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What if I hit a deer, or a pothole, or put the wrong gas in the tank? These are some of the wacky things car insurance covers—and doesn’t—that you may not have thought about

If your car falls into a sinkhole, comprehensive insurance covers you. GETTY IMAGES
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If you have auto insurance, you probably expect it to protect you if you’re in a crash. But there are also some unusual things covered by car insurance, including those pesky marmots that have been making headlines recently. And that’s just the beginning.

We spoke with Jim Hickey, vice president and head of personal lines at World Insurance Associates, about some of the wacky things car insurance covers that you may not have thought about. He told us what’s covered, what’s not, and what types of coverage you need to have to make sure the insurance company picks up the tab.

What comprehensive insurance covers

Car insurance policies that include comprehensive coverage protect you from the mishaps listed below. With weather-related insurance claims on the rise, if you don’t have comprehensive coverage, it might be worth adding it to your policy.

1. Hail, trees, and golf balls

Was your car the casualty of a hailstorm? Or maybe you live a little too close to a golf course. Whether it’s natural or human-made, if a falling object damages your car, you’re covered.

2. Rodent damage

If a marmot, rat, squirrel, or other rodent finds its way into your vehicle and chews through wires, tubes, or upholstery, your car insurance will pay for the damage. Your policy covers insect damage, too.

Marmots are out to get your car. ISTOCK

3. Earthquakes

If you live in an area where earthquakes are common, you don’t need to buy a stand-alone policy to cover your car. Auto insurance covers earthquake damage. Inquire with your home insurer about a separate policy (in addition to your homeowner’s) to protect your home, though.NOW PLAYING: Video: Fire at Puerto Rico Power Station Leads to Massive Blackout our Video Center

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4. Puddles

Sometimes it can be difficult to tell how deep a puddle is before you drive through it. If you go through water that floods your engine or causes other damage, you’re covered.

5. Vandalism

If someone keys your car, smashes your windows or slashes your tires, your auto insurer has your back.

6. Floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes

Water and wind can cause significant damage to vehicles, sometimes making them not drivable. If a flood, tornado, or hurricane damages your car, insurance covers the cost to repair it.

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7. Wildfires

In 2020, nearly 60,000 wildfires burned more than 10 million acres across the U.S., according to the National Interagency Fire Center. If a wildfire damages your vehicle, you can rest easy knowing your policy will pay for repairs.

8. Sinkholes

Sinkholes often occur without warning. When they do, they can swallow up everything in their path. If a sinkhole damages your car, insurance covers you.

9. Volcanoes

There are 169 potentially active volcanoes in the U.S., according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Lava flows, ash falls, and gas clouds are among the risks you could face if you live near one. As long as your auto insurance policy has comprehensive coverage, your insurer will cover damage from a volcano.

10. Wild animals

Do you live in an area where deer routinely walk through your yard or bears and raccoons forage for food in your trash cans? If you hit a wild animal while driving your car or one gets bored looking through the trash and decides your vehicle would make a better chew toy, insurance pays for the damage.

11. Fraudsters

If you sell your car only to find out the personal check the buyer gave you won’t clear, it might be considered theft under your policy, and the insurer might cover you. But it depends on the policy, so you’ll need to check with the insurance company. If you plan to sell your car, it’s a good idea to require a more secure form of payment, such as a cashier’s check, which is guaranteed by the financial institution that issues it.

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What collision and personal injury protection covers

While comprehensive covers a lot, collision and personal injury coverage can come in handy as well, sometimes when you least expect it.

1. Potholes

While it’s best to avoid them if you can, accidents happen. Suppose you drive over a pothole and damage the undercarriage or some other part of your car. The collision portion of your policy covers the damage, even though the “crash” wasn’t with another vehicle.

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2. Plows

Whether a snowplow comes through your neighborhood to remove a foot of snow or baseball-sized hail, if it hits your car and damages it, the insurance company will pay for the damage when you have collision coverage. The same is true if a tractor, backhoe, car, truck, or other vehicle causes damage to your car.

3. Injuries not caused by a collision

You probably know that car insurance covers injuries you sustain if you’re in an accident. But did you know personal injury protection covers injuries that occur as a pedestrian, when you’re getting in and out of your car, or working on your vehicle?

What is not covered by car insurance

While car insurance covers many of life’s misadventures, it doesn’t cover everything. Here are four mishaps insurance does not cover.

1. Wrong fuel

Mistakes happen, and if you accidentally put the wrong type of fuel in your car, it could damage the engine. But your insurance company won’t pay for the repairs, even if it was an honest mistake.

2. Condensation in gas tank

Condensation occurs when water vapor turns back into water. If it accumulates in your gas tank, it can lead to corrosion in the tank or engine, which can be expensive to fix. But unless the condensation occurred because someone vandalized your vehicle, the insurance company probably won’t cover it.

3. Wear and tear

Over time, car parts wear out, and you need to replace them. That’s routine maintenance, and insurance doesn’t cover it. Check your car warranty or go to the nearest car repair shop. Sometimes the car manufacturer’s extended warranty will cover these items if you purchased one.

4. Golf clubs and laptops

If someone steals personal property from your car, auto insurance won’t pay to replace it. If you have renters or homeowners insurance, your policy will typically cover you up to the policy’s limit.

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Many states require drivers to maintain a minimum amount of liability insurance, but other types of coverage aren’t usually required by law. If you’re unsure whether your policy covers you for the events we describe above, you might want to check with your insurance company or agent.

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