Maintenance

Car insurance doesn't cover stolen holiday packages

red present

 (iStock)

While holiday shopping, there is little more frustrating than finding that everything you purchased has been stolen from the back of your car. But your car insurance will cover the loss, right? Not exactly.

If you have comprehensive coverage as part of your auto policy, your insurer will cover you for damage to your car and the loss or theft of any equipment that’s attached to it, subject to your deductible. But it won’t cover the value of your possessions. For that, you need to use your homeowners or renters insurance, assuming you have such a policy, says Jeanne Salvatore, senior vice president at the Insurance Information Institute.

Even then, you may not be able to cover the entire value of your stolen items. Some of these policies only cover up to 10 percent of the personal property limit. In the case of homeowners insurance, the property coverage typcially is 50 percent to 75 percent of the coverage amount for the home itself.

Then, of course, you first have to pay the deductible. If that’s $500 per claim, you may not be able to recover anything, depending on the value of those gifts.

For more tips, read 5 Ways to Keep Your Car Secure While Holiday Shopping

Another option may be to make a claim under the free purchase protection benefit that comes with some credit cards. The benefit typically covers most purchases made with the card for 90 days, within certain limits.

For example, American Express provides coverage for up to $1,000 per los or theft for holders of some of its cards and $10,000 for others, with annual claim limits of $50,000. Such coverage is in addition to any insurance you have. So it may only end up covering your home or renters insurance deductible.

But there’s bad news here, too. Some purchase protection plans, including those offered by Discover as well as by the two banks we checked that issue Visa and MasterCard, exclude items stolen from vehicles. The American Express benefit does cover such items.

Even if you can make a claim, you'll probably need to provide receipts (hopefully they didn’t get stolen, too) and a police report. And some items are excluded, such as antiques.

— Anthony Giorgianni

Visit our Holiday Gift Ideas page throughout the season to find the best deals, time-saving advice, and much more.

Copyright © 2005-2014 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission. Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this site.