Does Insurance Cover Stolen Car If The Keys Are Left Inside?

min read
Updated: 18 March 2024
Written by
Jeff Bray
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If you have ever had your vehicle stolen, you are not alone. In the United States, in 2022, over 1 million vehicles were stolen. Many of those have been attributed to driver error. What is driver error?

We look to explore this term and other reasons drivers require car insurance when events like this occur to drivers like you. We aim to explain how insurance works during incidents like vehicle theft when keys are left inside, and how you can avoid them in the future.

With my twelve years of experience, I aim to guide you through each scenario and show you how you can prevent the unthinkable from occurring.

Key Takeaways

  • Car insurance covers a stolen vehicle if you have comprehensive coverage on your vehicle.

  • Car insurance covers the vehicle itself. It does not cover the contents, like a laptop or other personal items. Those would be covered under your homeowner’s policy.

  • If your vehicle is found and your claim has been paid, you will either have to surrender the vehicle or return the claim amount.

Does Car Insurance Cover a Stolen Car if Keys Left Inside?

The quick answer is it depends on which state you live in. Each of the fifty states has different laws regarding stolen cars and the ‘key in the ignition statute.’ The most significant concern is the circumstances surrounding the theft. Most revolve around the time of the reporting of the theft, while others the negligence involved.

In the US, a vehicle is stolen every 32 seconds. So, when yours becomes a target, every moment counts. It is important to report the theft as quickly as possible. Any delay puts you in danger of your claim being delayed or denied. The best steps are:

  • File a police report – Once you realize your vehicle is missing, and you are confident it has not been ‘borrowed,’ contact the local authorities to file a police report. Understand this will not put a roadblock on every corner or open a nationwide investigation for your precious automobile.
  • File an insurance claim – This will begin the process of providing reparations for your missing automobile. Keep in mind that, at this point, you may need to pay your deductible to continue the process.
  • Don’t try and search for your vehicle alone – This is extremely dangerous. Chances are your car is gone, but even if you find it, you don’t know what could happen should you approach those who took your car, even if you find it abandoned, it is always best to call authorities to handle the situation.
  • Don’t expect a huge payout for your vehicle – We both know how much you paid to drive off the lot for your car. But all vehicles lose value over time. Even if you have additions, if you do not have the proper insurance for your car, including added insurance for those upgrades, you will be left holding the bag. Kelley Blue Book is an excellent source to find the current value of an automobile.

Along those lines, if you had anything in your vehicle when it was taken, those items are not covered under your auto insurance policy. The good news is that your personal items will be covered under your Homeowners or Renters Insurance policy.


Tip: There is a way to protect your personal items when you leave the home. It is called Personal Possessions Insurance. It can cover phones, laptops, and wallets in the event of theft. Designer clothing and instruments are also covered. This can also be known as Personal Property or Personal Articles Insurance.

What Type of Insurance Covers Your Car if It’s Stolen with the Keys Inside?

When shopping for an auto policy, it depends on the circumstances and how much coverage you purchase. For instance, if you purchase a new vehicle, your lease will most likely require you to carry Full Coverage. However, if you own your car outright and do not have that obligation, you may consider purchasing Liability Insurance only. But Liability Only does not protect you should your car be stolen with the keys inside?

Liability Insurance which is Bodily Injury and Property Damage protects the other driver and does not cover you. Personal Injury Protection helps with your injuries should you be involved in an automobile accident; this still is not enough protection should someone steal your ride.

Then you have Collision Coverage. Now you are getting close. This covers accidents, but not your stolen vehicle. The coverage you want is Comprehensive Coverage.

Comprehensive Coverage protects you and your vehicle against loss, non-collision damage, or theft of your vehicle, even with your keys inside.

How Much Damage Is Covered if Your Car Is Stolen with the Keys Inside?

Now that we know that your auto insurance policy will cover you for theft, what will happen if that joyride leads to an auto accident? Are you covered for the damage to your vehicle and to the car the thief hit? We will fall back on; it depends on the type of coverage you carry.

  • First, where you live will determine your coverage should you leave your keys in the ignition to “quickly run inside the store.” This liability continues should that joyrider get into an accident that causes damage or injuries to someone. This coverage falls under the Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist portion of your policy.
  • Next, when filing a claim, you should not expect to receive what you paid for the vehicle. Depreciation is factored into all claim amounts. You should consider this when looking into your coverage amount.
  • Finally, it is also important to understand that there is a time factor when a vehicle is stolen with keys inside. The longer you wait, the more likely your claim may get either denied or you will be subject to a fraud investigation based on “owner give up” before your claim is approved.

What Type of Insurance Covers Your Car if It’s Stolen with the Keys Inside?

When you experience the unfortunate incident of having your car stolen with the keys inside, you want to file a claim as soon as possible. Any delays could leave you holding the bag and possibly under investigation for fraud, even if you have a legitimate claim. So, expediency is of the utmost importance.

Knowing how to file a claim is the first step, and which portion of your policy to file it under. Remember that each state has its own rules on who can claim this benefit.


The first place to claim will be under the Comprehensive portion of your insurance policy. They will want detailed information about you and the incident:

  • Policy information
  • Location of the keys before/after the incident
  • Information on those who had access to the vehicle.
  • Description of your car: mileage, upgrades, service record
  • Contact info on lender or leaseholder.

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist will help if you have any type of incident while the thief is behind the vehicle. It keeps you from suffering any loss, especially if the thief does not carry insurance of their own.

