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15 things you didn't know your car and home insurance policies cover

Read the Spanish version: 15 cosas que no sabias que tu seguro de carro y casa cubren

Your insurance policies probably include coverage you've never thought about. In order for you to get the most value from your policy, check out these things that may already be included for your premium payments:

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1. A lawyer for your problem

Americans have a 10 percent chance of being sued in any given year and a 33 percent chance of being sued in their lifetimes, according to IFG Trust Services Inc., an international investment firm. Both your home and auto insurance will provide you with legal defense if you're sued for an incident that's covered by your policy. For example, your home insurance company will provide a lawyer if you are sued because someone is injured on your property -- whether it's inside your home or outside on the sidewalk.

If a court finds you negligent and awards damages to the other party, your insurance will pay up to the liability limits defined by your policy. If you have assets to protect, such as a house, savings or investments, consider buying an umbrella policy. Umbrella coverage, which provides liability coverage above and beyond your home and car insurance, typically starts at $1 million. Insure.com's Umbrella insurance extends your coverage article provides more information on this issue.  

2. Your naughty dog

home insurance for dogs

Say your normally mild-mannered tail-wagger has a bad day. One of your neighbor's children wants to play but your pooch isn't in the mood and responds negatively. The bite causes the child an injury that requires hospitalization. Your neighbor sues you, seeking reimbursement for the child's medical bills. Depending on what breed of dog you own, where you live and your insurance company, home insurance may have you covered. Some home insurers have lists of breeds and crossbreeds they will not insure; other insurers consider such breeds on a case-by-case basis, or charge more for certain “biting” breeds such as pit bulls. Check your policy or call to see if you have coverage. Insure.com's Home insurance for dog owners article explores this topic in greater detail.

11. Flat tires, lockouts and more

A number of things can go wrong with your car. Maybe you hit a pothole on your way to work and suffer a flat tire. Perhaps you mindlessly locked your keys inside your car. It's possible that your gas gauge malfunctioned and you ran out of gas. If you added roadside assistance coverage to your car insurance policy, you're covered for most of these things. For example, Progressive's Emergency Roadside Assistance coverage includes towing, flat-tire changes, battery jumpstarts, emergency fuel and fluid delivery and locksmith service. Roadside assistance coverage is optional and relatively cheap.

12. Bad checks, fake cash and other fraud

If someone writes you a bogus check, your credit card is stolen or you unknowingly accepted counterfeit cash, you could be covered. According to the III, home insurance coverage can include unauthorized use of credit cards, forged checks and counterfeit cash. However, policy limits are generally very low, such as $500.

13. Family grave markers

If a grave monument on a family plot has been vandalized or otherwise damaged, such as struck by lightning, it may be covered, depending on your insurance company. Many companies provide up to $5,000 for damage to a grave marker, including headstones, monuments and urns, according to III. However, policies generally exclude damage resulting from a catastrophe, such as a hurricane. There's no additional charge for this coverage.

14. Trees, plants & your lawn

Many home insurance policies automatically cover damage to trees, shrubs, plants and lawns on your property. Damage can be the result of theft, vandalism, an aircraft crash, riot, explosion, fire or lightning. Generally, there's a $500 limit for any one tree, shrub, plant or re-sodding a lawn.

15. Spoiled Food

If the food in your refrigerator spoils due to a power outage from a covered peril, you may be covered — depending on your insurer and where you live. However, the power outage must be the result of a covered peril such as windstorm, lightning, fire or hail. Some companies automatically include this under your homeowners policy. Others sell food spoiler coverage as a separate endorsement.

3. An injured pet

Car accidents are dangerous not only for people but also the pets riding with them. And because pets often don't have the benefit of seat restraints, even a minor collision can result in pet injuries and major veterinary bills.

Depending on your insurance company and where you live, your auto insurance could pick up the bill. Insure.com's Insurance coverage for pets in car accidents provides an overview of the issue. 

4. Terrorism

If a group like Al-Qaeda bombs your neighborhood, your property is covered under both your home and car insurance policies. Standard homeowners insurance policies include coverage for damage to property and personal possessions resulting from an act of terrorism. If your car is damaged or destroyed in a terrorist attack, your car insurance policy will cover the damage if you have purchased comprehensive coverage. But if you carry only liability coverage, your car would not be covered.

While terrorism is covered, acts of war are excluded. After an attack, the government would declare whether it is terrorism or war and your insurance will respond accordingly. Note that biological and nuclear attacks are not covered. Insure.com's Bombs away: Insurance takes cover from war and biological attacks article explains how insurance companies deal with acts of war and terrorism.

5. Your stolen gun

Say your teen invites a few friends to your home and later you discover that your .40 caliber semiautomatic handgun is missing. You would report the theft and your home insurance will likely cover it. Most standard policies cover theft of firearms for up to $1,500. If you own an extensive collection of guns, consider purchasing extra coverage.

6. Your drunk friends

If you've just hosted a rollicking party but one of your guests left drunk and caused an accident, the finger of blame could point at you. In most states, you can be held responsible for his actions and find yourself in court. If a civil claim is filed against you, your home insurance pays for your legal representation and any damages the court awards — up to the limits of your policy. Insure.com's The trouble with drunk friends article explains how you could be held liable under "social host" liability laws. It's important to have adequate liability coverage. Most insurance agents recommend buying liability coverage between $300,000 and $500,000.

7. Those reckless friends

If you loan your car to a friend for a few hours and he crashes it, your own insurance policy will come to your rescue. (It doesn't matter whether or not your friend is insured, because your policy kicks in on your car.) Your policy insures your vehicle plus you, any relative and anyone else using your car if the use is with your permission. Even if your friend has his own car insurance, your insurance will pay for damage caused to others and, if you carry collision insurance, for damage to your car. However, you'll have to pay your deductible for any collision claim. Insure.com's When your friend crashes your car article provides additional information.   

8. Stolen gifts

We've all stashed purchases in our car in a mall parking lot and gone back in for more shopping. But car insurance does not cover personal possessions that are stolen from your vehicle. Fortunately, theft of personal property is covered under your home insurance. You'll need to file a police report and pay a deductible to make a theft-related insurance claim. If your receipts are stolen along with your gifts, you will need to document your purchases, perhaps by obtaining duplicate receipts from the stores.

9. Your lost luggage

home insurance for lost luggage

Any trip can turn sour if your luggage does not return with you. Fortunately, many home insurance policies will reimburse you for lost or stolen luggage. The Insurance Information Institute (III) says that this falls under "off-premises coverage" in some home insurance policies. Sometimes coverage is automatic, but some insurance companies may charge extra.

If you made expensive purchases while on vacation that are gone with your luggage, you won't recoup your expenses. Generally, you will be reimbursed only up to $500 for loss of personal property in luggage. If you know you will be making expensive purchases, you should probably have certain items insured separately.

10. Your child's college dorm

If a thief robs your child's college dorm, your home insurance policy should have you covered. Most home insurance policies will extend coverage to theft of personal belongings in your child's dorm. However, coverage does not extend to an off-campus apartment rented by your child; for that you'll need renter's insurance. Also, your child must be a full-time student and be considered your dependent for coverage to apply.

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