Personal possessions cover with car insurance

Want to protect the personal belongings in your car? Find out if car insurance has you covered – and what to do if not.

Consider how much stuff you have in your car right now. A bunch of CDs (old school, we know, but surprisingly common)? A spare jacket, just in case? Your plug-in sat nav? If you’re an active type, maybe you’ve got a gym bag, tennis racquet or golf clubs. Perhaps you even keep a spare tablet in there, to keep your kids (or your other half) entertained on long journeys. It all adds up, and so does its value. In this guide, we explore whether your personal belongings are covered with your car insurance policy, any restrictions and what the alternatives are.

What is car insurance personal possessions cover?

If your car insurance policy includes personal possessions cover, this means that the contents of your car (as opposed to the car itself) are protected, to a certain extent, against damage or theft. Let’s say your car’s contents are destroyed in a fire, or a thief smashes your window and helps themselves to the contents of your glove box. If you have personal belongings cover, you’ll be able to claim on your car insurance.

Is personal possessions cover included as standard with car insurance?

Not always. It largely depends on the level of cover you have.

  • Comprehensive car insurance policies usually include cover for the personal belongings in your car. They also offer the highest level of protection for your car itself.
  • Third party, fire and theft policies rarely cover the contents of your car as standard. The fire and theft aspects of cover usually only apply to the car itself, though there are some exceptions.
  • Third party policies only cover harm to other people and property. They won’t include cover for your own personal possessions as standard.

What does personal possessions under a car insurance policy cover?

Personal possessions cover will reimburse you for the cost of the personal belongings in your car if they are:

  • Stolen
  • Damaged or destroyed by fire or, depending on the policy terms, other risks such as vandalism, flood damage or an accident

The personal belongings that are covered can include things like sports gear, clothing, tools, sunglasses, CDs or tech gadgets (such as smartphones or sat navs).

Be aware that some car insurance policies place some quite restrictive limits on their personal possessions cover. This means the full value of your possessions may not be covered.

How much personal possessions cover is included in a car insurance policy?

This can vary dramatically by insurer and by policy.

According to financial market analyst Defaqto, personal possessions limits for car insurance range from a paltry £100 to a maximum of £2,500. However, the limits on most policies (and all third party, fire and theft policies) fall between £100 and £500. Only a handful of premium comprehensive policies offer £1,000 of cover or more.

If you permanently keep a set of expensive golf clubs in your car, for example, you might want to opt for one of these policies. Though, to be honest, we wouldn’t recommend leaving high-value items in your car any longer than you need to.

What does car insurance personal possessions cover not include?

Common exclusions to look out for are:

  • Wear and tear. If something’s got a bit battered over time from being knocked about in your boot, don’t expect your insurer to pay out.
  • Unforced entry. If there’s no evidence your car was broken into, the insurer may assume you left it unlocked or unsecure. Failure to take appropriate care is a common reason for claims being rejected.
  • Items left on display. In a similar vein to the unforced entry clause, don’t tempt fate (or thieves) by leaving valuables in clear sight. Policies usually require valuables to be hidden away, in a glove box or locked boot, for example.
  • Specifically excluded items. Most insurers will have a list of items that they won’t cover at all, such as money or credit cards. And, unless you have business car insurance, items that you use for work purposes (such as tools) typically won’t be covered.
  • No proof of purchase. You’ll need to be able to show the insurer evidence that you owned the items you’re claiming for. Receipts or purchase confirmation emails will do. Some insurers may accept photographic evidence (of you with the items in question, for example).

Plus, of course, you won’t be able to claim for more than the maximum cover limit stated in your policy. As well as the fixed monetary limit, look out for something known as a “percentage value clause”. Not every policy will have one, but if it does it could lower the maximum pay-out further. It’s linked to the value of your car and might state, for example, that personal belongings are only covered up to 10% of the car’s value. If your car is only worth £5,000, you’ll only be able to claim for £500 worth of personal possessions cover, even if the monetary limit is set at £1,000.

How can I check if my car insurance policy includes cover for my personal belongings?

Your car insurance policy documents should state clearly whether personal possessions are included in your cover, and any cover limits. If there’s no mention of personal belongings being covered, it probably means they’re not.

If you’re not sure, or the wording isn’t clear, contact your insurer to check.

Can I add personal possessions cover to my car insurance policy?

Probably not. Unlike some types of cover that can be added as optional extras (such as breakdown cover or replacement key cover), your car insurance policy either will or won’t cover your personal belongings. If it doesn’t, you usually can’t bolt it on. You may need to look for alternative ways to cover your possessions.

