
  • Dents from objects like bats or crowbars
  • Keying the body paint
  • Putting things like nasty deli meat such as bologna or eggs on paint to strip it
  • Using any sort of substance to purposefully corrode or cause damaging effects to the car
  • Graffiti
  • Punctured tires
  • Flipping a vehicle

How much will the insurer pay for vandalism claims?

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Insurance companies have a very thorough process to estimate the cost of repairs that need to be made after a vandalism claim. They will have an estimator come to your home or place of work to take pictures and price the cost of repairs.

Once the estimator or the body shop gives you an estimate, the insurer will review and approve it. There’s not a specific limit as to how much your company is willing to pay.

Some companies have hourly maximums and part maximums, but in general, the company is willing to pay up to the car’s ‘Actual Cash Value’ or ‘Total Loss Threshold’ for any type of vandalism repairs that are needed. Understanding what this means will give you less of a headache when it comes time to talk about payouts.

What is the Actual Cash Value of my car?

Actual Cash Value is another broad definition that’s used by insurers. In most cases, the ACV is just a general term used to describe the car’s fair market value at the time of the loss.

The company might also include the tax, titling and registration fees when they are calculating this value.

Companies don’t just use Kelley Blue Book guides to determine what your car is worth. In addition to these valuation guides, the claims adjuster might use the following to drive the value of your car up or down:

  • Sales records from dealers
  • Sales records from private party sellers
  • Posts and listings that show what people are asking for the vehicle
  • Repair invoices showing modifications and aftermarket parts
  • Proof of a rare trim level

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What if the cost to repair the car is more than the car is worth?

Some damages can cost thousands to repair. If the vandal went to work on your car, it’s possible that the repairs cost more than your car is worth.

If this happens, then your claim will be classified as a total loss. This means that you’ll be offered the value of your vehicle and asked to sign the vehicle over to the insurer.

You also have the option to keep the car and do the repairs. If you decide to keep it, the salvage value of the property will be deducted from the payout. This is the value the company would have got in an auction when they sold it.

If you don’t have comprehensive coverage, it’s time to find out how much it will cost. You can call your agent for a quote on your current policy first. If you want to see if that estimate is competitive, use an online comparison shopping tool and price the cost of vandalism coverage through several providers at once. Don’t leave your car without some form of protection. From the smallest prank to more serious acts of vandalism, your vehicle deserves to be protected.

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