Vandalism is defined as “malicious mischief,” or purposeful damages caused to a person’s property. Unlike theft, where a vehicle is broken into for profit, vandalism is senseless. The damages are sometimes caused by rebellious young people looking for a destructive thrill, and other times vandalism can be a type of hate crime against a certain demographic.

For example, a very nice, expensive car parked in a poor neighborhood may be vandalized by people who are frustrated with economic unfairness. Vandalism is also frequently committed by people who are angry at an individual; it may come from a disgruntled employee, jilted ex or angry tenant. In other cases, the vandalism may be completely random. Vandalism can take many forms such as:

  • Slashing a vehicle’s tires
  • Scratching the paint, sometimes called “keying”
  • Breaking out a vehicle’s glass
  • Denting the vehicle by beating it with blunt objects like baseball bats
  • Egging the car or putting other caustic materials on the paint
  • Disabling the vehicle by pouring sugar, sand or other substances in the gas tank
  • Throwing meat, fish or other items into a car to rot and leave a lingering odor

There are many other ways that a vehicle can be vandalized depending on the creativity of the vandal and the amount of time they have to complete the crime. In all cases, the damages are distinguished by their purposeful, unproductive nature. Although some other damages may appear similar to vandalism, they are handled differently by an insurance company:

  • Hit and run accidents where a person collides with your car and leaves; these are classified as collisions.
  • Incidents where a person purposely drives into your car; these are considered collisions as well.
  • Any situation where an object is taken from the vehicle, such as a radio or catalytic convertor; these are handled as thefts.
  • Situations where the vehicle is caught in another act of crime, such as being hit by stray bullets during a drive-by shooting.

It’s ultimately up to the insurance adjuster to decide whether to classify a situation as vandalism or a different type of claim. In most cases, they can determine by looking at the damages whether the claim should be handled as a vandalism or something else.

Is Vandalism Covered By Insurance?

Acts of vandalism are covered under your comprehensive coverage on your auto policy. In addition to vandalism, comprehensive coverage pays for nearly all kinds of non-accident damages including weather, theft and damages caused by animals. If you don’t have comprehensive coverage, your insurance company will not pay for the damages.

Be careful, because comprehensive coverage must be purchased separately from collision, and some insurance companies consider “full coverage” to include just collision and liability insurance. This means that you may not have comprehensive insurance if you don’t ask for it specifically, so be sure to bring it up with your insurance agent.

If you do have comprehensive coverage, your insurance company will pay for the claim as long as they believe the damages were indeed caused by vandals. You will be required to pay your comprehensive deductible if you have one. Many policies have a $0 deductible for comprehensive, but figures of $50, $100, $250 and $500 are also very common. This deductible is due to the repair shop that fixes your vehicle, not the insurance company itself.

How to File a Claim for Vandalism

Whenever you discover that your vehicle has been damaged, you should file a police report. The police may or may not catch the vandal, but many insurance companies require you to file the report in order to classify a claim as vandalism. You can usually file the police report over the phone, but the officer may wish to come out to take a look at your vehicle.

Once the police report has been filed, you can call your insurance company to establish the claim. Once you’ve completed the initial phone call, the insurance company will need to inspect your damages. If the vehicle is still operable, you will most likely need to bring it to an inspection location; if the car is not driveable, the adjuster will generally come to you.

Never get your damages repaired without having the inspection completed first. Some insurance companies will reimburse minor collision damages if you provide a receipt, but most will not do this for vandalism because of fraud concerns.

Once the inspection is completed, the insurance company will offer you a settlement based on the repair cost of your vehicle. If the car is deemed a total loss, you will receive a settlement based on the car’s replacement value instead.

Special Considerations

Auto insurance companies tend to be cautious about handling vandalism claims because they are easy to fake for fraudulent purposes. Because it’s difficult to prove who was responsible for a vandalism, some people try to vandalize their own cars. If you try this and get caught, your claim will be denied, your policy may be canceled and you could face criminal charges, so it’s definitely not worth the risk.

Because of the possibility of fraud, insurance companies review vandalism claims thoroughly. People who file multiple vandalism claims may have a much higher chance of being investigated as a potential fraud, but any claim can be investigated if you meet certain risk factors, such as a new policy or bad credit history.

A claim may go to the special investigations unit to check for possible fraud as a standard part of the claims process. This may delay the processing of your claim slightly, but if the insurance company decides that there is no reason to suspect you, the claim will go on like normal.

Vandalism claims are a major inconvenience, but as long as you carry an appropriate level of insurance coverage, you should be protected from these situations. If you’re not sure whether you carry enough coverage or if your insurance will protect you from a certain situation, you can contact your agency to ask. It’s better to know in advance and prepare yourself for potential claims than to risk going unprotected.