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Will homeowners insurance pay for my burned car?


Question: My car was destroyed by a fire at my son’s house, where it was parked in the garage.  The fire took out his house and garage that contained his car and my car.  Will his homeowners or auto insurance cover it?

Answer:  Unfortunately, neither of your son’s insurance policies will pay for your car being destroyed. To have your car covered for fire damage, no matter where the blaze occurs, you’d need to have comprehensive coverage as part of your own auto insurance policy.

Your son should be able to make a claim under his homeowners policy for the damage his house, garage and personal belongings sustained in the fire. But most homeowner’s policies specifically exclude coverage for motorized vehicles. This includes coverage for the homeowner’s own vehicle, or a car owned by someone else, parked in the garage and consumed by the flames of a spreading house fire.

Your son may find in his policy an exception for vehicles used solely for maintenance and upkeep of the property, but typically this only covers items like lawn-maintenance vehicles (a riding lawn mower, for example).

Auto coverages of collision and comprehensive will cover only the vehicle(s) listed on the car insurance policy and won’t extend to other vehicles. So, if your son has comprehensive coverage, he can make a claim under it for his car, but not yours. You’ll have to make your own comprehensive claim with your auto insurer.  (See "My car is on fire.  What now?")

Both you and your son should expect an investigation into the fire by your son’s homeowner’s and each of your car insurance companies.

With your insurer, be ready to answer questions about why your car was at your son’s house, how often you leave it there, etc. since normally insured cars are expected to be parked a majority of the time at the policyholder’s residence, because where you live is a rating factor.

Fire investigations can take time, especially when there is so much damage done, but many states have laws about how long an insurance provider can take to settle or must notify you that they will need extra time to continue their investigation due to extenuating factors.

Contact your state’s insurance regulator to find out how long the insurers can take to accept a claim and then to settle it.

If your auto insurance company accepts the claim and agrees your car should be written off as a total loss, then the insurer should settle with you for the actual cash value of your vehicle (minus your deductible amount).

This being a comprehensive claim, it’s unlikely on its own to affect your future auto insurance rates unless you already have other claims with your insurer. If your rates do rise, it’s important to comparison shop with other auto insurers to make sure you’re getting the best rates possible. The difference could be hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

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