Last updated: December 2022
Imagine you’re driving around town running errands and suddenly—crash! After the dust settles, if you’re not too familiar with your policy, you may wonder, will my car insurance cover the repairs? Some drivers may assume that buying auto insurance means their car is covered no matter what happens to it. But like many things in life, whether car insurance covers repairs depends on the circumstances. Who pays for repairs in the event of an accident? Are you responsible for the financial hit if your car breaks down? We’ll look at each of those questions below and help you figure out when exactly car insurance covers you.
Does car insurance cover repairs after an accident?
While we hope you’re never involved in a car accident, they can happen to anyone at any time. If you have insurance, you might think your car is covered if you’re involved in a crash, but that might not be true. It depends on what type of coverage you have, who is responsible for the crash, if another car is involved, if the other driver has insurance, or if you hit something other than a car.
What if I’m involved in an accident with another car?
If the other driver is at fault in the accident, their liability insurance should pay for any damages to your vehicle. While that’s certainly an inconvenience, you can breathe a financial sigh of relief. However, if you’re responsible for the accident or the other driver is uninsured, repairs to your car will only be covered if you purchased collision coverage (or, in the case of an uninsured driver, uninsured motorist property damage coverage depending on your state).
State laws do not require collision coverage, but if you’re ever involved in a crash with another car, collision insurance will pay to repair or replace your vehicle, regardless of who is at fault. Please note, collision coverage often includes a deductible, meaning you’ll likely have to pay some money upfront before insurance kicks in. If you only purchased liability insurance (bodily injury liability and property damage liability), this type of coverage only pays for property damage or injuries suffered by other people in an accident you cause.
What if I’m the only car involved in the accident?
When most people hear “car accident,” they immediately think of multiple vehicles, but sometimes it’s just a single-car collision. If you crash into a mailbox or telephone pole, collision coverage would pay for repairs to your vehicle. If you’re driving down a rural road and strike a deer or other animal, comprehensive coverage would pay for your repairs. Just like with collision coverage, comprehensive coverage will likely include a deductible. So, make sure to pick an amount you can afford out of pocket.
Does car insurance pay for non-accident damages, like natural disasters or break-ins?
As we explained above, liability insurance doesn’t provide you with any financial assistance if your own vehicle is damaged, but you can protect your car from theft, vandalism, and natural disasters with comprehensive coverage. Sometimes called “other than collision coverage,” comprehensive insurance will pay for repairs or replacement (after you meet your deductible) if a tree falls on your car or if someone breaks into your vehicle, damaging the windows or doors. It can also help protect you from natural disasters like fires and hurricanes. Depending on where you live and how new your car is, comprehensive coverage could be a good choice for financial security.
Does insurance pay for repairs if my car breaks down?
Generally speaking, most auto insurance policies will only provide financial coverage for repairs if you’re involved in some type of covered accident, have your car damaged by a natural disaster (flood, fire, etc.), or suffer damage from theft or vandalism. Unless you have a specific type of coverage geared toward breakdowns or can link the issue back to some sort of collision, you’ll likely be paying for any breakdowns, like a bad transmission or electrical issues, out of your own pocket.
However, just because car insurance doesn’t typically cover breakdowns doesn’t mean you can’t get some sort of financial relief in these stressful situations. If you purchase a roadside assistance plan or towing coverage, you can have help show up when you’re stuck on the side of the road. While you’ll have to pay for repairs at a later time, you will at least avoid some of the stress, time wasted, and money lost associated with a breakdown.
Does car insurance cover engine failure?
Much like breakdowns, most car insurance policies are not going to cover engine failure. You would probably need to definitively link the engine failure to a covered incident, like a car accident. If the engine failed due to the collision, the at-fault driver’s insurance should help pay for the damages.
Will insurance pay for a rental car during repairs?
If your car is in the shop, insurance might cover a rental car, but it depends on the types of coverage you carry and the reason your car needs repairs. If your car is out of commission because of an accident caused by someone else, their insurance coverage should cover the cost of your rental car. If you have a rental reimbursement coverage policy like the one Direct Auto offers (typically only available if you purchase comprehensive and collision coverage), you can get help paying for a rental car after a covered loss. For example, you could get covered a certain dollar amount per day for a rental car if you rear-end someone or a branch falls on your vehicle, forcing your car to go to the mechanic.
It's worth noting that your insurance coverage does not cover the cost of a rental car if yours is in the shop for typical maintenance or mechanical issues that do not stem from a covered accident or loss. You would probably be paying out of your own pocket in these situations.
About Warranties and Car Insurance Repairs
We’d also like to note that if you purchased a new car recently, it could have a warranty. However, warranties don’t typically cover damage caused by accidents. In fact, an accident can void your warranty depending on the severity.
Warranties vary by manufacturer and dealership, but they typically cover mechanical failure within a certain period of time. So, if something goes wrong not long after you leave the car lot, you can contact the dealership or vehicle manufacturer to see if they’ll pay for the repairs.