Car Fire Insurance Claims and Coverage

Image shows car fires covered by comprehensive insurance including Arson, Garage fires, Engine fires and Fires caused by car accidents

The Balance / Catherine Song

There were 212,500 vehicle fires that caused over $1.9 billion in damages in 2018, the last year for which comprehensive data is available. The leading cause for car fires is a mechanical failure, with 75% of highway fires occurring in older vehicles while they were on the road.

Car fires are always scary. They can do a lot of damage. They can occur in a couple of ways. Comprehensive coverage will cover fire damage to your car regardless of what causes the fire, but you must purchase the coverage for your car policy before the loss occurs.

Key Takeaways

  • Be sure to call emergency personnel if your car catches on fire for any reason. Get a police report for your insurance provider.
  • Damage is often covered under your comprehensive coverage if your car catches fire.
  • Most fires end up as total losses, because the damage spreads throughout the cars.

What Is Comprehensive Coverage?

Comprehensive or "comp" coverage pays for damage to your car that results from something other than a collision. It's often optional under state law, but your lender will probably make you carry it if you've financed, and the car secures the loan. You'll often have a deductible for this type of coverage unless you're paying extra not to have one.

Your insurance company will pay $2,500 of the costs of repairs if a fire causes $3,000 in damage to your car, and you have a $500 deductible on your comp coverage.

Car Fire From Arson

You don't often hear about cars being set on fire on purpose, but it does happen. This is a criminal act. At the very least, it's considered vandalism.

You must file a police report in that case to receive coverage. The comp coverage portion of your policy should cover your vehicle.

Garage Fires

A garage fire can cause a whole lot of damage, not only to your home and its contents but to your autos as well.

Comprehensive coverage is your only option if your car is parked in your garage and sustains damage from a fire. Homeowner's policies don't cover autos.

Engine Fires

Sometimes car engines can catch on fire due to mechanical problems. Although car policies don't cover these failures as a matter of course, fire is an exception.

Comp coverage will cover the cost to repair your auto if your engine becomes engulfed in flames while you're driving on a highway, but you might have a total loss on your hands instead. The auto can't be repaired and saved. Your policy will pay the actual cash value of your car, less your deductible.

Fire From a Car Accident

It takes a pretty severe accident to start a fire. It's a good idea to talk with your claims adjuster if you were in a collision, and a fire started due to it. Whether the accident would fall under collision or comp coverage would vary according to your exact circumstances and your insurance carrier.

There's a chance that you could still be covered if you have comp coverage, even if you don't have collision coverage.

When Your Auto Is a Total Loss 

A car fire often causes a car to be declared a total loss. Having comp coverage can make a very bad situation a little better. You'll know that you won't have to cover the expenses all on your own.

Call the authorities as soon as you can if you find that you can't put your car fire out yourself or if you're not sure that you got it out entirely.

Progressive's comp coverage could pay you the value of your auto minus your deductible. The company says that it could also cover damages for a car that's stolen and is severely damaged when it's recovered.

Review your policy. It's always better to know what it covers before a loss occurs. You won't be surprised when you have to make a claim. And it might be worthwhile to invest in comp coverage if you don't have it.