UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020
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Car fires can be frightening. Not only do car fires cause significant vehicle damage, but they can also be caused by several different things.
Today, we’re explaining everything you need to know about car insurance and car fires.
Typically, Comprehensive Coverage Covers All Fire Damage to your Vehicle
Car fires can be caused by many different things. Typically, however, any fire damage to your vehicle will be covered by your comprehensive coverage – regardless of the cause of the fire.
Your comprehensive coverage covers unexpected, non-accident-related damages. If your car is damaged by hail, for example, then you can make a claim under your comprehensive coverage. If your car spontaneously bursts into flames while driving down the freeway, then comprehensive coverage covers that too.
If you only have basic liability coverage for your vehicle (the basic insurance required by law), then your engine fire or electrical fire is unlikely to be covered. You will only be covered if you have comprehensive coverage.
How Do Car Fires Start?
Typically, any damage caused by a car fire will be covered by comprehensive coverage. However, the claim process will differ depending on how the car fire started.
Some of the most common reasons for a car fire include:
It’s rare for a vehicle to be intentionally set on fire – but it does happen. Typically, arson is considered a criminal act. Your car insurance company should treat it in a similar way to car theft or vandalism. You will be required to file a police report for your claim to be covered. If you have comprehensive coverage, then any arson damage should be covered.
Sometimes, a car is damaged during a garage fire. You may think that this damage would fall under your home insurance policy, but it doesn’t: homeowner’s insurance never covers automobiles. Garage fire damage will be covered by your car insurance company – but only if you have comprehensive coverage.
Mechanical problems can cause engine fires. Sometimes, a vehicle is defective from the moment it leaves the manufacturer. In other cases, a small part may have been damaged or tweaked, creating a mechanical issue. Car insurance policies do not typically cover mechanical failures, although fire is an exception. If a mechanical issue causes your engine to become engulfed in flames while driving, for example, then your comprehensive coverage should cover the repairs. If your engine simply breaks down without catching on fire, however, then it’s unlikely your car insurance company will cover the damage.
Sometimes, two cars collide and cause a fire. In this situation, your claims process will vary depending on the circumstances. Sometimes, collision coverage could cover the damage in this situation. In other cases, the other driver’s insurance might cover your damage (say, if the other driver was 100% at fault).
What Happens If Your Vehicle is a Total Loss After a Fire?
Fire damage can cause significant damage to a vehicle. After a serious fire, there may be virtually nothing left of your vehicle.
If your vehicle is significantly damaged by an engine fire or electrical fire, then it may be declared a total loss. Different states and insurance companies have different rules regarding total loss. Generally, however, if the cost of repairing your vehicle is more than, say, 90% of the vehicle’s value, then your vehicle will be declared a total loss.
In this case, your insurance company will send you a payout equal to the actual cash value (ACV) of the vehicle. Your vehicle will also take ownership of the wreckage.
What Happens If Your Vehicle Can Be Repaired After a Fire?
If your vehicle is not a total loss, then your insurance company is required to make you whole again. The insurance company must pay to repair the vehicle to its pre-loss condition.
That means the insurance company will cover the cost of repairing the fire damage. This could involve significant interior upholstery work for a minor fire. Or, it could involve weeks at the mechanic or body shop for a major fire.
Engine fires and electrical fires can cause significant vehicle damage. When an engine fire or electrical fire occurs, it will typically be covered by your vehicle’s comprehensive coverage.
If you do not have comprehensive coverage, and you only maintain basic liability insurance, then the fire damage may not be covered by insurance. However, if the fire occurred after a collision with another vehicle, or as a result of another driver’s negligence, then it could be covered under your own collision coverage or through the other driver’s insurance company.
Contact your insurance company to verify you have comprehensive coverage. If you have comprehensive coverage, then your insurance should cover engine and electrical fires.