Am I Covered If My Car Breaks Down?

Last Updated on November 2, 2021

If your car breaks down, will your insurance company pay for it? Will your car insurance cover costs like towing fees, car repairs, or other expenses?

These are all good questions. Today, we’re explaining everything you need to know about whether or not you’re covered if your car breaks down.

General Repairs Are Only Covered If You Have Mechanical Breakdown Insurance (MBI)

In general, your ordinary car insurance plan will not cover breakdowns. Even if you have collision and comprehensive coverage, it’s unlikely that general breakdowns are covered under a typical insurance plan.

Some insurance companies offer something called mechanical breakdown insurance, or MBI. With MBI, you’re covered for repairs to all mechanical parts of your car. The only thing that isn’t covered under MBI is general maintenance or wear and tear. MBI, however, is typically only available on newer vehicles.

There are some situations where traditional insurance plans will cover the costs of a breakdown. For example, you may receive coverage if a thief breaks into your vehicle, damages your steering column, or ignition trying to hotwire the vehicle, then takes it for a joyride. In this situation, an insurance policy with comprehensive coverage will likely cover repairs.

Traditional Insurance Covers Unintentional or Unavoidable Circumstances

Traditional car insurance isn’t designed to cover mechanical breakdowns of your vehicle. If it did cover mechanical breakdowns by default, then car insurance would be significantly more expensive.

The purpose of car insurance is to protect drivers against unintentional or unavoidable circumstances – like when someone rear-ends your vehicle or you roll your vehicle off the road on an icy day. In these situations, your car will likely need to be repaired, and your standard insurance plan with comprehensive and collision coverage will cover it.

Comprehensive coverage is designed to cover unpredictable damages – like if a falling object damages mechanical components in your vehicle or if you hit a deer.

Collision coverage, meanwhile, is designed to cover damage inflicted in a crash with other drivers.

Unless your mechanical breakdown occurred because of an unexpected circumstance – like an animal, an object, or another driver hitting your vehicle – you’re unlikely to be covered for car repairs under your traditional insurance plan.

Mechanical Breakdowns Don’t Come from Unintentional or Unavoidable Circumstances

Mechanical breakdowns can be unexpected – but they’re not technically classified as “unintentional” or “unavoidable”. Instead, most mechanical breakdowns come from the normal wear and tear of your vehicle. Wear and tear is a standard part of owning a vehicle, and parts will inevitably start to fall into disrepair as your vehicle ages.

Think of mechanical breakdowns like ordinary car maintenance. You don’t make an insurance claim for an oil change, tire rotation, or suspension alignment, for example, although these are all crucial parts of car maintenance. As the owner of a vehicle, you have a responsibility to keep a car in good working condition with your out of pocket funds.

How Does Mechanical Breakdown Insurance Work?

If you have mechanical breakdown insurance, then your car insurance will cover general breakdowns and repairs. So how does mechanical breakdown insurance or MBI work?

Mechanical breakdown insurance is similar to the extended warranty offered by a car dealership. Not all insurance companies offer mechanical breakdown insurance. Plus, MBI is only available on new vehicles – like vehicles purchased within the last 1 to 3 years.

Obviously, an insurance company has no interest in providing mechanical breakdown insurance on a vehicle that’s likely to break down in the near future – like a 15-year-old vehicle with 250,000 miles on it.

In general, many drivers find mechanical breakdown insurance unnecessary because their new vehicle is already covered under a car manufacturer’s warranty or a dealership’s extended warranty. By the time your vehicle leaves its warranty period, you’re no longer eligible for mechanical breakdown insurance.

Final Word

Car repairs can be costly and unexpected. Unfortunately, most car repairs will not be covered under a traditional car insurance policy – even a policy with comprehensive or collision coverage.

If you want to receive coverage for unexpected breakdowns, then consider adding mechanical breakdown insurance (MBI) to your policy. MBI covers unexpected repairs for newer vehicles.

James Shaffer
James Shaffer James Shaffer is a writer for and a well-seasoned auto insurance industry veteran. He has a deep knowledge of insurance rules and regulations and is passionate about helping drivers save money on auto insurance. He is responsible for researching and writing about anything auto insurance-related. He holds a bachelor's degree from Bentley University and his work has been quoted by NBC News, CNN, and The Washington Post.
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