Question: I put gas in my car and later on that evening my car broke down. I had it towed to a dealer who said the gas I put in was contaminated. I then heard about a certain gas company recalling gas for contamination. Would this problem be covered by auto insurance? If so, which part? If not, what should I do?
Answer: Mechanical breakdown on its own isn’t covered by auto insurance; however, your car’s issues stem from contaminated fuel, so it might be covered if you have comprehensive coverage as part of your car insurance policy.
If you only have state-required minimum coverages of property damage liability and bodily injury liability, then your car certainly wouldn’t be covered. Liability coverages only cover others that you harm in an auto accident, not your own vehicle.
Physical damage coverages of collision and comprehensive do cover your vehicle for covered events and perils. Your car wasn’t hit, so you couldn’t claim under your collision insurance, but comprehensive coverage does cover your vehicle for certain situations that are the result of “other than collision.”
Comprehensive typically covers perils such as theft, fire, glass breakage and vandalism but will also usually cover a few other types of situations -- it depends upon the specific terms of your car insurance policy.
Only your insurance agent or insurance company can tell you for certain if you’re covered. An inquiry to your auto agent about your issue would give you a clear cut answer on if your particular auto insurance policy covers damage resulting from contaminated fuel.
I’ve seen claims for contaminated fuel issues go both ways. Some insurers will say yes, but you’ll need to give them details about where you obtained the gas and any proof that it was contaminated so it can subrogate with the party responsible for your car receiving the contaminated fuel.
Other insurance companies will say that because this mechanical issue isn’t the direct result of a listed covered peril (such as vandalism), your policy is such that they won’t accept the claim. Some insurers can actually point to a certain place in your policy that says something to the effect of “there is no coverage for fuel-related issues.”
If you find that you can make a claim, I’d suggest first speaking to the dealer that has your vehicle and finding out how much it will cost to repair. If you find that the repair costs are less than your deductible, then you won’t need to make a claim since your insurance benefits only kick in after your deductible amount has been paid.
If your repair costs are quite a bit more than your deductible, then go ahead and make the claim. Comprehensive claims don’t typically affect your future rates. If your rates do go up due to this claim, then just comparison shop to find other auto insurers that won’t rate you on it and offer cheaper overall rates.
If you're unable to make a comprehensive auto claim, then you’ll need to see if it's possible for you to make a claim with fuel supplier responsible for the contaminated fuel. If your gas was from the fuel supplier in your area that issued the recall, then contact them about your car's mechanical issues after receiving their fuel and your need to make a claim.
Typically, when a fuel supplier issues a recall it places information on its website about how consumers can make claims if they were damaged due to fuel contamination. You will usually be required to provide the fuel company with documentation such as sales receipts and records from buying the gas (so they can check to make sure that station at that time had a contamination problem) and your repair bills. Their claims representatives would then handle your claim questions.