Are there different types of personal possessions cover?

If you’re thinking that the term “personal possessions” sounds familiar, it might be because you’re in charge of buying the contents insurance for your home. With home insurance policies, personal possessions describes an element of cover that protects your portable belongings outside of the house.

However, unlike with car insurance policies, personal possessions is usually an optional add-on to contents insurance policies. Typically, contents insurance covers the belongings inside of your home as standard. You need to pay extra for cover while you’re out and about.

How else can I protect the personal belongings in my car?

If your car insurance policy doesn’t include personal possessions cover and you want this protection, you have a couple of options:

  • Check your home contents insurance policy, if you have one. It may already include cover for items outside of your home, under a “personal possessions” add-on (or sometimes as standard). If not, check how much it would cost to add this optional extra. It may offer a higher level of cover than is sometimes available with car insurance, including specific cover for high-value items.
  • Consider buying dedicated insurance for high-value items. For example, you could take out gadget insurance for tech devices you often keep in the car. Or if you have high-value sports equipment or musical instruments, you can find specialist insurance policies to cover these in and out of your car.

Will I need to provide receipts when I’m making a claim?

You will certainly need to provide proof that you owned the items you’re claiming for. Receipts are a good way to do this, so hang on to receipts for any high-value items you buy. They could be useful if you need to claim on home or gadget insurance too. Electronic receipts or emails confirming a purchase should do the job as well.

Failing this, insurers may be willing to accept photographic evidence. Take photos of items you regularly keep in the car, ideally either of the items in the car itself or showing you with them. A generic screen shot of an iPhone that could be in anyone’s hand probably won’t cut it.

What should I do if my car’s contents are stolen?

Step 1: Contact the police. This improve your chances of being reunited with your belongings if they’re recovered. Plus, you’ll need the crime reference number to make a claim for stolen belongings. There’s no need to call 999 unless the theft is in progress. If it isn’t, call the non-emergency number 101.

Step 2: If your car’s contents are insured, get in touch with your insurer as soon as possible. Some may require you to inform them within a certain period after the theft takes place.

Is it always worth claiming for personal possessions on my car insurance?

It depends on a few factors, including the value of the items stolen, any cover limits and the level of excess you have to pay. Any claim you make is likely to affect any no-claims bonus you’ve built up. It may also increase your premiums come renewal, so it’s worth factoring this in – particularly if the value of the damaged or stolen items is low.

You’ll also need to weigh up what you’d get back if you claimed against the excess. If the excess you’d have to pay exceeds the amount you’d get back, there’s little point in claiming. This might be enough to rule out some personal possessions claims entirely, as in some cases the excess might exceed the cover limit. That said, if your car is damaged as part of the theft, the combined claim value of car repairs plus personal possessions might make it worth it.

How can I protect my personal belongings when they’re in my car?

Danny Butler

Finder insurance expert Danny Butler answers

Let’s start with the bleeding obvious. Lock and properly secure your car whenever you leave it. It doesn’t matter if you’re only nipping back into the house to grab a forgotten brolly. It only takes seconds for an opportunistic thief to spot your mistake, snatch your valuables and vanish.

There are a few other sensible precautions that can lower your chances of being robbed in the first place. They’ll also increase your chances of a successful insurance claim if it comes to it.

  • Keep your car keys out of sight at all times. Leaving them out on a coffee shop table while you sip a latte could end badly, especially if your car is parked close by. And don’t leave them in sight and in reach of a window at home.
  • Don’t leave anything valuable on display in your car, even if it’s locked. Secure it out of sight in a locked boot or the glovebox.
  • Avoid keeping anything in your car that you don’t need to. It can be tempting to leave tools, sports equipment and other items you use fairly regularly in your car. But the more you accumulate, the more there is for a thief to make off with.
  • Empty your car completely if you go away. A car that doesn’t move an inch for several weeks suggests the owner isn’t around, and can be a more tempting proposition. Clearing it out reduces the risk.

Bottom line

Personal belongings cover can be a valuable feature of most comprehensive car insurance policies. But it comes with its fair share of restrictions and strings attached. If you regularly keep high-value items in your car, it’s worth shopping around to find a policy with higher personal belongings limits, or looking into alternative forms of cover. And, of course, taking a few sensible security precautions can minimise the risk of you ever needing to claim in the first place.

Frequently asked questions

*Based on data provided by Consumer Intelligence Ltd, www.consumerintelligence.com (March ’23). 51% of car insurance customers could save £407.05
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