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My Car Is On Fire – Am I Covered?

Imagine starting up your car, smelling smoke and then standing by and watching it burn to the ground. Car fires are not as uncommon as you would think and they can be devastating as well as expensive. If you have a cut-rate policy or simple liability you might be on the hook for the cost of your car.

Everything You Need to Know about Car Fires

According to The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), there were about 215,000 car fires in the U.S. in 2010. This is about one car fire every 146 seconds. These fires killed 310 people and injured over 1600 people while causing $1.4 billion in property damage. Car fires are responsible for 17 percent of all fires and 12 percent of deaths caused by fire.

So what’s causing all of these fires? Roughly 49 percent of vehicle fires are the fault of malfunctions and mechanical failures. This would include breaks, worn out parts and leaks; another 23 percent were caused by electrical problems.

Car fires start in a variety of spots on the car. While most people assume that car fires start around fuel lines and gas tanks, a measly two percent of fires originate here. The engine, running gear, and wheels are where 64 percent of fires first ignite.  Most cars do not explode when they burn, but toxic fumes are common so get at least 100 feet away from a burning car.

My Car Just Burned…Am I Covered?

Watching your car burn to the ground is devastating enough, wondering if you are covered can be terrifying.

Rest assured that in most cases your insurance will cover your loss as long as you are carrying comprehensive. Comprehensive is considered an add-on and protects your car from damage that is caused by anything other than a collision which includes fire, flood and hail damage.

It is possible, in rare situations that collision may cover a car fire. If the fire was caused or started after a collision like a rollover you might be able to file a claim under your collision coverage.

If you are not carrying comprehensive or collision you will be on the hook for the cost of the car. Basic policies usually offer liability only, which covers the damage that you do to other people or their property.

Arson and Defects

Cars are burned on purpose more often than people think. In 2010 a whopping 14,000 cars were intentionally burned, causing 90 million dollars worth of damage. Arson happens for a number of reasons. Covering up a crime, burning a joyride or car owners trying to get out of a car loan they can no longer afford. This can be a risky financial strategy. Insurance companies take fraud seriously and thoroughly investigate all car fires so if you are thinking about burning your car, don’t. If you are the victim of an actual arsonist you will be covered as long as you are carrying comprehensive coverage.

Manufacturer defects can be a bit more difficult. If your car starts on fire due to a defect your best bet is to make a claim against your comprehensive coverage. Your insurer will than sue the manufacturer to recoup the money they pay out on claims. If you are only carrying liability it is possible to sue the carmaker but this is a lengthy process and can be quite expensive.

Car fires are more common than you imagine and not having the right insurance coverage can make the devastation of the fire even worse.