Having your car stolen can be an extremely stressful and frustrating situation. Not only do you lose your primary mode of transportation, but you may still owe money on an auto loan for a car you no longer possess. This is where gap insurance can provide critical financial protection.
What is Gap Insurance?
Gap insurance, sometimes called GAP insurance, is an optional add-on coverage you can purchase when financing or leasing a new or used car. It helps pay the difference between what your car is worth and what you still owe on your loan if the vehicle is totaled or stolen.
Without gap coverage, you could end up owing thousands of dollars to your lender for a car you can’t drive. Gap insurance protects you from this “gap” in coverage.
How Gap Insurance Works After Theft
If your insured car is stolen and not recovered, your standard auto insurance policy will pay you the actual cash value of your car at the time it was stolen. However, with rapid depreciation, this payment is often less than what you still owe on your loan.
This is when gap insurance kicks in. It will pay the difference between the insurance settlement and your outstanding loan balance. Here is a step-by-step overview:
- Your car is stolen and not found within a specified timeframe, resulting in a total loss settlement from your insurer.
- Your insurer pays the car’s depreciated market value, for example $18,000.
- But you still owe $22,000 on your auto loan. This leaves a $4,000 gap.
- Gap insurance covers the $4,000 difference so you don’t have to continue paying on a stolen car.
Without gap protection, you’d be stuck paying $4,000 out of pocket on your loan for a car you no longer have.
Important Notes on Gap Insurance for Theft
There are some key facts to keep in mind regarding gap insurance and car theft:
- You must have comprehensive and collision coverage. Gap insurance only covers the gap, not the total loss itself.
- Gap insurance does not reimburse your deductible payment. You’ll need to pay that out of pocket.
- Not all gap policies cover theft. Read your policy’s terms. Some only cover total losses from collisions.
- There is often a waiting period before a stolen car is declared a total loss. This can range from 30 to 90 days.
- Your loan must be insured for gap protection to apply. Refinanced or modified loans may not qualify.
- Maximum payouts from gap insurance are limited. Read your policy to confirm the cap.
Should You Get Gap Insurance?
Gap coverage provides valuable protection, but is an added cost. Consider gap insurance if:
- You made a down payment of less than 20% on your car.
- You have a long-term auto loan of 5 years or more.
- You leased your vehicle, where residual value and owed value can differ greatly.
- Your car depreciates faster than average, like luxury or sports cars.
However, you can decline gap insurance if:
- You made a large down payment, limiting potential depreciation gap.
- You took out a short-term loan of 3 years or less.
- You have a cars that holds value well, like trucks and SUVs.
- You can afford to pay the depreciation difference if your car is totaled or stolen.
Talk to your insurance agent to determine if gap coverage makes sense for your situation.
How to File a Gap Claim for a Stolen Car
If you have gap protection and your insured car is stolen, here’s how to file your claim:
- File a police report immediately to document the theft.
- Notify your insurance company about the theft and file a comprehensive coverage claim.
- Provide your gap insurer with proof of total loss from your standard policy.
- Submit your police report, loan documentation, and any other information requested by the gap insurer.
- Continue making payments on your loan until the claims are finalized.
With gap insurance in place, you can rest assured you won’t be stuck paying for a stolen car. Review your coverage options carefully when purchasing a new or used car. Gap insurance provides valuable protection from the financial losses auto theft can cause.