  • Property damage
  • Medical bills

GAP Insurance

Here is one insurance you will want to have if you lease your vehicle. You probably heard the adage that your car loses value the moment you drive off the lot. Well, after time, the depreciation becomes more evident. However, suppose you were to experience a total loss on your vehicle. In that case, especially if your car is stolen with the keys in it, GAP insurance covers the difference between what you owe and what the actual cash value is on the vehicle.

Classic Car Insurance: If the stolen vehicle is a classic, there is a special policy for this type of vehicle. When purchasing this insurance, know there are certain restrictions like mileage and storage when not in use.

Does Insurance Cover a Stolen Car if You Left It Running?

Your car is covered for theft even if you left the engine running and the doors open. This applies to all fifty states as long as you are covered with Comprehensive coverage. However, in many cases, a fraud investigation will be conducted, such as a credit check to see if any malicious conduct is at play.

When Would an Insurance Company Deny a Claim for a Stolen Car with Keys Inside?

No one wants to receive that email or letter telling them that their insurance claim has been denied, but it does happen. Many insurance claim denials are due to driver neglect. But what does that mean?

  • Keys Inside Ignition – With the summer heat, we don’t want to shut off our A/C, so we leave it on to run a quick errand. When we come back, our car is gone. This can be one reason some receive that ‘no’ on their claim letter.
  • Failure to report the stolen vehicle in a timely manner – Believe it or not, there is a time limit on reporting a stolen vehicle. It may not be a written rule, but a delay can be a reason for denial.
  • You have significant debt – Insurance companies may run a credit check on you to see if there is possible fraud involved. If they see you have significant debt, they can see this as a possible means of satisfying your debt with your creditors.

You do not have adequate coverage – Having Liability only coverage for your vehicle is not enough coverage for automobile theft. You must have Comprehensive coverage, and if the thief causes damage to others’ property, Uninsured Motorist.


What If Your Keys Are Left Inside?

According to the Department of Transportation, historically, 74 percent of stolen vehicles are passenger cars. As we noted earlier, a car is stolen every 32 seconds. Vehicle theft costs Americans over $8 billion per year. So, what can you do to protect yourself and your car from being stolen with the keys inside?

What to Do if Your Car Gets Stolen with Your Keys Inside?

First, don’t panic. Ensure your car was, in fact, stolen. Think back. Is this the place where you parked? Some parking lots look similar. Is there someone else with access to your car who could have borrowed it? Double check these sources before you report it stolen to save headaches later.


Contact the police. Once you have determined that your car is not with any other person, make the call. It does not mean you will increase the possibility of finding your vehicle, but it does help the insurance adjuster with timing and increase the chances of a quick settlement with your provider.


Call your insurance provider. After you speak to the police, contact your insurance company. Even if you want to give law enforcement time to locate your vehicle, communication with your insurance company is important should the police not be able to find your car. It will speed up the process of filing your claim and decrease the possibility of any red flags that could be raised.


Make a claim. Once it has been established that your vehicle will not be found, file your claim. Understand that there may still be an investigation, especially if your car was stolen with the keys in the ignition.


What do you need to file a claim?

You will need all the details to begin the process.

  • Car information: year, make and model, license plate, and VIN.
  • Location information: Where it occurred, the time of day, and weather conditions.
  • Additional Information: Other things like who had access to the car, did you have a spare key holder, did you leave your car running.

How long will it take to start the process?

The more details you have, the quicker the insurance company can process your claim. This will include a police report number, the officer’s name, and times and locations, details that often go overlooked.

What are the best ways to contact your insurance?

You will find the contact information for the insurance company on the back of your insurance card, policy documents, or the insurance website. Most will have multiple ways, from a phone number to a webchat method, to speak to an agent.

Will rates go up if you file a claim for a stolen car?

In most cases, yes, your insurance rates will be affected for a stolen car. Any claim against your insurance policy will result in a rate increase.

What happens if my stolen car is found?

Finding your car after it is stolen is a relief to many drivers. But what happens if you have already filed your claim? What responsibility do you have once you have received your payout?

If you have filed a claim and have not been paid.

In many cases, this would depend on the status of your vehicle. If your vehicle has no apparent damage, your insurance company will assess your car and make repairs according to your policy stipulations. However, if it is beyond repair, it can be declared a total loss, and the ACV would be paid out to you minus the deductible.

If you have filed the claim and it has been paid.

If the claim has already been paid to you, then it is as if you have surrendered the vehicle to the insurance company, and they now own the vehicle. You must notify them as soon as possible. Keeping the vehicle could endanger you to insurance fraud.

Can you report your car stolen if they have the keys?

Yes. You cannot be penalized for your car being stolen if you leave the keys in the ignition, on the seat, in the cupholder, or anywhere accessible to a thief.

Is it mandatory to have both the keys of a car to claim car insurance?

No. You do not need the keys to file the claim for car insurance. The moment you realize your vehicle is missing, after making sure a friend or relative doesn’t have it, you should report it stolen.

Will the insurance company pay the full value of the car if it’s stolen with your keys inside?

Unfortunately, no. Cars depreciate the moment you drive off the lot. After you report your vehicle stolen, the insurance company will look at the Actual Cash Value of your car and then base the payout on this amount.

How can I replace my car keys?

This will depend on the type of key you have. Older keys you can easily take to a key maker at any retailer that duplicates keys. For a newer vehicle, you must contact the dealership or automaker for a copy. These types of keys can cost between $200-$500 each.

Should I file an insurance claim for stolen car keys?

In most cases, it would be best to pay for your stolen car keys out of pocket. Since many insurance deductibles are $1000 and the keys are $200-$500, paying your deductible would be less expensive. You save the risk of your insurance premium increasing as a result of filing a claim.

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