Car fires are no fun – and no joke. You already know to jump out of your car and hurry out of the way if it catches on fire, but what happens after the flames die down? As the smoke rises from your poor car, you can’t help but wonder whether your insurance will cover this.
What can cause an electrical fire in your car?
Most people think of a gas engine when imagining a car fire, but electrical system failures are the second-most common cause of car fires. Gas, hybrid, and electric cars can all suffer from electrical fires.
Wiring and batteries are the typical culprits. Sparks from a loose wire could ignite gas or oil leaks, or even your car’s interior. Lead-acid batteries, the standard battery type in combustion engine cars, can produce hydrogen gas, which is super flammable. The lithium-ion battery in an electric car can catch fire if it short-circuits from an internal failure or a car accident. Once one cell of a lithium-ion battery is burning, the fire quickly spreads and is hard for firefighters to extinguish.
As for what can cause wiring or a battery to catch fire or cause a fire, the two things to worry about are accidents and deterioration. A collision can knock wires loose, tear them open, or force them together. It can cause faults in batteries, too. Daily wear and tear, plus the inevitable aging and degradation of the materials your car is made of, can also cause electrical system failures.
Does car insurance cover electrical fires?
Good news: car insurance will cover an electrical fire as long as you have the right type of coverage. Specifically, comprehensive coverage covers electrical fires. Comprehensive coverage applies to non-accident car damage and loss from natural disasters, theft and vandalism, or collisions with animals. Full coverage auto insurance, which includes comprehensive coverage, will also cover electrical fires.
One exception to comprehensive insurance is if your insurer thinks you intentionally caused an electrical fire. Destroying your car on purpose in the hopes of getting an insurance payout is called claims fraud. Insurance companies don’t like that. They won’t pay for repairs or replacement if they think you burned your car on purpose, and they may involve law enforcement.
If your policy only has liability coverage, we’re sorry to say that your car insurance will not cover electrical fires. However, if the fire was the result of another driver crashing into you, and they are at fault, their insurance should pay.
What happens if your vehicle is a total loss after a fire?
If your insurance company declares your car a total loss after an electrical fire, that means the cost to repair or replace it is higher than the car’s actual cash value, or ACV. That’s what it means for a car to be ‘totaled.’ After a total loss, your insurance company will pay you the ACV of your car, minus your deductible. You can decide what to do with the payout. You could use it to repair the car and pay for the rest of the repairs out of pocket, put it toward a new car, or save it and switch to a different way of getting around. Your auto insurance premium might also increase because you filed a claim.
What happens if your car can be repaired after a fire?
If your car can be repaired after a fire and the total cost of repairs is less than your car’s ACV, your comprehensive insurance will pay for the repairs, minus your deductible. Again, filing a claim could increase your premium when it’s time to renew your insurance.
Car insurance for electrical fires: the bottom line
Nobody wants to see their car in flames. Nobody wants to see the bill from the mechanic or dealership after a car fire, either. If you have comprehensive coverage as part of your auto insurance policy, your insurance will cover damage from an electrical fire. If you don’t have comprehensive coverage, your car insurance will not cover an electrical fire. If you’re worried about electrical fires, consider contacting an independent insurance agent to find out how to get comprehensive insurance. And if it’s been a while since you brought your car to the mechanic or dealership, now might be the time. They could catch a wiring or battery issue before it causes a conflagration.